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Acid test for the US democracy

An enervated America, engaged in a struggle to overcome the disastrous fallout of a credit crunch is limping to polls today.

Senator Barack Obama is confident of victory. His wife is said to be measuring the White House drapes. Republican presidential aspirant John McCain, who has lost a lot of ground to Obama during the past few weeks, is promising a big surprise at the eleventh hour.

During the past so many months, the frontrunners in the presidential race have dealt with many issues both international and domestic. But, today's election is not about any of them. It is about Obama. Nay it is not about the change he promised but about his ethno-religious background.

Is the US ready for a black President in the White House? This is the question that has been on the lips of the America watchers all over the globe. They will find an answer today.

The US has treated the world to a great deal of bragging about equality and an overarching national identity transcending ethno-religious differences. But, surprisingly, never has it had a black president.

Underneath the veneer of democratic values, the American polity has a rotten racist core and never before did a black presidential candidate get so close to the presidency like Obama. Therefore, there was no need for anyone to contest a presidential election on a racial or religious platform unlike at present. But, the Republicans stooped to low levels to ruin Obama’s chances on the grounds of his ethnicity and even his name.

Obama has everything in his favour today. Popular support for him has been tremendous. It is heartening to see his white supporters' bubbling enthusiasm and burning desire to have him elected. He has become the choice of an influential section of the press. It was only the other day that The New York Times endorsed his candidature so eloquently and convincingly. And if the mammoth crowds writhing and singing in his praise at rallies are any indication, then Obama should be the next US president.

Thus, the US media and the liberal-minded Americans have spoken. But, the most important segment of the US society––the conservative White America––has yet to speak. It will do so today. McCain is banking on this influential segment which is real America in that it controls the destiny of the US and is synonymous with the American system. It decides on taxes, social security, foreign policy and war for oil or on terror.

So, today's election is not a contest between Democrats and Republicans. Instead, it is a showdown between the liberal Americans and conservative white supremacists. Liberals seem to have a better chance of securing victory, judging from the wave of popular support they have been riding, as was said earlier.

However, there is many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip. Nothing is so certain as the unexpected, they say.

If Obama wins today, his victory will be only a temporary setback––and not a defeat––for the evil forces that rallied round and played the race card so shamelessly and sought to destroy him politically.

There have been even threats to Obama's life. Since the early stages of the presidential race, he has been protected by the Secret Service. A few days ago, a plot to assassinate him was bared and some arrests were made. But, there is no defence if the system kills. And Obama is not part of the system; that is the greatest danger he will have to live with, if he wins.

Obama has earned a name as a practical and sensible man. Although he is leading in the race according to almost all the pre polls surveys, he has urged his supporters not be lulled into a false sense of complacency. "Don't believe for a second that this election is over," he has told them.

The US elections are characterised by voter apathy and a resultant low voter turnout. But, McCain's difficulties in vying with Obama for the presidency are sure to prompt the conservative Americans to go running to vote. The same goes for those who want Obama to win. They, too, will not stay at home today. Therefore, the voter turnout is likely to record a sharp increase––perhaps an unprecedented one––at today's election.

The next US president will find himself in the same predicament as Gorbachev of the Perestroika fame, who happened to be Russia's president at the wrong time. Today's winner will be burdened with the daunting and thankless task of introducing America's Perestroika in a bid to prevent the collapse of the US economy and preserve its global domination.

The grand bailout of the US banking sector and allied policy U-turns Washington took recourse to in a desperate bid to salvage the American financial system run counter to openness (Glasnost) which the US has been preening itself on. These measures which have prompted some critics to claim capitalism is on its deathbed seem to be a precursor to the Perestroika of the Global North.

The US system will not strike back if a member of the Bush camp like McCain with his capitalist credentials never dented meddles with the core tenets of capitalism to adjust the course of the economy in the hope that it will snap back into its pristine position one day. But, an attempt by an outsider like Obama to do so will be met with stiff resistance.

If Obama wins, his biggest challenge will be living up to people's expectations. The question is whether he will be able to do so, given the state of the US economy, which is in bad shape. The first few years of his watch will see him undo rather than do things, unless the global financial crisis resolves itself before long and the US wins war on terror, which is highly unlikely.

Even if Obama wins today, he must not for a second think his problems are over. His enemies who failed to destroy him before the race will go all out to make governance impossible for him or even to silence him with ‘a magic bullet’.

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