Friday, October 12, 2012

The two big reasons for Obama’s troubles

By RANDALL SMITH

My Obama is losing.

Those words came across my message screen from a worried reader in Brazil. But it might have been from Kenya, Uganda or from one of the billions of citizens across the world that are hoping for the president to be re-elected.

As in past years, the world is confused by the American election system.  Simply put, most do not understand why the president would be in a virtual dead heat with Republican Mitt Romney after all that Obama has done as president:

Saved the American auto industry. Check.

Saved the American financial industry. Check.

Prevented a Great Depression. Check.

Ended the war in Iraq. Check.

Killed the world’s top terrorist. Check.

The reasons for Obama’s political troubles are two: The economy and his race. 

Many economists have described the American economy as the best house in a bad neighbourhood. But that’s an unsatisfactory place for Americans who have enjoyed much better.

When most of us wake up each day, we don’t seem to realise that we consume more water, food and fuel than most others in the world. Our meat consumption, though falling, is a half pound per person per day. 

Our cars are eating over 550 gallons of fuel each year. Each household is using about 70 gallons of fresh water each day. America has the politics of “more,” which is symbolised by Romney. And we have the politics of conservation, which is Obama’s position.

The other factor is race, which has been an issue that America has struggled with since the founding of the country.

The slavery issue, which could have been dealt with in the Constitutional Convention, was put off because the country was not strong enough to deal with the divisions that the issue was sure to cause.

Today, America has a black president. To many voters, that means that the race issue has been erased. Last year, however, the number of African Americans living under poverty hit the highest number in 52 years — 27.4 per cent.

According to a Pew study, the median income of a white household is 20 times that of an African American household and 18 times that of an Hispanic household.

Perhaps the ugliest of all is the stereotype of the “angry black American male.” It came about in the 1960s after race riots, the gangster rap and the simple fact that African Americans are incarcerated at a much higher rate than the rest of the population.

According to the NAACP, African Americans are jailed at the rate of six times of whites.  African Americans and Hispanics comprise 58 per cent of those in prison.

How does this translate into the political arena?  Romney is free to swing away at President Obama in debates and takes full advantage. President Obama is quite careful in his responses and sounds like an academic without much punch.

The election will be close. Obama is swinging hard in ads where others can do the talking. He has raised a record $180 million in September. The unemployment numbers dropped below eight per cent to 7.8.

But Romney is hitting hard and using every advantage.

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