Following what may well have been the fiercest election contest in US history, the votes have now been counted in the US presidential election. US President Barack Obama has achieved his ambition to serve a second term, making him the second Democratic president to do so since World War II.
Although it is not unusual to have a US president serving a second term, opinion polls in the run-up to this election showed support for the candidates of the two main parties to be closer than ever, with one candidate sometimes leading the other and vice versa. This made the vote count in this election particularly suspenseful.
Prior to the election, CNN and Agence France-Presse came up with opposite predictions of the result. Obama’s tearful plea on the eve of the election for voters to give him four more years in office, was a sign of the unprecedented pressure he was under. What was at stake was not just personal success or failure, but the question of whether the social policies that Obama has strenuously pursued over the last four years would be curtailed and give way to what his Republican rival Mitt Romney called “real change.”
As Obama appealed to his supporters by highlighting the progress his administration has made so far and tweeting: “After all we’ve been through together, we can’t stop now,” Romney struck back by saying that a new direction was needed to solve the US’ problems.
In the end, the majority of US voters chose to let Obama go on pursuing his liberal ideals. Will this be a help or hindrance to the nation’s efforts to revive its sluggish economy and maintain its status as the world’s top power?
The US public will have to judge for themselves.
For Taiwanese, observing the election from an Asian standpoint, there are many aspects from which to view the result.
In the field of international relations, the result of Obama’s re-election will not necessarily match the hope expressed by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛), who jokingly said: “Of course, we hope that someone who supports China will win the election.”
Nevertheless, the current state of affairs is likely to continue with little change. In this respect, the next item worth watching is the forthcoming general election in Japan.
With regard to governance, this US presidential election has provided Taiwanese with a demonstration of how a mature democracy works. During the campaign, each side attacked its opponent and defended its own position on the basis of clear-cut policies, sticking fast to the different positions of the two main parties as to whether the country should move to the right or to the left. Obama pilloried the Republican administration that preceded his own for cutting taxes for the rich, saying that the price of the tax cuts was more than the nation could bear.
He criticized past governments for encouraging businesses to move abroad in pursuit of profits, taking job opportunities with them, and blamed the Republican Party for relaxing government regulation of banks and insurance companies. Obama said that a series of wrongheaded policies had led to falling incomes for people in the US and caused ever-rising government deficits.
However, Obama’s administration also has some weak spots that are vulnerable to attack by its opponents. Foremost among them is the state of Medicare — the federally funded program that guarantees access to health insurance for elderly and other eligible US citizens.