The 2012 US presidential election will be remembered for three things. One the pundits were again proved wrong. They had predicted a close race. Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romeny by a margin of nearly 100 electoral college votes. Even a nursery school kid would tell you that 206 (Romney's votes) is nowhere close to 303 (Obama's votes).
But the more important point was Romney's concession speech at his campaign headquarters in Massachusetts. Obama was gracious in victory, but Romney was graceful in defeat. He in fact took the word grace to glorious heights. If the presidential race were to be re-run after this speech, the Republican candidate may have denied his Democrat rival a second term.
The third, yet equally important, point was the involvement of the families in running the campaign for the two candidates. The crowds cheered loudly when Romney invited his family (a rather large one), to the stage after the concession speech. In Chicago Obama's family shared the dais with Vice President Joe Biden and his family after the President completed his victory speech.
Of the three points we have mentioned as the highlight of the US presidential election the Indian election process can claim parity with America only on one count. The pundits in India too consistently go wrong in predicting election trends. On the other two counts even an unfair referee will not give India any points.
We keep away our families from campaigning because in India politics is considered dirty business. Don't blame Anna Hazare or Arvind Kejriwal for giving Indian politicians a bad name. They are a recent aberration. If we had a good opinion about politics our netas would not hesitate to turn up at election rallies with their kids and spouses. The only healthy exception to the trend is practiced by the family which is accused of promoting dynastic rule! Yes, we are referring to the Nehru-Gandhi family. Rahul Gandhi is in active politics, but Priyanka is not. Yet during the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh she campaigned actively for Sonia Gandhi. She even took her two children along to some of the roadside meetings.
Grace in defeat for most politicians in India is as alien a concept as cheese is to chalk. Show us an Indian leader who would make a Romney-like speech in defeat and we shall stop worrying about the many fault lines in our electoral system. Elections were also held to fill vacancies in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Did we hear about any incident of poll-related violence in a country where carrying of firearms by individuals is protected by law? The media regularly report ghastly incidents of gun-related violence. But seldom during an election campaign.
Let us go back to 2008 to understand Obama's remarkable personal journey to the presidency. As far as the 2012 verdict is concerned the coming days will see pundits and punters giving their spin to the current verdict. Analysing an election is like being placed in a room covered with mirrors. The image remains the same, only the profile and the perspective change. The US presidential election can be interpreted which ever way you want it. The interpretations could be encouraging, negative or even misleading.
In 2008 some of Obama's rhetoric was borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches, including his famous phrase, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." In his election night victory speech Obama saw his re-election as an example of what Americans can achieve if "put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day."
A notable feature of the Democratic campaign was that Obama always spoke softly and maintained a cheerful look, even when under vicious attack from his opponent. The sustained show of affection toward his wife, Michelle, was part of a well orchestrated campaign to bolster his image as a family man.
Observers believe that Obama's re-election was made possible because of his strong endorsement of economic policies that stressed job growth, health care reform, tax increases and balanced deficit reduction. He advocated a soft line on policies touching on immigration, abortion and same-sex marriage.
In the swing state of Ohio the bailout of the auto industry by Obama (and opposed by Romney) did his campaign a world of good. Obama said that the government had a role in creating private-sector jobs and boosting the economy. Romney argued that it was none of Washington's business. He wanted the "free market work its will".
Some analysts believe that Romney took a suicidal step during the primaries by endorsing a hard line on immigration. He overlooked the simple fact that the US is a nation of immigrants. His position earned him the ire of Latinos and Hispanics. It is indeed true that Romney publicly supported Arizona's cruel immigration law
Although it is too early to say with any degree of clarity about which section of society voted for Obama and which gave its thumbs up to Romney. But observers believe that the rich Americans voted for Romney while the poor majority trooped in behind Obama. And he won. The influence of other factors like gender, age and religion on the voting have yet to be worked out.
What can be said with a fair degree of certainty is that a majority of the African-American and Hispanic votes went to Obama. During the campaign Romney found fault with every single action which Obama had taken as President. His counter offer that he would cut deficit without raising taxes or reduction in the size of Medicare simply had few buyers.
A majority of the voters blamed George W. Bush, Obama's predecessor, for ruining the economy. This vote went to Obama. Those who were concerned about taxes gave the thumbs up to Romney, but those who were worried about the size of the problem caused by rising unemployment voted for Obama.
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