Why Obama Won The Presidency

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[Election 2008]

Senator Barack Obama won the presidential election because he sold hope over fear and hate.

Obama had to overcome considerable obstacles along the way -- in the form of entrenched interests, not least of all from his own Democratic party.

When Obama announced his run, barely midway through his first term as United States senator, many scoffed at this political novice. But Obama, Harvard and Columbia educated,

had shunned the boardrooms and multi-million dollar pay in favor of the streets of Chicago. Through his community organizing and working with the less fortunate, including some of whom had once been in the middleclass, Obama knew what the word on Main Street was; people wanted change.

Early into the primary campaign voters, including the majority of African Americans, held their collective breath. They prayed that the likable and intelligent young man would not be humiliated--that he would not embarrass the entire race.

But Obama "change" mantra had resonance and struck a universal chord. He won in Iowa and suddenly the race was on. Hillary Clinton and her tag-mate, Bill Clinton, trembled. Senator Clinton shed some real tears and the women of New Hampshire gave her a gift.

Then it was on to major contests, including South Carolina. By then, the nation had embraced Obama, having listened to his stirring victory speech after his Iowa victory. The Clintons realized that they needed to up the tempo and went into negative campaigning. Clinton acolytes whispered: Might have Obama, who admitted to youthful experimentation with drugs in his book, been a drug dealer in the past? Other Clinton acolytes questioned his faith--might he not be a Muslim with secret "terroristic" inclinations? And with respect to the upcoming vote in South Carolina, why should people be surprised if Obama does well, after all, another Black politician, Jesse Jackson had similarly performed well.

Clinton lost the overwhelming support she had from Black voters who rejected her husband's and her acolytes' race baiting and religious bigotry. Obama sailed in South Carolina and went on to trounce the prohibitively favored Clinton in a string of contests.

Even on Super Tuesday, in February, when Clinton was supposed to have knocked out Obama, the contest ended in a draw.

Suddenly the writing was on the wall and Bill Clinton said as much: Senator Clinton had to win Texas, Ohio and later Pennsylvania, if she was to win the contests. Texas was a draw, with Obama boosting his totals with the caucuses after Clinton edged him in the primary component of the Texas race.

Clinton won Ohio. She won Pennsylvania, again with openly blatant appeals to racism, including by her acolytes.

By this time, Obama lead in the delegates count was insurmountable.

The Clintons tried some new math: Only the votes in the large states should count; the total number of delegates needed to win the nomination should be increased; only the candidate that could be elected by white voters --Senator Clinton of course-- should be the nominee; and, the super delegates should ignore the outcome of all the primary elections and select whomever they believed would be the best nominee for the party to be the standard bearer.

The candidate of hope and change prevailed over the candidate of fear and desperation. Obama accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at the Denver Convention and the hard work to repair the rift between Obama supporters and Clinton supporters, especially White women voters, begun. There had been genuine fear that it would be an exercise in futility --indeed the Republicans had celebrated during the Democratic candidates' bitterly contested primary run. The candidates had so mauled each other and turned off each side's supporters that they would not recover in time to present a unified front against the Republican standard bearer Senator John McCain.

But McCain offered the Democrats a gift from heaven when he selected the eminently unqualified Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, as his vice presidential running mate. Initially, the McCain-Palin ticket gained slightly in the polls. The Republicans hid the VP nominee in a closet; but the minute she stepped out and opened her mouth, the McCain-Palin ticket's numbers began to drop like a meteorite.

Meanwhile, the government and corporate America could no longer keep secret news about the financial meltdown on Wall Street. All the signals had been out there over the last few years, as numerous companies started admitting that all the rosy numbers in their books were fiction created to artificially maintain inflated share prices; separately, the housing bubble burst; credit dried up; money began to flee from Wall Street as investors panicked; and financial houses teetered.

Candidate McCain had earlier during the campaign boasted that he knew nothing about the economy; he could afford to say so at the time because the Iraq war still ranked highly as an election issue that voters cared about. His declaration came back to haunt him once the economy became the number one issue. But at least he had been honest; indeed, he knew nothing and certainly was not in touch with ordinary Americans.

He confessed to a reporter, in a cavalier manner, that he did not know how many homes he had. For the record, he and his wife own eight homes, each one of which is valued at more than a million dollars. His campaign's top spokesperson complained that Americans who complained about the tanking economy were "whiners." McCain himself said that the fundamentals of the economy were sound and that the government should not bail out homeowners and corporate chiefs that had made "boneheaded" decisions.

In contrast, Obama showed maturity when he agreed that there was a need to rescue the economy and endorsed the $700 billion proposal, provided that it also addressed the issue of homeowners' bankruptcy. Moreover, Obama's own economic recovery program, which he had been pushing throughout the campaign and on his website, had called for the creation of new jobs in the green economy and also for repairing the nation's infrastructure such as roads, bridges and tunnels and schools. This was several months before the meltdown on Wall Street.

It was only after Obama started widening his poll leads in the national and in the battle ground states that McCain started, belatedly, addressing the economic issue. Rather than offering specific proposals, such as Obama's plan to cut taxes for anyone earning less than $250,000, McCain came up with another gimmick: Joe "The Plumber" Wurzalbacher. McCain praised Wurzalbacher, who, it turns out was not even a plumber.

According to McCain and Wurzalbacher, Obama's tax plan, and his remark that there was a need to "spread the wealth" imperiled hard working Americans such as the alleged plumber. Because of Obama, people like Wurzalbacher wouldn't be able to afford to buy the companies they worked for. 

In fact, it turns out that Wurzalbacher, the non-plumber, can't afford to buy his boss's company and that he earns so little that he would actually benefit from Obama's tax plan. Moreover, Obama's plan benefits the middle class and his focus on creating new jobs and energy independence rewards all Americans.

Obama demonstrated his poise, wisdom and intellect during the three presidential debates and his lead widened in the polls.

It was desperation time so McCain and Palin resorted to the so-called kitchen sink strategy: Throw all the ugly falsehoods at Obama and hope that something sticks.

He was "palling around with terrorists," the pair declared, and brought up Bill Ayers, the former radical who is now a professor in Chicago and who sat on the board of an educational foundation funded by a McCain friend many years ago.

Few people noticed the plural form--terrorists. Clearly the intent was to create the impression that Obama "terrorist" credentials, or affinity, stretched beyond U.S. borders.

No wonder then, some people at McCain-Palin campaigns started screaming "terrorist" or "kill him" whenever Obama's name was mentioned. A wobbly old lady declared to McCain that she could not trust Obama because she had found out on the Internet that he was an "Arab." McCain had to contradict this supporter; he retorted that Obama was a decent American--he neglected to say that even if he had been an Arab it wouldn't automatically mean he was a terrorist.

At the end hope prevailed over hate and fear.



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