I have witnessed many a presidential election in the U.S. starting from Richard Nixon versus George McGovern in 1972 ending in Obama versus McCain in 2008 but never before have I seen an election which is about to be so closely contested. Another thing is also very different this time. The big money had entered the contest. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court which gave its approval to the U.S. companies to contribute as much they wished to any candidate. Thus, contributions are pouring in and this is helping the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney and his supporters to bombard the airwaves with negative ad against Obama to confuse the voters in tossup states such as Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Hampshire, and a few more states.
The Republican Party had conducted its convention in late August in Tampa, Florida when hurricane Isaac was raging through the upper gulf coast states. The pundits have opined that the convention in Tampa was a bit mutated and lifeless. A week later, the Democrats met in Charlotte, North Carolina to nominate Obama for the second term. The Charlotte convention was electrified by the speeches of President Clinton, Mrs. Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, and by President Obama. The democratic base was unified finally by these speeches. President Clinton did a fine job of differentiating the vision the Democrats have for the future of America from that of the Republicans. The vision of a shared prosperity was highlighted by most speakers at Charlotte convention. The Democrats came out more unified and fired up than the Republican delegates who attended the Tampa convention.
In this article, I would however like to discuss why this upcoming election is so important not only for 310 million Americans but for over 6.5 billion people of this globe? Let us make no mistake about it that the policies undertaken by any U.S. president in the last 50 years have impacted the course of history of our globe. I hope one example would be enough to make my point very clear. In November 2000 election, Vice President Al Gore received more popular votes than George W. Bush but the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the State of Florida where voting irregularities were widespread. George W. Bush received only hundreds more votes than Al Gore. The state-wide recount of votes could not take place because of the court order. The Republicans were running the show in Florida with Jeb Bush the brother of G.W. Bush being the governor in the state. Consequently, George W. Bush came out victorious in that controversial election. The consequences of that election were profound and many. From day one the newly elected president started a vilification campaign against Saddam Hussein. Bush had openly said then that the oil price is artificially low in the global market. Many critics saw an ominous sign in Bush’s comments. He desperately wanted to disrupt the flow of oil from Middle East to boost the price of crude petroleum. The event of 9-11 added fuel to the fire. Bush sent U.S. army to Afghanistan in December 2011. Fifteen months later in March 2003 Bush started the Iraq War sending troops to Baghdad. It is doubtful that if Al Gore would have won the election in November 2000, there would be any war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The world would have been a much tranquil one. The world economy suffered because of Bush’s bellicose attitude never mind how many lives were lost in the war-torn nations and how many young U.S. soldiers were killed in the conflict to satisfy the ego of a lone president.
George W. Bush’s economic policy was also not a sound one. The U.S. tax code enacted by the Congress under the leadership of George W. Bush helped the rich who paid lower taxes. Ask Mitt Romney what was his tax rate. You will be surprised by his answer. The middle class and lower income people in America suffered economically by George W. Bush’s misguided economic policy which favored the big investment banks to delve into risky investment in sub-prime mortgage lending that led to the failure of a few big banks. Many pension funds lost money because they purchased derivatives based on the value of sub-prime mortgages. Let me remind the readers that when Clinton ended his presidency in 2000, the nation had a big budget surplus but when Bush left the office eight years later, the nation’s budget deficit loomed large and the economy was in near free fall. No wonder Obama had such a hard time to fix the economy of this sick nation in the last three and half years. The Republican candidates and their surrogates are suffering from Alzheimer; therefore, they do not mention the state of the economy when Obama took the oath for the office. They are hopelessly trying to compare Obama with the records of President Jimmy Carter.
Barack Obama took some brave decisions to stabilize the economy when he became the president. One of the decisions was to infuse money to the car giant GM, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. Obama’s foe, the Republicans, soundly criticized him for bailing out the ailing car company. With the government’s help, the car giant roared back to full production and became solvent again. The car company came up with many new models including the electric car, Volt, which is gaining popularity and a brisk sale. Obama should take the full credit for GM’s rapid metamorphosis from a failing company to a successful one.
From the above-mentioned examples it is very clear that it matters who is at the oval office. The decisions made by the U.S. president impact economy of America and the rest of the world. We certainly live in a globalized world where trades and businesses are interconnected. For example, if the consumers in America do not buy garments because of tightening of the belt, garment workers in Bangladesh suffer too.
Both in Tampa and Charlotte conventions, Republicans and Democrats have amply expressed their vision for America. The Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, represents the views of conservative people who prefer a smaller government but a big military budget and no government oversight of industries. Not to mention their disdain for social programs that helps the needy Americans. Contrast this vision with that of the Democrats who believe in shared prosperity, universal healthcare, strengthening education system via government spending to produce skilled workers, technicians, researchers, etc. Democrats view the present tax code to favor the rich while Republicans views on tax are status quo. A stark contrast does exist between the visions these two parties have for economy, social welfare, education, environment, and military.
Which party will come out victorious in this election? All the recent polls indicate that the election will be too close but when it comes to Electoral College, Obama may have an edge over Mitt Romney. Obama Administration may not have put the economy in the fast track but it has certainly saved the nation from a free fall and an economic meltdown. Would the voters think about it for a moment before pressing the lever in the privacy of the voting booth? A new administration in Washington may mean a new direction. The tweaking of a fragile economy could be risky to say the least. Would Americans go for that? The election is hardly 60 days away. Many things could happen between now and the Election Day. Therefore, stay tuned.
A.H. Jaffor Ullah writes from New Orleans, USA