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EDITORIAL: Americans retain faith in Obama

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Americans retain faith in Obama

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To be re-elected with a weak economy and unemployment close to eight per cent is not an easy task.
Many leaders – Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Gordon Brown of England and Andrew Holness of Jamaica, to name a few – have been swept away by economic discontent in recent times.
Europe is on life support, thanks to European Central Bank president Mario Draghi’s astute financial manoeuvring. But unemployment is at its highest in decades and growth has essentially stalled, even in Germany, while the troubled southern economies are mired in deep recession.
The situation in Greece, moreover, has become socially unsustainable and politically unpalatable. Though a small country, a total economic collapse there could have very negative financial and psychological effects throughout the global economy.
Although the financial disaster erupted during a Republican presidency, United States’ President Barack Obama had to carry the burden of an anaemic recovery. He could not and did not blame it on the worst recession in history. It was his responsibility to solve.
It was noticeable that throughout the campaign, Obama never used this lame excuse to secure another term in office but focussed on growth (though marginal) in employment in the economy over the last nine months. That makes his victory even more remarkable.
Four years ago, the global economy was collapsing like a pack of cards and Obama rode in on a wave of hope and change. Four years on, that faith in him remains despite a bruised economy with a US$1 trillion annual deficit, a US$16 trillion national debt and a gridlocked Congress.
It’s the second time in two decades that a Democrat has won a second term in the White House but the bruising contest has left the country deeply divided. It was also the most expensive in the history of America, thanks to the United States Supreme Court.
In 2008, Obama fought the election on just one theme: change. He brought about some change for the most part, but found his hands tied on any number of counts, weighed down by a ruthless Republican opposition that shot down his reform agenda.
Obama won not only because of his organizational skills, but also because a sufficient number of middle class voters, while unhappy with the pace of economic progress, sensed that his policies would help them more than those championed by his Republican challenger.
He has had the toughest last couple of years when some of his most ardent supporters deserted him, disillusioned by an anaemic economy, inflation and joblessness. But he dug in his heels, refused to buckle and held on to his dreams for his country.
The president must now use the political leverage he has earned to complete his agenda and to reach out to America’s neighbours in CARICOM to assist the region with its economic development, especially in the areas of trade, rum exports, tourism and investment.