Obama’s second victory is more low key, but in some ways more impressive

Obama’s second victory is more low key, but in some ways more impressive

The Guardian
London, England

Gary Younge, Feature Writer and Columnist

The euphoria of 2008 has gone, but the US president’s second win is remarkable precisely because it is not as symbolic

Harold Davies didn’t cry this time. Four years ago when I accompanied him to the polls his eyes welled up as he described how it felt to vote for an African American candidate. This time he was in and out within 10 minutes and then off to his brother’s for his tea. You can only elect the first black president once. To use the euphoria of 2008 against the more toned-down celebrations of Tuesday night as a stick to beat Barack Obama misunderstands the significance of his trajectory.

Electing a black candidate on his promise, amid a massive economic crisis, is one thing. To re-elect him on his record, even as that crisis endures, is quite another. In more ways than one his victory on Tuesday night was more impressive than in 2008 precisely because it was not more symbolic.

It’s difficult to think of a more vulnerable president facing re-election and pulling it off so decisively. Having redrawn the electoral map and reshaped the electorate in 2008 he managed to give a plausible account of his efforts over the past four years even when they had fallen short. His fallibility as a candidate is now accepted; his timidity as a leader now beyond question.

On a flight to Denver last week an Obama supporter sitting next to me explained how his view of the president had evolved: “I thought he was a prophet. Now I realise he’s just a king.” Sooner or later he will have to get used to the fact that his president is just a human being…

…There are a few reasons to believe that this might change. The first is that the Republican party has reached a point where it will either have to change or die. This election effectively exposed it as a mono-racial party in an increasingly multi-racial state. At every rally you can see it. Regardless of the ethnic composition of the area in which they are held, the composition of rallies never changes. At the Republican convention one person threw peanuts and insults at a black camerawoman. The Grand Old Party is becoming the White People’s Party. And that is not only unbecoming, it is untenable.

Every month 50,000 new Latinos become eligible to vote. What Tuesday night showed was that the new coalition Obama cohered in 2008 that mobilised the young, the brown and the black in unprecedented numbers was not just a one-off. Soon, North Carolina, Arizona and ultimately Texas will be tough to hold if Republicans refuse to challenge the xenophobia of their base…

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