miércoles, 5 de noviembre de 2008


Renowned author and political analyst, Enrique Ghersi, once told a group of students of mine that you can either win an election or you can govern, but not both, based on the notion that in order to win an election one has to move in the direction of the opposition. And now it seems Barack Obama has that rare opportunity seldom afforded to presidents to do both. Having won a clear victory, but not having a clear mandate, the question on everyone’s mind now is which direction he will take.

Coming from a party that has sidetracked from its fundamental principles and out of the shadow of the most unpopular president in recent US history, McCain still put up a respectable fight in a race that should have been in the bag for the Democrats a long time ago. Thus essential to Obama’s victory, as they would have been to any winner, were the independent voters at the center of the ideological spectrum, but who were also discontent with the Republican Party’s recent antics. His main obstacle was to persuade those voters that he was not that “most liberal senator” (as he had often been accused of) which, at least in terms of voter perception, he overcame by taking up more moderate positions on key issues such as foreign policy and the war on terror, energy independence, spending reductions and tax cuts. Not particularly liberal positions on these issues plus the fallout of the economy, for which Democrat-style government regulation was widely thought of as the best answer, sealed the deal for Obama.
So, now that Obama got his cake, will he eat it too? The question obviously has to do with the way he will work with the Democrats controlling both houses of Congress. This may seem like every politician’s dream fulfilled, but it may also very well work against him. In other words, he certainly has a good chance of pushing his agenda through Congress (whatever it may be), but he might also be compelled to concede to the far left ambitions of influential Democratic members of the House and Senate that will come his way. Will he stay true to those middle-of-the-road promises that gave him an edge or will he sway back to the more liberal platform from where he came which calls for an American version of socialized health care, labor reform which could jeopardize the already feeble job market, more government subsidies and spending and thus inflation, trade restriction and even a tax hike which are just about the worst things to do in an economic crisis.
While I don’t believe this is a catch 22 for Obama, it is clear that disastrous far-left policies will mean a certain fall from his meteoric rise to the presidency, minimizing his chances for reelection, and probably even serving the next presidency to a Republican on a platter four years from now. On the other hand, fasting on this tempting presidential cake may very well mean an important legacy for an, already history-making, exceptional man.