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La Repubblica, Italy

The Normality

By Vittorio Zucconi

Obama is the 'new normal,' not the anomaly to cancel as a shame.

Translated By Claudia Pellicano

8 November 2012

Edited by Jonathan Douglas

Italy - La Repubblica - Original Article (Italian)

We were afraid to hope, but one more time America proved to be better than our fears.

The re-election of a man named Barack Hussein Obama, in a deadly economic situation, tells us that the great human, cultural, ethnic, democratic laboratory named the United States still works — and produces future. The assault of the right-wing revanchism toward the White House, disguised as “liberalism” against “statism” and as “less taxes” meaning “no Obama” (and to hide its hateful nature), had been built on a pincer movement between economy, on one side, and racial terror on the other. It was, then, the double defeat of a past that would have wanted to stop the change and bring the present back to the culture of the cotton plantation and the reckless laissez faire that produced the 2008 crack.

It wasn’t born exclusively by the vote of Ohio and Michigan factory workers, by the most educated young people, by the women offended by the fanatics, nor by the hatred toward a specific man. It was created by not having understood what the human and cultural factory that we call America has been producing for 250 years (and that the alien face at the White House is more and more the face of this nation of nations). Obama is the “new normal,” not the anomaly to cancel as a shame.

The attack to the foreignness of what we once would have scornfully called a “mestizo” has become the boomerang that came back to those who launched it. Obama’s weakness has been his strength, capable even of overcoming economic data that had destroyed past presidents: first, that unemployment is at almost 8 percent — a threshold that has been traditionally fatal. But also the resentful shortsightedness of the “old white male” America — that not even Romney’s centrist capers had been able to disguise after the panting race to the right of the primaries — has prevented a party closed under a “small tent” from seeing what had happened: that demography counts more than ideology, and that America is changing its face, therefore its culture.

Oldsmobile’s old and classic slogan, when it wanted to renew its old-fashioned image, used to say: “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile.” The America that has formed Obama’s coalition is no longer the America of the fathers and grandfathers whom the right wing holds on to. It’s not even Reagan’s America, which managed to put together the “bowlers” and the working class with the Christian right-wing of the unshakeable south; the western “pioneers” and the resentment of the taxpayer who sees his taxes used to pay what Reagan called the “welfare queens” — the women (most of the time of color) who earned more by giving birth than by going to work.

Obama’s coalition, instead, re–emerged and confirmed itself after the 2008 victory that could have been ephemeral. The signals became extremely visible in the peripheral vote for the great race to the White House. Two states, Maine and Maryland, approved gay marriages, [a traditional] anathema. Two others, Colorado and Washington, legalized marijuana for nontherapeutic use. Tammy Baldwin is the first openly lesbian senator. Now 18 women sit at the Senate, the most in American history, and without the necessity of a “female quota” or paternalistic choices. Florida rejected the proposal of cutting public funds to clinics where abortions are practiced, which are the first and only line of health assistance for thousands of women. The two candidates for the Senate who thundered against abortion even in cases of rape or incest in Indiana and Missouri were brutally defeated — and it happened in two states where Obama lost.

But the demographic center around which Obama’s coalition now rotates is the group of legal immigrants from the southern frontier of the other “Americas.” It was their votes that moved the electoral hour’s hand toward Obama. Again, the right-wing’s shortsightedness, clinging to the “fight on immigration,” with no perspective for the millions of “illegals” who work and don’t commit crimes, prevented them from seeing what the Bushes already know so well. George “Dubya,” Texas’ former governor and ex-president, was chosen by the right because he was the most liked by Republicans in the “Latino” universe. His brother Jeb, married to a woman from beyond “la frontera,” won the governorship of Florida and maybe, because of this, he’ll have a future in a party in chaos.

The electoral coalition of the new America (which reduced the Republican advantage in the House, produced by the furious wind of the tea party in clear retreat, like all grabber movements, and increased the Democratic majority in the Senate) naturally isn’t a Parliament majority, though.

This majority, indispensable to prevent the U.S. from falling (them too) in two months into the “fiscal cliff” of $1.5 trillion in automatic cuts, will be Obama’s task and fatigue, together with the legislative reward for Latinos, now at 40 percent of Democratic votes in many states. It’ll take qualities he didn’t show in the first four years, Clinton’s shrewdness, maneuver capacity and humbleness in acknowledging that the old America has the right to be listened to, being, anyway, 49 percent of the electorate.

But this is politics: the administration “make laws and sausages” at the governments’ factory to “give and take.”

Today there’s the joy of seeing that the experiment called America goes on.



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