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For Obama, A Long Way Ahead - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The way much of the media sees it, Barack Obama has already won the presidency of the United States. “He is sailing to victory,” claims one American columnist. “I don’t see what could stop him,” adds a British pundit.

For my part, however, Obama’s chances of winning in November appear uncertain. Democrats might have done better with either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards, ignoring the latter’s sexual scandal exposed after the primaries.

The reason is not that Obama is black. (In fact, he is bi-racial, that is to say black and white.)Even a generation ago a quarter of Americans were prepared to vote for Jesse Jackson, an all-black priest-cum-politician seeking the Democrat Party’s presidential nomination.

The reason Obama might not win is that he has failed to connect wit the base of the Democrat Party, that is to say blue-collar workers in industrial urban areas. To them, he appears as the candidate of wealth and privilege, a kind of caviar-and-champagne leftist who drives his children to expensive private schools in big limousines while sending the children of the poor to derelict public schools in ramshackle buses.

In his youth, Obama made friends with a gallery of colorful characters on the left, some of whom went to jail for terrorism. He read Franz Fanon, the mad man of Martinique, and parroted Edward Said’s idiocies. Later, however, Obama moved in the company of rich wheeler-dealers, some of whom were sent to jail for corruption, and, along the way, converted to Christianity by a “Black Liberation” priest. Launching his presidential quest, Obama ended up in the company of the billionaire speculator George Soros and rich pop-stars such as Madonna.

During the primaries, Obama revealed his disdain for the “average” American who seeks refuge in his “guns and religion.”

The conventional wisdom is that Obama will win because President George W Bush’s low approval ratings. However, while Bush’s approval ratings seem to be stuck at 30 per cent, the Congress, dominated by Obama’s party is even less popular with just 13 per cent.

The last Democrat to win with slightly more than half the votes was Jimmy Carter in 1976.

In 1992, Bill Clinton won with 43 per cent of the votes and in 1996 with 49 per cent.

In both cases, he won because there was a strong third party candidate (Ross Perrot) who took 20 per cent (in 1992) and six per cent (in 1996) of the votes, almost all of it from Republicans. Without Perrot, there would have been no Clinton presidency.

In 2000, the Democrats won half a million votes more than the Republicans, but failed to gain a majority in the Electoral College. Four years later, however, Bush managed to collect almost four million votes more than his Democrat challenger Senator John Kerry.

Obama is sure to secure the support of a majority of blacks, some 12 per cent of the electorate, who have backed the Democrats since the 1950s. Most Jews, some two per cent of the electorate and Democrat Party supporters for almost 100 years, are also sure to vote for Obama. Arab and Muslim Americans, some two per cent of the electorate, are expected also to vote for Obama because of his Islamic background and opposition to the war in Iraq.

The Democrat may win more than half of the total Hispanic vote which accounts for some 12 per cent. Obama should also secure the support of at least another eight per cent of the electorate who would always vote for a Democrat. This consists of teachers, trade unionists, and scores of small leftist and left-of-center groups. In other words, a Democrat nominee starts with the support of some 30 per cent of the electorate. The tough task is to secure the remaining 20 per cent plus one.

During the primaries, Obama collected the votes of some nine per cent of the electorate. His main rival, Mrs. Clinton won another nine per cent. Thus, the Democrats went to their convention in Denver with the already expressed backing of some 18 per cent of the electorate.

Obama won the nomination not because he had many more votes than Clinton but because of a new system of proportional representation that favored the loser.

Obama won none of the big states the Democrats must win to seize the White House. With the help of the party machine, he managed to deprive Clinton of delegates she had won in Florida and Michigan, two of the five most populous states of the union. Obama won most of his delegates in states where Democrats have not won in a presidential election since the 1960s.

It is not clear how many of Hillary Clinton’s supporters may vote for Obama in November. Many remain sore at the fact that their candidate won most of the states where Democrats are a majority while Obama won mostly in states where Democrats have little chance of winning.

One thing is certain: this is going to be an exciting election with features that could be labeled historic. John McCain, the Republican nominee, is the oldest man to be nominated for a first term presidency. His Democrat opponent is the first African-American to be one round away from the White House. Sarah Palin, the woman chosen by McCain as his vice-presidential running mate, is only the second woman to rise to such a place on a major party ticket. It is also the first time in more than 100 years that both candidates for the presidency are senators. Add to them Joseph Biden, Obama’s vice-presidential running mate, and you have three senators in the ring, something that, to my knowledge, never happened before.

Exciting, to be sure. But who will win? We shall know in exactly 60 days’ time.

Amir Taheri

Amir Taheri

Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987. Mr. Taheri has won several prizes for his journalism, and in 2012 was named International Journalist of the Year by the British Society of Editors and the Foreign Press Association in the annual British Media Awards.

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