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Jeune Afrique, France

Obama’s Second Chance


By Claude Blanc

Translated By Robert

14 November 2012

Edited by Natalie Clager


France - Jeune Afrique - Original Article (French)

Re-elected without generating the same fervor as four years ago, Barack Obama intends to take advantage of his final term to regain policy initiative. His priorities: immigration, the environment... and the economic crisis.

"Leadership in this office is a matter of helping the American people feel confident," declared Obama in an interview with New York Times in February 2011. The least we can say is that the man re-elected on November 6, 2012 to lead the number one superpower has failed to transform the hopes generated in his first election into a foolproof capital trust. There were more than 240,000 citizens who came and listened to the president’s speech in 2008. There were only 10,000, four years later, preserving the flame of an American nation that was once seduced by his charisma, to celebrate the victory after a first failed term.

For many observers, the re-election of Barack Obama is first of all the failure of Mitt Romney. Romney "did not lose because he was not conservative enough,”* rightly summarized the online newspaper Politico one day after the election. “He failed because he was unable to gather enough votes among moderates, independents, women and Hispanics in key states like Ohio, Nevada, Virginia and New Hampshire.”* Yet, he was the natural candidate for most of these voters, given his brilliant past as a businessman.

Tip of the Nose

Under those conditions, we understand why Obama was quick to put "hope" at the heart of the speech given after the announcement of his victory. “I believe we can keep the promise our founding fathers, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or who you love. It doesn’t matter whether you are black or white, or Hispanic or Asian or Native American, or young or old, or rich or poor, or able, disabled, gay or straight. You could make it here in America, if you’re willing to try,” he told the crowd and viewers curious to know what his future policy might be and assess his ability to bring Americans together as he did four years ago.

Too sure of himself after his victory in November 2008, the president has failed during his first term to use the energy he had breathed into his campaign to his advantage. General Obama has abandoned his army to pursue a policy of compromise, even though the extremist Republican tea party had not yet stuck up their noses. He thus missed the opportunity for in-depth financial reform the subprime crisis presented. He also didn’t fully grasp the opportunity to impose an overhaul of the health system and didn’t fully tap in on an electorate full of enthusiasm for the first black president of the country.


Burned

Barack Obama must take the initiative in his second term. He is benefiting from a state of grace, or at least from a period of relative calm against an opposition digesting a bitter defeat. He will also be able to benefit from the Republicans’ soul searching process to impose his views on certain issues. The immigration issue will probably be one of the easiest to manage, since Republicans understand that they made a mistake by adopting radical positions. In 2008, Obama was elected largely with the voice of the African-American community. In 2012, Hispanics, who were burned by threats from conservatives, led him to victory. Therefore, it is more than likely that his DREAM Act, under which young undocumented immigrants gain citizenship if they are admitted to a college or enlist in the army, will be passed.

Another priority of the re-elected president will undoubtedly be the environment. Hurricane Sandy, which was attributed to climate change, influenced the behavior of many voters. Michael Bloomberg, the Republican mayor of New York City, which was severely affected by the storm, relayed to Obama that he appreciated the ecologist discourse. The opposition should be more accommodating when it comes to passing a law in favor of clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But the president is especially expected to tackle the economic sphere. Even if during the campaign the rescue of the auto sector was one of Obama’s main highlights, the crisis is far from over. Unemployment is not contained, and consumer confidence is not strong. Inspired by the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Obama wants to make his mark in history by launching major projects for infrastructure. “How do we sit back and watch China and Europe build the best bridges and high-speed railroads and gleaming new airports, and we’re doing nothing?” He regretted that the stimulus of 2009 has not led to focus on more ambitious projects. In his second term, $150 billion could be released, thanks to a revision of the method for selecting projects.

Remobilize

Since he was re-elected, the president has no electoral pressure on the shoulders. He should take more risks, particularly in the fiscal area. Despite John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who repeated after the election results that he would continue to strongly oppose Obama’s plans to increase taxes for the rich, the president will try to convince members of Congress that fiscal policy revisited "is not only social justice, but also affects the growth and the ability to be able to make the investments that the country needs."*

Similarly, we can expect a stronger commitment from the president to reduce public deficits. Again, he will have much to handle with the Republicans. They are likely to remain adamant on the need to reduce federal spending, one of the few points on which Mitt Romney was able to gain support. In his speech in Chicago after the announcement of his victory, Obama has clearly made deficit reduction and tax reform priorities, as well as immigration and the fight against climate change. Will he be able to restore confidence to Americans? They are in any case ready to hear his proposals. As noted in the New York Times the day after the election, "many who didn’t support him nonetheless told pollsters that they agreed with his positions on taxes, health care and immigration." It only remains for him to re-engage his supporters and make full use of their support to meet his objectives. America will rediscover the real Obama, who had a dream and hope.

*Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.



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