Caribbean: U.S. Election Countdown

Election day is almost here and as the moment of truth draws closer, Caribbean bloggers are busy with their own brand of political punditry, weighing in on everything from the candidates’ position on key issues to “Machiavellian pragmatism”…

Jamaica's Abeng News Magazine begins the discussion by saying:

On the eve of probably the most pivotal election in US history, Americans have seen the best and worst of themselves…the presidential campaign has become a cutting board to expose the viscera of the nation's attitudes toward its ethnic and cultural diversity, a landscape vastly changed since the late 1960s. There is no need to wait until after the elections to declare these observations, for win or lose for either party, these past months have spoken for America, the vigor and intensity of the campaign mounting, even as the nation agonizingly searches itself, struggles with itself, and strives to find its direction and character for the twenty-first century. In these last few months, America has re-invented itself.

But reinvention does not necessarily mean change. The Abeng post continues:

It has been no surprise to learn that deep-seated racial prejudice remains a distinctive feature of the American landscape, and no one is naive enough to think that it will ever be eradicated, even if Obama emerges victor. Team Obama has been careful to avoid any semblance of civil rights issues in its campaign, projecting the candidate as a champion of the rights of all Americans, instead of pandering to any single group.

At the same time the McCain/Palin campaign has stoked the fires of these fears, feeding on the xenophobia of their supporters by sowing seeds of doubt about the opponent's political affiliations and ideology, even speculating about his status of being a natural-born US citizen, and claiming his birth certificate and supporting documents were forgeries. It is ironic that any such speculations regarding John McCain's eligibility (he was born in the Panama Canal Zone and not on US soil) were quickly put to rest. With a new CNN poll showing McCain closing the gap, Team Obama cannot afford to take its lead for granted.

Barbados Underground agrees:

At the risk of sounding like a pessimist, I warn the many die hard Obama supports that its not over by a long shot. There are a number of factors that if combined could quite easily lead to us waking up on November 5th to McCain as the president elect and de facto leader of the world.

As we look forward to next week Tuesday, there is a distinct possibility that the youth may not turn out in their numbers. Already from the statistics we have from early voting, it appears that youth have not taken advantage of the opportunity to vote in as large a proportion as they did in the primaries. History also presents the precedent of past elections (Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004) where youth seemed energized behind a candidate but on Election Day did not translate that energy into voting. If youth do not come out in great numbers on Election Day, Barack could lose one of his major constituencies.

The Barbadian blogger also thinks that the polls may prove to be a disadvantage for Obama:

As paradoxical as this may seem, Obama’s present commanding lead in the polls benefits McCain. A lead like this in the polls may act to encourage McCain supporters and those who are anti-liberal but not necessarily Republican (Libertarians for example) to come out in their numbers to support McCain for fear of having a Democratic President, House and Senate. If this occurs in key battle ground states, it could give McCain the much needed boost he needs to get catch up to Obama. Similarly, Obama’s lead could lead to overconfidence and complacency on the part of his supporters which causes many of them not to vote since in their eyes Obama has already clinched the presidency. If this happened in key states like Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania it could be a route to a McCain presidency.

Meanwhile, Jamaican diaspora blogger Pamela Mordecai is more focused on the issues than on the polls. She writes a thoughtful post (in which she refers to Connie Bruck's interview with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel in The New Yorker) that puts forward a rationale for why pro-lifers should feel comfortable casting their ballot for Obama:

I don’t believe in abortion. I do believe that those who don’t ‘play the game’ ought to be a little less arrogant, a little more respectful, a little more like Jesus when they spout the rules. These are important issues, complex ones, that we need to talk more, and more intelligently, and more honestly, about.

I believe that we arrive at wisdom and discernment in our decisions by prayer, meditation, contemplation of the Word of God, and fasting, in deep humility and with a great reluctance to judge. That is what I, at any rate, feel that I am called to – a journey far more difficult than mere observation of The Law. That Old Law is, after all, fulfilled in a New One, and according to that New Law – “Thou shalt love the Lord the God with thy whole heart and thy whole soul and thy whole mind and all thy strength; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself…” – I am very hard put to see Sarah Palin and John McCain as loving their neighbours.

And I know there’s no guarantee that what they say they will do about Roe vs Wade, they will in fact do, or be able to do. Nor is there any guarantee that, the law having been changed, women will keep their babies. People know how to get abortions, and doctors will always be found to perform them.

One needs to decide, then, what one wishes: the ‘righteous’ satisfaction of having a law enacted, or the real triumph of building a society in which men and women revere sex for the happy gift it is and have babies that they want and keep.

So I would rather pray for courage on the part of women who carry babies in these last days. I would rather pray for a media that stops reducing the relationships of men and women to mere rutting, a mating that is without context or grandeur or grace. I would rather pray for an America that does not exploit parents who wish homes of their own in which to raise their children, an America that works to supply jobs that can support families, an America that provides parents and children with adequate medical care, and the opportunity for a sound education.

But Trinidad and Tobago-based blogger Jeremy Taylor is a tad cynical (or is it realistic?) about the American political machine:

The American electoral system, simply by existing, corrupts.

The irresistible pull towards the centre — essential now, it seems, to electability anywhere in the west — means that Obama has had to shelve, or defer, or forget about, the things he really wants to do, the things that would mark him out as a truly reforming president. He has had to learn to spend his days jetting around a continent playing the schoolyard game (yes you did … no I didn’t: you stand for higher taxes … no I don’t). He has had to learn to reduce complicated policies and strategies to one-word slogans, flatten out complex nuances of meaning and vision and intent into platitudes about who will make the best commander-in-chief, the best guarantor of security, the best champion of the rich, or the poor, or whatever. He has had to become a Washington-style politician even while railing against Washington.

To become electable, in other words, is to leave behind all the things you wanted to be elected for. If the money doesn’t compromise you, if the crowds and the rhetoric don’t corrupt you, Machiavellian pragmatism will.

Puerto Rican blogger Gil the Jenius is having none of it. His hopes, like many others in the region, are pinned on an Obama presidency and he quotes an Economist article to prove his point.

Pundits and polls and predictions aside, until November 4, no-one knows how this election will turn out. Caribbean bloggers are counting down the days. In the words of Abeng News Magazine:

Heading into the final days of the campaign, regardless of early voting and polling data, the nail-biting suspense will run anxieties high and tempers thin, as the nation sits on the edge and awaits the final count. For many, after a long and extremely punishing campaign, Election Day can't come a moment too soon.

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