By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
September 12, 2008
Sarah Palin, it seems, is about to topple the Presidential apple cart. My friend Louis Lee Sing (we were in Chicago to look at the T&T vs. USA soccer match) is afraid. “Selwyn,” he says, “it seems as though Palin might do it.” It’s all about the best made plans of mice and men and thunder striking from afar. Here, in Chicago, the home of Obama, there is cautious optimism. In Boston where I teach, there is tentativeness about how to interpret Palin’s candidacy; and in New York where I visited the last weekend to take my daughter to dinner for her birthday signs of apprehension abound.
The national polls have shifted which gives Obama and his supporters little comfort. Contrary to previous polls, McCain is now in the lead. His bounce from the Republican convention has lasted for about a week, an unusually long time in presidential politics. Savoring the unexpected, Republican strategists have refused to allow Palin to speak to the press. She was schedule to conduct her first national interview on the anniversary of 9/11, the same day that her son is scheduled to be shipped out to serve in Iraq.
The stars seemed to have aligned with the Republicans. What looked so bleak a few weeks ago appears bright today. McCain’s gamble seems to be paying off.
However, one should not move so fast. Palin is still an unknown quality and much that is coming out about her dealings in Alaska may dim her glow and derail McCain’s presidential ambition. She said she was against the $400 million federally funded “Bridge to Nowhere.” It turns out that she only came out against it when it became a national embarrassment. Yet, she kept the money and used it in Alaska anyhow.
Then there is the question of being paid to stay at her home. Over the last nineteen months she billed Alaska 17,059 dollars when she stayed in Anchorage, about 45 miles from her home in Wasilla, to conduct the state’s business. This is an unusual arrangement. It is like paying Patrick Manning a stipend of $500 (TT) anytime he left the Prime Minister’s residence in Port of Spain and decided to stay at his home in San Fernando.
And the economy stinks. The USA owes more than $53 trillion (US) in debt, most of it to China and unemployment has skyrocketed to 6.2 per cent. The surplus that Clinton left the Republicans has escalated into a deficit of $407 billion. With trillions of dollars lost, the government spent close to $200 billion to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as their declining value threatened to sink the world’s economy. These institutions finance nearly three quarters of US mortgages and nearly every major developed country has invested in their bonds.
The US mortgage crisis remains. Lehman Brothers Holdings, the No. 4 US Investment Bank, continues to be hobbled by its mortgage debts. Its company shares fell by 45 per cent earlier this week. Housing foreclosures are at a record high and the US still spends billions of dollars in Iraq. Close to eighty percent of Americans feel that the country is heading in the wrong direction. The US Congressional Budget Office predicts that the US economy will grow 1.5 per cent this year and slip to 1.1 per cent growth in 2009. Economically, things have not looked as bad since the 1970s.
Governor Palin is about to be placed a heart beat away from the Presidency at a time of a rudderless America. There is no doubt that racism is at work in this election but it is difficult to see white Americans cutting off their noses to spoil their faces. It will be tremendously self-wounding if they placed the same party that has been in Washington for the past eight years and under whose watch things have taken a turn for the worse back into power. The party that ruled Washington for the last eight years cannot transform itself and its message over the next four years.
Palin’s stars may be on the rise but the realities of the US economic condition will bring Americans down to the ground. The performance of the US economy is likely to remain the key to the election’s outcome. Obama has to let the people feel that he empathizes with their hunger’s pangs. He has to go from cool to hot; dispassionate to passionate; sophisticated to scrappy.
Neither blind faith nor buoyant optimism leads me to conclude that Obama will become the next president of the United States. Americans will vote their hopes rather than their fears; their future rather than their past. In other words, they would do what is in their best economic interest. Even McCain has conceded that Americans are looking for change rather than the same ole same oh.
Obama is correct: “You can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change, and it’s still going to stink after eight years.” It’s a message Americans will accept grudgingly.