Posted on November 5, 2008

Obama to the White House

Ramón Sánchez-Parodi Montoto

AT the close of this edition, without the vote count having been completed, the projections of TV networks and news agencies on Tuesday night were showing Barack Obama as the winner in the states of Pennsylvania and Ohio, thus sealing the fate of the presidential elections in the United States. The Democratic Senator for Illinois is to occupy the White House from January 1, as the 44th president of the United States.

From mid-September to October 31 in 32 states of that country, an estimated 27 million voters were authorized to cast their ballots in advance, without having to present any justification. In the rest of the country, a further 13 million did so having demonstrated a reason and justification for doing so. Around 187 million voters are registered, but 120 million were expected to cast their ballots, according to specialists, meaning 30% of electors voted before November 4.

Close to 60% of those voters were registered as Democrats believed to have voted for Obama, an early indication of the victory announced before midnight by the U.S. media.

Barack Obama has carried out a surprising and meteoric campaign that is taking him to the White House, characterized by a systematic, methodical and persevering organization. Although it is evident that his intention to reach the highest position of U.S. executive power arose in the mid-1980s, the most recent landmarks on that road were the magisterial speech he gave in the 2004 Democratic Convention, followed by his election to the U.S. Senate in the 2006 elections, when the Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Within that trajectory, September 2007 marks the moment when Obama moved from being just another politician from the squad of presidential hopefuls, virtually unknown to the U.S. population and only mentioned in the context of his 2004 speech and the fact of being black (or African-American), to becoming one of the leaders in the race. That was the occasion when Obama took as his banner opposition to the war in Iraq (an issue at the forefront of U.S. attention at the time) and was put on a level in terms of fundraising with Hillary Clinton, the favorite among the Democratic candidates.

In a rapid and spectacular succession of events, Obama succeeded in tying with Hillary in opinion polls in December as the favorite candidate and notched up a brilliant win in the first primary election this year — the Iowa caucuses of January 3 — relegating Hillary to an unimpressive third place. On February 5, Mega Tuesday, he closed his Democratic opponent’s chances of winning a substantial number of delegates, subsequently repeated on Super Tuesday, March 4, and by a succession of victories in primaries and caucuses during the months of February and March.

In the final sprint of the mid-May primaries, he succeeded in tying and decisively beating Hillary Clinton in the number of super-delegates (in practice this represents the backing of the Democratic establishment) supporting his nomination and, finally, before the period of primaries closed, he completed the trajectory to the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party by securing the number of delegates required.

In less than nine months, Obama had become transformed into a historic figure in U.S. politics, with the backing of the majority of the Democratic Party establishment. The small, weak grouping of a year earlier, with Obama as its central figure, had defeated in the primaries and displaced from control of the Democratic Party the formidable political machinery of Bill and Hillary Clinton, created over a period of 30 years, including the eight years when Bill occupied the presidency of the United States.

Contrary to the belief sustained by political commentators and analysts that the tenacious fight between Hillary and Obama for the nomination threatened to divide the Democratic Party, that battle decisively contributed to uniting diverse tendencies and has been a key factor in the victory that is now being manifested at the polls. In contrast, while John McCain succeeded as early as February this year in securing his Party’s nomination as presidential candidate, it was because his opponents abandoned the fight, not as a result of unity or the acceptance of his candidacy on the part of different Republican forces.

Although it was the political climate in the United States that determined that, in these elections, the Democrats would succeed in having their candidate win the presidency, their triumph was backed up by a highly efficient electoral campaign, designed and executed by a very cohesive team loyal to Obama, which has remained united throughout the contest.

From the beginning, Obama set out to give battle to his opponents, whether they were other Democratic aspirants or his Republican rivals, throughout the national territory, and that allowed him to make himself known, to create links in the Party apparatus and bases all over the country and to accumulate forces, first among delegates to the Democratic Convention, but additionally, by identifying and registering potential voters with a view to the November 4 elections. In contrast, both Hillary and McCain adopted the traditional way of campaigning, basing themselves in the places and within the groups that have historically leaned toward one or the other party.

Crucial for Obama in developing that strategy was the use of thousands of volunteers, the creation of professional campaign groups in every state and an integrated network on the Internet. He thus managed to do battle in all scenarios, to capture hundreds of thousands or even millions of voters, to make Obama known, divulge his positions and confront the campaigns to discredit him mounted by both the Clinton and McCain teams.

But, and very especially, Obama’s campaign set a record in one extremely important and essential component in the fight for the presidency: fundraising, ranging from small donations from individual citizens during the primaries to the decisive financial contributions from institutions and the business sector in the final stage of the campaign during October and November. Obama’s campaign was not only backed by more than three million donors, but among them was a significant contribution from the core of U.S. economic and political power. Obama came to these elections with the backing of the ruling class in the United States.

Although final figures are not available, donations to Obama’s candidacy could easily be in excess of $800 million. Already, with what is officially known, Obama has collected more money than the combined total raised by George W. Bush and John Kerry in the 2004 elections.

To give an idea of the cost of this campaign, the Center for Responsive Politics estimates that from January 2007 to date, $2.4 billion has been spent on the presidential election and $2.9 billion on the races for 435 congressional seats: a total, just in those two events, of $5.3 billion.

On analyzing the distinctive aspects of the Barack Obama campaign, it can be confirmed that, except for small glitches in March and April during the primaries and in the second week of September, his candidacy has always been on the ascendant and based on a stronger, more cohesive and well-defined undertaking than those of his rivals, including Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

From September 14, the explosion of the financial crisis represented the coup de grâce to the presidential aspirations of the Republican candidate who, despite desperate efforts (including an interview given to the ultra-conservative Washington Times — not be to confused with the Washington Post in which he strongly criticized the Bush administration), has been unable to get rid of the accursed legacy of the last eight years of George W’s inept mandate. That was compounded by the poor performance of his running mate, the Arctic Amazon of Alaska, Sarah Palin, and the unfortunate conduct of both of them in the three presidential debates and the vice presidential one. This completes the Republican debacle of today.

The fight between McCain and Obama was no longer an even one. The Democrat had a wide advantage and his rival was left with the only hope of the hidden race factor at the time of voting. The most to be hoped for was that Obama would win by a large margin of electoral votes, possible exceeding the 300-vote level by taking states like Virginia, Nevada and Colorado that have a strong Republican tradition, and even other swing states like Ohio or Florida.

The Democratic presidential win will be accompanied by the second consecutive victory of that Party in the Congressional elections. It is possible that the margin of Democratic control in the House, currently at 36 congress members, could grow to 100, which would represent a net gain of 30 seats in these elections. In the Senate, it is likewise possible that the Democrats will gain the much-desired figure of 10 new senators, which would assure them a total of 60 senators to defeat the “filibustering” that is exercised in certain debates and votes in the Senate.

Thus, Barack Obama is completing one historical event and will have to confront another.

The author is an International Relations specialist and was head of the Cuban Interests Section in the United States from September 1977 to April 1989.

Translated by Granma International 


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