The successful reelection of President Barack Obama as U.S. President signifies the commitment of America as the world’s greatest democracy to fair play at the electoral, national and international foreign policy stage, but it also is a good lesson for politicians in newer democracies to accept and learn, in particular Nepal.
While the 2012 U.S. presidential election was the costliest and arguably the nastiest in U.S. history, both Democrats and Republicans quickly bridged the ideological divide ranging from the national budget deficit, foreign policy, energy policy to jobs, proclaiming in the end that America’s democracy was overall alive and well. Patriotism resounded in President Obama’s voice as he gave a media blitzed speech from his native Chicago, Illinois.
Speaker John Boehner from Ohio was quick as the Speaker of the House to proclaim America’s unity above two years of unsuccessful budget deficit talks that had resulted in an almost frozen U.S. Congress. The fact that President Obama was able to clinch the re-election with 332 electoral votes to Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s 206 , embodies his strong faith in America’s changing multi-racial tapestry and democratic adherence. In 2008 too, Obama had shown faith in an ever changing multicultural America where the young sought to change the national agenda through their recently registered voting bank. Included then and now was an ever increasing American Hispanic population that had been pressuring for comprehensive immigration reforms, which largely remains unfulfilled. Thus, on election night, by triumphing over Romney in the crucial Ohio and Iowa electoral stages, Obama was assured of a comfortable re-election bid. However the Republican party will still keep tabs over the House of Representatives while the Democratic party will retain majority control over the Senate, not changing the tussle a bit in Washington D.C.’s powerful lobby based politics.
What does Obama’s victory mean to Nepalis and Nepal’s leaders in particular? While at the national and people to people level, it signifies strengthened U.S. – Nepal ties and its diversification into newer economic sectors with a more diversified and closer working partnership on international affairs, Nepali leaders can learn a few good lessons from the U.S. presidential election 2012. For instance, if Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and other leaders really want to hold new elections to decide the true choice of the Nepali people’s electoral mandate vis-à-vis the current constitutional and political vacuum they should be able to exhibit the same magnanimity and concrete issues handling strategy that made President Obama triumph one more time. Unfortunately the divide between the ruling Maoist-Madhesi coalition and the NC-UML led opposition has simply grown after the recent announcement of polls around mid-May. On the other hand, Nepal’s ex-king Gyanendra too seems religiously and indirectly, politically active proposing his own democratic mandate by courting the cultural tradition card reminding Nepali people, particularly the middle and poor class, of the contribution of the House of Gorkha, namely King Prithavi Narayan Shah and other Shah kings to Nepali nation building, peace and unity. But the ex-King too has to reconcile in the national political order and participate in making the future electoral process successful, no matter what the shortcomings might be of the incumbent leaders, until a future poll decides everyone’s fate.
Here is where Nepal’s politicians should learn most on national political accommodation: after winning the Presidency again Obama was quick in spreading his arms to the Republicans encompassing America’s almost 50:50 split on national issues by pledging to work together despite facing many hard choices, including America’s worst unemployment rate since the great depression and during a U.S. Presidential race. In fact Barack Obama is the first U.S. President to win re-election with unemployment above 7.2 percent which was in the Franklin D. Roosevelt era in 1936.
President Obama stated as a matter of national reconciliation and in boosting the morale of his home crowd in Chicago, “ It doesn't matter if you're black or white, or Hispanic or Asian, or Native American, or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight….You can make it here in America if you're willing to try." Obama told the American people that the “best is yet to come” and the American people had picked themselves up and fought back during tough economic times ahead. This is exactly the kind of message Nepali leaders ought to be giving in this uncomfortable transitional period in Nepal’s democratic history.
In coming days President Obama will meet with his rival Mitt Romney to find ways to work closer together. Mitt Romney too was conciliatory and all American in character in his concessional speech. Although he had to make this speech in front of a largely disappointed Republican crowd in Boston, he asked of all Americans to pray for President Obama, telling the winners to put aside partisan bickering and reach across the aisle to tackle America’s problems. In fact, Romney had called Obama earlier during the day to congratulate him on his victory and assuring that he would stand behind the President so that he could successfully guide the nation. Yes, the kind of approach winners and losers in Nepali politics should take, if they are really to show their true democratic credentials on the Asian stage!
While the 2012 Presidential election will be remembered as a stark divide on two visions of how America should be run, it nonetheless puts the American people first, unlike Nepali politicians who put themselves first and the Nepali people last. The pride of every U.S. election is that American voters get to occupy front row seats to the election movie theater so they can make up their minds on who is the better actor and performer despite resounding political options. After all, the 2012 election was more than a simple referendum on the U.S. economy. The other charm of American democracy is that it has the ability to correct mistakes so that no one appears at fault, while Nepali politicians blame each other to the end instead of showing mutual public respect. .
Learning from President Obama’s victory, Nepali politicians too need to pull the country out of the current political and constitutional crisis which is the result of their short-sightedness. They must also mend fences with each other on the future choice of a national democratic polity, homing in on a state character that suits Nepali soil and cultural heritage best. Nepal might never find its own Obama to resurrect the hope of its younger generation, but we from the younger generation are strongly committed to restore Nepal to new heights of economic attainment, national pride and cultural harmony. Perhaps, Nepal in the end needs an Obama-like figure so that our voices of change are represented at the national level for peace, reconciliation and development.