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We are about 24 hours from the time when the first polls will close on the 2008 United States presidential election. For those of us who have been caught up in the campaign for well over a year, it has been a very long primary and general election season. There have been times when I've been completely sick of it. There have been other times when I couldn't get enough. If the gods are merciful, tomorrow night we will know whether Barack Obama will be our 44th president of the United States . . . . or not. In pondering whoever the next president will be, a few thoughts come to mind:

IF BARACK OBAMA LOSES

A Generation Lost

Since the polls have consistently placed Obama in the lead over the last month (recently by a double digit margin), a McCain victory would have a significantly negative impact on a lot of Americans, but particularly so within African America. Black folks have had lots of "data points" to lead us to believe that things in this country are "fixed" against us. A McCain win would certainly reinforce the notion that 'the black man' will never get a fair shake in this country. The impact of that would be that large portions of African Americans might never again participate in the electoral process - particularly on a national scale. It's important to remember that African America didn't embrace Obama en masse right from the start. Just having someone in the race was no longer a particularly novel thing. Moreover, Hillary Clinton had a solid relationship with black folks. Many of us even thought that, as a Clinton, she had earned our support. It wasn't until after his victory in the South Carolina primary that African Americans rushed to Sen. Obama. But we did and we did in demonstrable ways. That said, we've been taken on an extraordinary wild ride through this campaign. Our expectations and emotions have been raised to heights never before seen. African America has mobilized and invested of itself in ways that we never have before in a candidate. If coming out of this election the general sentiment is that we've been robbed, we could lose a generation of black folks from voting and generally participating in the political process.

Gridlock

We've seen the way John McCain has run his campaign, seemingly devoid of consistent strategy and discipline. They seem to have flailed around from week to week searching for something new to grab onto to attack Barack with. Moreover, many believe that his choice of Governor Palin was a weak one - made out of desperation and accommodation as opposed to strength and conviction. Combines, this gives us every reason to believe that a McCain - Palin administration would operate no differently. Faced with a Democratic Congress, and no doubt a large swath of America that would be anywhere from indifferent to hostile to his presidency, you can be sure that gridlock in Washington would be the name of the game. Nothing would get done. McCain's irascible personality and clear lack of mandate, would demonstrably overrun his feeble claims of being a maverick. Americans would have no appetite for lingering in Iraq and ratcheting up the violence with Iran. In fact, Speaker Nancy Pelosi might become the most powerful person in Washington - marshaling the support of a Democratic majority and a frustrated and angry electorate, in collaboration with Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, to push legislation to the president's desk for signature - with occasional veto overrides.

IF BARACK WINS

African America

Naturally, black folks will be filled with a national euphoria that would be unprecedented in our time here. We would be filled with joy at having witnessed a black man achieve something that the vast majority of us thought we might never see. A president Obama would have to seriously manage that euphoria though. What will the pay-off be to a core constituency that got him to the White House? How would he repay our support, without which he would have been left politically dead prior to the nomination? It will be interesting to see whether African America demands a specific quid pro quo for our support or whether Obama's general legislative agenda will suffice.

Iraq

Our tenure in Iraq will be longer than the 16 months Obama has discussed, but - eventually - perhaps by the middle of his first term, we will find ourselves largely out of Iraq. The question will be whether Obama brings the troops home or merely shifts the military theater to Afghanistan - which could be a sizable mistake.

Afghanistan

President Obama could face the exact same frustrations in Afghanistan that President Bush has faced in Iraq. A protracted and expensive campaign in Afghanistan (in both human and financial costs) could quickly cause Americans, already deeply drained by the Iraq War, to sour on our involvement there. President Obama would be wise to tread very lightly and carefully in escalating our presence there. Moreover, an increased American presence in Afghanistan could inflame our relationship with Pakistan - even further destabilizing the region. America could find itself in an even more complex military bind if it is not careful.

The Economy

The economy will continue to stagnate deep into President Obama's first term. He will artfully deflect responsibility for the slowdown to his predecessor, but America will have less patience with Obama than with other presidents. He will have to stimulate greater economic opportunity or deliver on his promise for bringing back/creating jobs or else his reelection bid could be quite troublesome. If President Barack Obama is tagged with a sluggish economy and presides over military foibles in Afghanistan he could quickly turn into President Jimmy Carter 2.0 and be attacked viciously by Democrats and Republicans alike in 2012.

Africa

The United States will engage with Africa in a way unseen before in American history. Under President Obama, the U.S will invest in establishing the economic foundation for a rush of American corporate activity in Africa - developing markets and selling goods, but also creating needed infrastructure that will help Africans in unprecedented ways.

The Supreme Court

President Obama will name Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Supreme Court. Advancing in her sixties, Senator Clinton will relunctantly give up her presidential aspirations and serve on the court for for her remaining days representing a solid progressive block on the court. The move also eliminates the greatest potential intra-party attack in a tough 2012 for President Obama.

Bi-Partisanship

Notice who's been particularly quiet on the Republican side this election season? There's been a reason for it. President Obama will ask Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to stay on in her position leading the State Department. He will position it as a part of his bi-partisanship and sell it to America as a way to maintain some continuity on important affairs taking place around the world at this time. He will highlight many of the behind the scenes efforts that Rice has led, for example in the Israeli - Palestinian conflict in justifying her continued employment. Either way, having a black president and Secretary of State will make an extraordinary statement. Perhaps Obama will position keeping Condi as a part of his quid pro quo to African America. Condi will serve a couple of years and then be asked to leave so he can appoint someone more in line with Obama's thinking. This move will be greeted with uncertainty within African America and incredulity within the base of his party who see Rice as a major part of the miserable Iraq War that they ran against.

Political Pressure from African America

Many whites folks who other wise would not be supportive of an Obama candidacy were heartened by the notion that, to their thinking, a President Obama would silence the Jesse Jackson's and the Al Sharpton's of the world. Quite the contrary. President Obama would be faced with even more vocal and important voices from the civil rights wing for a couple of important reasons. First, the press, always looking to stir up newsworthy controversy, will be constantly looking to Jackson and Sharpton for colorful critiques of the first black president. The ability for the press to manufacture black on black political smack will be almost uncontrollable. More important, African America will need to apply consistent pressure to the White House to have its unique concerns addressed. Expect to see a lot more of Jackson and Sharpton than less.

Secret Service

Lastly, the Secret Service will certainly be hiring as they will be busier than ever trying to protect the new president and his family. sck

© MBM

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