US presidential election: Obama – four more years

US presidential election: Obama – four more years

The record is certainly not perfect, but he has done about as well as anyone could reasonably expect

  • Editorial  The Guardian, Friday 2 November 2012 20.27 GMT

In Stephen King’s remarkable time-travel novel 11.22.63, the central character, Jake, journeys back from the America of 2011 to the America of the early 1960s. While he is there, a woman challenges him to tell her one good thing about the future. “I’ll give you two for the price of one,” Jake eventually replies. “The cold war is over and the president is a black man.” The woman’s jaw drops. “You’re serious?” she stammers in disbelief. “Yes, I am,” Jake replies. The woman ponders this almost inconceivable news from the future. Finally she asks, very haltingly: “Is he … doing a good job?” Jake explains that opinions of the president vary but, “If you want mine, he’s doing as well as anyone could expect, given the complexities.”             

Mr King has surely got Barack Obama’s first term about right. The record is certainly not perfect, but he has done about as well as anyone could reasonably expect, given that the economy has been in decline, the banks in crisis, America at war and the Republican party out to destroy him. Leading America through and out of such crises would be a formidable set of challenges at the best of times, but they have been made infinitely more difficult by the Republicans’ single-minded commitment to eviscerating the Obama presidency. At a time when the economic role of government has been more important than at any time in a generation, the Republicans have been set on blocking, subverting and dismantling just about every programme that Mr. Obama has promoted. In many cases they have succeeded. It is to Mr. Obama’s credit that he has achieved what he has – most notably the historic reform of healthcare and the economic stimulus package of 2009, their genuine imperfections rightly overshadowed by the substance of what they contained in spite of congressional resistance. And since the Republican recapture of Congress in 2010, US politics has been dominated by people who do not just despise Mr. Obama, but by people who also despise government itself.

The election of 2012 was never going to be a repeat of the election of 2008. Four years ago, Americans had the opportunity to repudiate the Bush years – so uniquely calamitous both at home and abroad – and to make a historic choice by electing Mr. Obama. Even four years ago, never mind when seen from the Jim Crow era, the 2008 contest was a jaw-dropping, almost redemptive, American moment. Expectations were incredibly high. Even in the best of times, it would have been hard to fulfil them. Mr. Obama has fallen short of some important goals. Guantánamo Bay remains open. The Middle East peace process has got nowhere. Progress on climate change, though not negligible, has been slow. The Iraq war is over and torture has been ended, but the conflict in Afghanistan continues, waged increasingly through drone attacks that solve neither military nor political problems.

Four years later, the 2012 contest may lack the glamour of 2008. But it is in every way at least as important. Partly, that is because of what a Mitt Romney victory on Tuesday might mean – the destruction of welfare safety nets, a free pass for the tax-avoiding rich, indifference to the environment, the dismantling of healthcare, reactionary moves on women’s and gay rights, and the chance to stuff the supreme court even more solidly with justices of the anti-government right. More than that, however, it is because the re-election of Mr Obama would be an act of collective national seriousness by Americans who believe in good government not no government and who possess a concern for community that goes beyond material self-interest. This is America’s election, not ours, and some Americans think the rest of us have no right to an opinion. But our part of the world is clear that it prefers Mr Obama to have four more years in the White House and on Tuesday we hope that Americans will use their votes to ensure that he does.

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  • Wycs  On November 4, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    President Obama has done well during the four years he was President of the USA. even with all its complexites. It is my belief, that no other President could have done better. The recession is about to turn to recovery if it hasn’t done so already. The election and I am very confident he will WIN again to bring back the USA what it was before 2008. Mr Romney cannot do such a big job.

  • Myrtle Fraser  On November 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    With all the opposition shown by the Republicans he has accomplished so much in four years and will continue to do so when he wins tomorrow.

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