New president, fresh challenges

Will Illinois Senator Barack Obama win the US presidential elections on November 4 and, if so, with what margin? Will that change the fortunes of the United States and of the world at large? What kind of president will he be? First, the opinion polls: The vast majority indicate that the Democratic candidate will win this election, that is, unless the average American voter has refused to admit his or her second thoughts about Obama’s skin color or inexperience. In other words, if the American voters have not decided en masse to mislead pollsters and if they are not ashamed to admit that they are reluctant to cast their votes for Obama, the US will turn a new page in history tomorrow. Some analysts claim that the majority of undecided voters had in the last two elections been swayed decisively by George W. Bush. Republican candidate John McCain could this time benefit from a similar trend. However, never in the past have the undecideds voted en masse for one of the two rival candidates. Some observers note that it will be a bigger surprise should Obama win by more than five percentage points, than McCain winning by one. McCain led a poor election campaign. His key weapon was having distanced his agenda from the policies of his predecessor. However, in an attempt to appeal to the grassroots of the party, he sold his soul to the devil, as it were, identifying himself with the Republicans’ more conservative wing. In doing so, McCain sacrificed his distinct identity. He then made the mistake of picking Sarah Palin as his running mate. Alaska’s female governor made an impressive start but the enthusiastic reception was soon overwhelmed by fear. Obama wants to garner more than 50 percent of the vote, which would allow him to claim a strong popular mandate, but that is unlikely. However, a Democratic victory alone will mark a truly historic day. Not only because Obama is half-black but also because he would be only the second center-left (for US standards, at least) president after Bill Clinton to win over states that are considered Republican strongholds politically as well as culturally. Should he be elected president, Obama will change America’s profile overnight, lending it a more conciliatory visage and some of that Kennedy spark. Just imagine Obama’s first visit to Africa or Latin America. It’s more difficult to say what kind of president he will be. His experience is limited to two years in the US Senate. On the other hand, it’s clear that he is an intelligent politician; he knows how to build an alliance and to strike a balance; he keeps his cool under fierce attacks and has endless reserves of self-discipline. These abilities and qualifications are the most important for a president to have. Surely, no one can envy Obama for what he will have to face on January 20 if he becomes president: a huge economic crisis, a heavily indebted America, the deadlock in Iraq and difficult situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the biggest challenge, the economy aside, will be the furious attacks from the more reactionary strands of America, that will know no limits in demonizing him. If the presidency goes to McCain, the anger and sadness of those who backed the Illinois senator will be bottomless. Not to mention those in the rest of the world.