Why Obama won’t make it
(I clearly was wrong in my prediction. However, even though I prefer Obama as president he has apparently felt pressurized to move towards the middle. His leadership, as anybody else's, is on the terms of the existing system. Will even the second term be a compromise "to death"? [posted 2012-12-23])
The second debate between the runner up in the US presidential election, Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama took place on Tuesday night, 16 October 2012. I saw a recorded version of it last night and I am becoming convinced that Obama is going to lose this time. I wish this won’t be the case – and yet it would be very foolish to see all good things invested in the one and not in the other. However, they certainly are miles apart when it comes to their respective life views and values.
Both claim that they are a result of the American dream, but Romney is the prototype of such a dream rather than Obama. What impresses me is that Romney, with his Mormon background, is as ready as Obama to take on the leadership of the great nation of the USA. What I mean is that he in fact is coming from a near sectarian background and yet his vision is now to serve all. It says something about the American dream. It is so typical. His life is fostered in a closely knit religious community, ridiculed by outsiders, not having a clue of the inner dynamics of such a community of traditional family values, and through this experience he is coming out so much the stronger, fully prepared to take on the whole nation. Obama represents the other side of the American dream, not less important: it is possible to make it even if you come from a fragmented, perhaps broken family background and it may be that one or two people in your life have had the decisive influence that carries you to the top.
Last night I got a sense that the first version of the American dream again is going to be the winning side. In many ways the Republicans have made the original dream, fostered by the first settlers, their own. Paying respect to the incredible inner strength of various religious communities like that of the Mormons, and in many ways also their values, one must still say that the original American dream per se also is built on two horrendous things: a genocide of sorts and racism fostered through slavery. We do not need to dwell here on the residual but restive elements of racism; but there is all reason to at least say something about this great nation that is built on the ruins of the indigenous peoples, the Indians. It is their land that is taken by all the various kinds of immigrants on which a new history is built.
No wonder that such a state of affairs seldom is mentioned in a political discussion as all are, except for what is now a remnant of the Indian communities, complicit.
What makes me fear the future (and the debate is little different from for example the political debate in Sweden) is that it is all about creating jobs, improving the economy and ensure economic growth – at, as it seems, all costs.
One can sense some kind of responsibility in Obama when he talks about the need for renewable energies, but he stops short from mentioning the big issue of a need for ecological sustainability. Romney, on the other hand, made reference, repeatedly, to what he called the need for “renewed entrepreneurship”, for small enterprises etc., as a means of creating more jobs.
Maybe he here struck the core of the matter. The USA is built on the notion of private entrepreneurship, small or big, and there is no end to what you might achieve. This is what scares me. None of the candidates had the guts to say that there is a limit to this world. Both last night gave licence to go ahead, in order to create jobs and in order to please the electorate for another four years, to exploit, to extend, to expand, at any cost.
I am reminded of two books, which both are worthy of proper comments at another stage. The first is a discussion about God’s injunction in the book of Genesis: Adam and Eve are called “to have dominion over” all that is created (Genesis 1.28). Human beings are called to be stewards of that which is created or they are simply God’s microcosm through which the rest of creation comes into play (see Bo Brander, Mikrokosmos, Förvaltare och Skapelsens Integritet. Lund: Lund University (doctoral dissertation), 2001). The thing is that the term stewardship in its innocence over time has taken on an aggressive and exploitative character, not least in Protestant circles, and not least in the US.
I am acutely reminded of this, reading an extraordinary time document from the turn of the 19th century dealing with church and society in America. The Swedish P P Waldenström (Nya Färder i Amerikas Förenta Stater. Stockholm: Normans förlag, 1902), leader of the newly founded Mission Covenant Church in Sweden made frequent visits to America. His accounts of church life is valuable but even more so his comments on the progress of American society and business. It is about growth, aggressive, unhindered growth, the sky is the limit, and it is all somehow God-given – God bless America.
Last night’s discussion between the two presidential candidates did not in any sense deviate from this vision – everything is possible, the sky is the limit, with the right kind of entrepreneurship we will soon enough all be at work and God will bless it all. Something is missing here and I am scared about the consequences of such a debate whoever wins…