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Le Nouvel Observateur, France

Obama Re-elected: What a Relief!

By Laurent Joffrin

Translated By Diana Huet de Guerville

7 November 2012

Edited by Gillian Palmer

France - Le Nouvel Observateur - Original Article (French)

Four years ago, he inspired enthusiasm. This year, it is a feeling of relief. Four years ago, we had Obamania; this year, Romneyphobia. After a disappointing first term and a mediocre record, surrounded by disillusionment, we lowered our expectations. Last time, we said, "Yes we can!" In learning of Barack Obama's reelection this time, we came back down to earth to simply say, "What a relief!"

In France we often think that American elections are based on communications or money, that people vote on a personality rather than a program, that the differences between Democrats and Republicans are just nuances in a centrist camaieu [monochromatic color scheme]. There is nothing further from the truth. It is hard to find a more ideological race than the American presidential election. Not because of the left, as in Europe, but because of the Republican right, which keeps getting more and more radical with each election. Re-launched by Reaganism, supported by an excessively individualistic culture, nourished by religious dogma, pushed by powerful economic interests who provide extensive funding to their candidates, the Grand Old Party that is now inspired by Milton Friedman has transformed American public life into an arena for neo-liberal ideologues.

Romney, or the Apotheosis of Wall Street

Romney, let us be clear, represented the reduction of government, the destruction of social security, the power of big business, unrepentant inequality, the triumph of Wall Street, the apotheosis of the rich. Admittedly, Mitt the Mormon seemed a bit more pragmatic, opportunistic and open than Reagan or Bush (father or son), and therefore less frightening. Nevertheless, Paul Ryan, the vice-presidential candidate without any power but with real intellectual influence, played the role of a hardline conservative commander. The "Tea Party," a vigilant minority faction, would have put this new president under surveillance, as he was deemed too malleable. Emboldened by its success, the Republican Party would not have faced any resistance from Congress in dismantling Democratic legislation, massively cutting taxes for the wealthy and removing regulations that attempt to humanize American capitalism. An America returned to arrogance and militarism would have once again gone on the warpath here and there and dramatically set back any attempts at cooperation between nations, regions, or civilizations. Romney was Bush without the oil, Reagan without Hollywood, Dick Cheney without Halliburton. In short, we would have most certainly gone back to the follies of the George W. era, which led us as we all know too well to the permanent war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the biggest economic crisis we have known since the crash of 1929. In other words, that was a very close call...

Would any sense of joy be misplaced in this situation? Maybe. Barack Obama did not keep his promises. He was too hesitant, too prudent, too tied to classic economists and Wall Street finance and did not reform American society like his supporters expected. After having awoken the Democratic mystique, after having written a glorious page that reminded us of Roosevelt's momentum, Kennedy's ideals and Clinton's seduction, he got bogged down in uneven management of the crisis, avoiding the worst but missing out on the best. He has four more years to "finish the job." But has he really even begun?

Obama Free from Reelection

But in the end, averting danger is also energizing. Let us begin again, not to dream, but to hope. The second term is free from the pressure of reelection. The president we love has nothing to lose this time. If Congress is willing, if he recovers his ambition and if the glorious tradition of the American left still exists, he can resume the reforms that America wants but does not count on anymore. He can renew his promises of both appeasement and firmness expressed in his Cairo speech. He may finally become deserving of his Nobel Peace Prize.

He is free: will he be valiant? Let us try to believe he will be...



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