President Barack Obama was re-elected as the 44th President of United States on November 6th, 2012 after the most expensive elections in the history of American politics came to an end. This election was unique as an unprecedented amount of money (over 6 billion dollars) was spent. This election was different as there was an obscene display of huge amounts of corporate money, lies and anti-immigrant, anti-women and anti-poor rhetoric.
What was most surprising was that both candidates completely ignored the issue of rapidly rising poverty among Americans and only addressed the middle class in their speeches and ads.
President Obama’s win was made possible by the changing demographics in America where Latino’s make up 10% of the electorate and Blacks make up 13%of the electorate vote. Obama got 71% of the Latino vote and 93% of the Africo-American vote. He also won big with single women (38% more votes than Romney), Asians, young voters and highly educated white voters.
Mitt Romney, the Republican Party candidate got 59% of the white vote but that was obviously not enough.
Romney and his vice-president nominee Paul Ryan’s tax plan to spare the most wealthy families in America and to spare people like Mitt Romney whose income came from dividends, gains and interests met with stiff resistance from the middle class working people who are having problems making their ends meet.
This was also a rejection of the austerity measures in the form of cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security proposed by Romney and Ryan.
Paul Ryan’s controversial budget which pushed him into national limelight was marked by deep cuts to social security with lower taxes. He also proposed cutting food stamps and educational grants for millions of students.
Romney’s controversial comments to wealthy donors in a private fund raiser about him not being concerned about the 47 percent people who believe they are victims and about 47% of people who do not pay the federal income tax raised a big political firestorm.
President Obama also did well with the Latino voters. In the last 3 years almost 1.2 million immigrants mostly belonging to the Latino community were deported from USA which had not gone well with the Latinos. As the election drew near, Obama passed an executive order this June which would allow 1.7 million of illegal immigrants to work legally and lead a normal life without being afraid of deportation. Although these deferrals of deportation are temporary and do not provide a path to a legal status, this provided a temporary reprieve to the Latinos who work hard, often in subhuman conditions, without having any rights. This action helped him win the major electoral states like Florida and California. The Republican Party led Congress has rejected the Dream Act which would allow the illegal immigrants to become legal citizens.
The biggest single group which supported the President was women, most significantly single women. Single women are one of the fastest growing demographic groups who make up almost 25% of the electorate. This group was constantly disparaged by the Republican coalition and their conservative base. Ann Coulter, the super conservative writer and one of the many mouth pieces of the Republican Party, said, “Single women look to the government to be their husbands and give them, you know, prenatal care, and preschool care, and kindergarten care, and school lunches”.
However the constant attacks on the reproductive rights of women by the Republican coalition in the form of anti-abortion propaganda to appease their Evangelical Christian base who have the same mentality as the Khap Panchayats in India had a negative effect even on women who are traditionally Republicans.
The passing of Lady Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into a law by President Obama also resonated well with working women. In a country which proclaims to be the leader of the free world, women only earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, with African-American women only earning 64 cents to a dollar and Hispanic women 56 cents for a dollar.
The Affordable Care Act passed by the President seemed to be unpopular initially but failed to be a major or decisive election issue.
When I compare the US presidential elections to the elections in India there is not much difference in terms of the shameless use of money from big corporations , use of religion as a factor to attract the low information voters and fear mongering among the general public.
The role of Non Resident’s Indian ( NRIs) in this US election is ambiguous at its best . Traditionally many of the more affluent Indians are Republicans because of the tax cuts promised by the Republican Party. However many middle class Indians support Democrats too. While the Indian community takes some pride in the fact that two of the Republican Governor’s (Nicki Haley and Bobby Jindal) are of Indian origin , they resent the fact that both these Governors do not acknowledge their Indian roots and try to hide it as much as possible.
I think the results of these elections sent a clear message to the right that progressive elements outnumber the conservatives. All the Republican Senatorial candidates who made statements about restricting abortion even in case of rape lost their elections. It was also a success story for the gay and lesbian community as gay marriage was legalized in some states and the first female openly gay Senator was elected.
President Obama has disappointed liberals with his handling of the issues of poverty, failure to halt the constant attacks on the trade unions and a foreign policy that had more points of continuity than difference with his predecessor’s: with drones being constantly used to attack harmless civilians in other countries. He has also been criticized for compromising on multiple issues in the Affordable Health Care Act.
President Obama’s victory was not so much an endorsement of his policies and his track record as it was a rejection of his opponent’s viewpoint about the relative roles of the government and the corporations, and towards the rights of women and racial and sexual minorities.