OPINION

Which side of the US will prevail?

The American presidential elections are now just a few months away and no one can say with any certainty which candidate is most likely to emerge victorious. Following eight years of the Bush administration, America is on a quest for a new face that will rejuvenate the country and repair its international image. That new face may just be Barack Obama. He has rallied the country’s young voters and mobilized people who had never previously shown an interest in politics. Hillary Clinton, in contrast, has alienated the average American with her cynicism and the – incredible for such a professional – gaffes of her husband. All the indications are that Obama will win the nomination, but does this mean he’ll take the elections in November too? The outcome of the elections will depend on which facet of America prevails. American society, at least in European eyes, has two different faces. One is reflected in New York, California and the middle classes of the south, who share European values and viewpoints. The other, a darker side, is evident in Missouri, Mississippi, the Bible belt, the NRA, etc. This is where it is highly unlikely that a black president, the product of a multicultural world, will feel at all welcome. Someone is bound to remember that his real name is Barack Hussein Obama, that he has been endorsed by the radical Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Others will balk when seeing a photograph of Obama as a boy dressed in a traditional Kenyan costume – and the damage will be done. The uncultivated mind of the white working, rural classes is fertile ground for breeding fear and prejudice. I remember Michael Dukakis’s campaign in 1988, during which he found it impossible to believe that the average American would expect him to respond to the challenge set by George Bush Sr, who had questioned Dukakis’s «patriotism.» Six months later his popularity dropped 10 percent in the polls, because the average American believed Bush to be a «greater patriot» than Dukakis. On another occasion, Dukakis was asked what his favorite food was and he responded «magiritsa,» the traditional Greek Easter soup. His closest aide at the time heard the answer and muttered: «Disaster! No one in Texas will vote for a guy who eats liver and entrails.» If Obama does not allow his opponent to make a caricature of him, he will be able to win over a lot of white voters. He must learn from Dukakis’s experience and effectively resist his opponent’s negative publicity campaign. If Obama plays his cards right, he may very well win the November elections. If he doesn’t, the Democrats will have lost the opportunity of scoring the easiest of goals.