The Slo-Man spent a large portion of his time trapped in hotels in the US during the course of a bruising and ultimately fatal Republican nomination battle. As his American friends and relatives would say, the Republican nomination race was a “train wreck”. And now that the big night is over and Florida, once again, has finally crawled to the finishing line, the analysts and politicians are all having their say. In fact everyone has an opinion, so the Slo-Man has decided to jump in too.
The Slo-Man has read and heard comments from ordinary people and politicians of all types and ranks on news stories online and sees some troubling trends. While a large portion of the divide stems from differing views on political economy, there is a strain of racism evident just below the surface. There are people who will yell that it is not true, that in fact it is about the economy, that Obama has failed to create jobs, that the deficit is his fault, that he is expanding government spending. And these people will fail to see the irony of a belief that is built on the concept of “job creators” and “smaller government” that lays the blame for lack of jobs on the government.
The Slo-Man’s opinion is that race, religion and ethnicity did have a large part to play in this election.
Republicans were betting on 2008 being an aberration, that non-white voters, who swept Obama into power 4 years ago would not show the same enthusiasm, that the Republicans had done a good enough job of blocking progress so they could label the President as a failure, that the novelty factor would have worn off the young voters and that they would be too distracted to vote for Obama again. The sub-text seems to be that white America was caught napping 4 years ago and allowed a black American to win and that this would not happen again.
The enduring image in the Slo-Man’s mind of Obama’s presidency has been one of polarization and hard lines. A strident portion of the people want less government intervention in their lives and more involvement of religion in government. And the over-arching sense is that the religion must be a form of Protestant Christianity. The truth seems to be that a non-white, non-Protestant or female President is still a stretch for most Americans. Romney’s Mormon faith, although Christian, is viewed with suspicion and the last (and only) Catholic President was JFK. Compare this with so-called third-world nations that have had female heads of state 40 years ago. Even an Islamic state such as Pakistan managed that decades ago.
It seems to the Slo-Man that the US needs to re-evaluate its values. A focus on religious beliefs and an insistence on merging Protestant Christian principles with economic and social issues is not very dissimilar to what Islamic Republics around the world do (except that they mix Islamic principles). The US is in danger of being marginalized even as it remains a military super power. As the rest of the world focuses on moving ahead economically, it cannot continue to focus on religion and the repeal of Roe vs Wade. It cannot on the one hand talk of being advanced yet continue to legislate how women can behave.
It is time to move on and look ahead not backwards. Time to stop focusing on “the America we knew” and consider “the America we want to be”. Time to expand thinking based on logic not personal interpretations of God’s will. Time to look at caring for the bulk of the people of the land. Time to wonder whether “let them eat cake” is a wise policy. Time to reflect on the wisdom of creating a nation of consumers rather than producers. Time to consider the effect of big business on everyday lives. Time to wonder whether impoverishing the land while focusing on shareholder value is not akin to killing the goose that laid the golden land. Time to stop thinking in terms of First World and Third World. Time to consider that the rest of the world has moved on and moved ahead in some cases.
The Slo-Man is reminded of a line in a book from Alistair Maclean – “For now is all the time there will be”.