I first saw Barack Obama speak in New York City in the summer of 2007. On that day, surprised by the multi-generational, multi-racial crowd, I realized that something very major was going to happen in the next (2008) election.
2008 came… I spent a lot of time writing and doing TV and radio appearances in the lead up to the election.
I also watched, with fascination, the intense public sentiment about the possibility of the first African American president.
Barack Obama’s election took place on November 4th, 2008. My 28th birthday.
My piece for The Guardian written shortly after his win was announced talked about Obama’s election crossing racial lines.
I was at President Obama’s historic inauguration in 2009.
Despite being one of the coldest days I have ever experienced, I managed to rush back to The Guardian offices to thaw out my fingers and type a piece. In it, I mused that Barack Obama’s ambitions could not be achieved without the help of a supportive public.
….this means a more responsible America, which as a nation has a less arrogant way of dealing with the world and doesn’t take its greatness for granted or misuse its power. It goes without saying that there are many in the world – Obama talked specifically about the Muslim world in his speech – who will have been pleased to hear that and are looking forward to seeing America take that new approach, which is so markedly different from the aggressive ways of George Bush.
This also means a more thoughtful and reflective American individual who will continue to “take in a stranger when the levees break … and who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job.” Obama’s campaign was built on people power and today he made it clear that it is that same power that will help lead America, under his presidency, become an even greater nation.
I also did some partying afterwards! It was a momentous time to see, and be there to celebrate, the first African American president sworn into office.
I have been to the White House a few times since then. Here is a recent photo, taken from the White House lawn, as Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama spoke at a joint press conference.
A lot has happened, and much has changed, in the past 4 years, the global economy being a prominent issue. In 08, race was a big issue. This time around it’s class and socio-economics. The American Dream is in jeopardy.
Politics has become increasingly divisive. It really is right v left. The Tea Party emerged after the last election to claim their place in American history. Sadly, despite the President’s desire for bi-partisanship, American politics continues to be even more highly partisan and highly oppositional. Washington, I believe, is even more broken. I don’t think this is Obama’s fault per se – if anything, I think his election simply drew more attention and added more fuel to the already-existing issues.
In 2012, it is now former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney v Obama. Obama is now the incumbent and clearly a threatening one as super PACS aim to spend plenty of money (one group will spend $1bn) to destroy the incumbent. Despite the Occupy protests and growing discussion about politics for the people, there are some who are clearly not listening.
Romney continues to swing to the right, to his detriment in my view. Romney could have stood strong as a business man and played that card right. I have actually worked at Bain, and I very much enjoyed my time there. I found it an excellent company. Instead, Romney has gone socially conservative, talking about women’s rights, abortion (which, honestly, I think is a woman-only domain) and courting Donald Trump who continues to bang on endlessly about Obama’s country of birth. As if this is what matters.
Obama has both centrist and leftists to factor in, as well as those sorely disillusioned by his 08 promises of hope and change. The grassroots swell has died down, and the Occupy movement has come in to provide the space for those who thought that an Obama presidency would mean radical change in the US. Obama certainly has work to do.
I’d rather this election was just about pragmatism and what is best for the country, but that’s partisan politics for you. Polls in key states are saying that Obama and Romney are close. We shall see.
Four years is not a long time, and not long enough to fulfill a mission for a nation. I hope that Obama gets another shot.