Still on the Obama bandwagon

Posted on December 16, 2009


I would be the least likely person to support Barack Obama. Well, that’s an outright lie. I could think of several other persons less likely to support him – Republican fat cats nervous about paying more tax, Confederates of the Deep South still bearing (or inflicting) the scars of Segregation, the extremists living along the Bible Belt who remain convinced that he is a Muslim (they might as well call him the Devil) and that Hillary Clinton is the heralded Antichrist. As much as I try to justify right-wing policies I find myself baulking at most of their agenda. As you can tell, I’m not a big fan of labels (truly!) – they’re restrictive, static and prejudicial – but let’s face it we all need some kind of identity marker. So at the risk of being all those three things, if someone were to call me a ‘left-leaning liberal’, with small l’s throughout thank you, it wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

But in all fairness, during the Democratic presidential race in what felt like a few decades ago, I was rooting for Hillary Clinton. First off, let’s be upfront: it is probably a reflection of the sad state of affairs of my admittedly still-young life, that a Malaysian transplanted in Australia devoted so much time and energy in an election for which his opinion and vote carries no weight. But it is also true that while the 08 Presidential election was held in America, by Americans for Americans, the results would inevitably reverberate across the globe.

My support of Hillary was, admittedly, founded on mostly emotional grounds. In my extended family, my grandmother exerted a stronger influence in my upbringing and worldview than the memory of my late grandfather, and I tend to view a woman in a powerful position more favourably than her male equivalent, since she would’ve likely had a tougher time getting there. The prevailing conjecture was that Hillary Clinton, through her years combating nasty accusations by first, the health care industry and later, right wing commentators, had “earned” the top job. Also, maybe it’s the natural risk-averse inclinations of an engineer, but I too was sucked into this idea that you needed years of experience in the political field to be a President (I would come to regret society’s obsession with “experience”, in more ways than one).

Anyway, once I got into the Obama bandwagon – late as it may be – I stay a little longer. Americans’ initial enthusiasm for their president have waned considerably, to the extent that Obama’s approval rating is now the lowest of any president in their first year in office. I think this could be attributed to a number of circumstances, primarily that at a time of deep economic uncertainty, with prolonged periods of unemployment, it would be difficult for Americans to give glowing reviews of their president until the effects of his policies actually filter through to provide employment. In that regard, his policies have shown their mettle. The widely-criticised TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) have been widely acknowledged at saving the economy from the brink of collapse, and all the fear-mongering accusations of socialism, government intrusion into the economy and blatant waste of taxpayer money have proved hollow. Banks are steadily repaying their loans, often with dividends for the taxpayer, the latest being Wells Fargo to the tune of $1.4 billion.

I have faith that the health care reform, the war in Afghanistan and the fight against climate change under the Obama administration will proceed in more-or-less similar fashion to the TARP, that is, with lots of criticism, uncertainty but eventually a resounding success. And so I write this as a sort of time capsule, for me to revisit in 2012 in time for the next elections, to see in hindsight whether my predictions on the Obama administration become reality. Like astrologers, gamblers and economists, I’m wrong most of the time. But we get it right just as often.

Posted in: Society