Barack Obama is rapidly becoming the Muhammad Ali of politics. Floating like a butterfly, drawing the opponent in and taking a few blows before stinging like a bee. And so it proved to be at the Rumble in New York, when Obama clawed back ground lost to Mitt Romney in the first presidential debate.
A version of this article first appeared in The Voice newspaper, w/c 22 October
“That was the president I voted for”, tweeted singer John Legend, summing up the relief of Democrats everywhere. “A clear victory for the president”, added the MSNBC commentator Touré.
As Obama threw tougher jabs at his Republican challenger Romney has begun to buckle on issues of foreign policy, immigration and women’s health.
Two weeks ago Romney appeared sympathetic and caring but now he’s tumbling toward the canvass as he fails to explain how he will balance the budget with tax cuts for the rich and the middle class.
Like a super bowl winner Obama is beginning to hit form at the right time and appears comfortable enough not to risk surging forward too much and risk defensive holes opening up at the back.
Another good performance in the third debate and all bets will be off as bookies declare the president has won a second term in the White House.
So what does a second Obama term hold in store? He’s not saying much, perhaps saving his knockout blows for the final debate. Or maybe he is just content to win on points.
Either way I doubt Spike Lee is right when he told Piers Morgan that Obama will do whatever he likes in a second term.
As the head of America Corp the chief executive is still answerable to his shareholders, so hopes of suddenly waking up to a ‘ghetto-president’ are fanciful at best.
In reality we’ll probably get more of the same and Obama will leave a legacy of being ‘an okay sort of president’ who helped the economy recover, made a few social reforms, and created just the right condition for some Bush-like Republican to mess it all up again.
Obama promises to be hawkish enough on foreign policy not to be a Jimmy Carter, progressive enough with domestic policy not to be a Ronald Reagan and devoted enough to his wife not to ‘do a Clinton’ with a White House intern.
In the final analysis Obama may not be remembered for much more than being the first black president. Doing everything in moderation, compromising where necessary, and playing a canny long term game with the ultimate goal of not fowling up.
Obama may not be The Greatest like Ali but he’s certainly collecting a few belts even if we’re not quite sure what they stand for.
The bell hasn’t rung yet and a lot can happen before America goes to vote. But it looks increasingly like we won’t see a President Romney going to war with Iran or starting a trade war with China.
What an second Obama term means for Britain is less clear. On the issue of black representation he proves that beyond symbolism black politicians can deliver effective government.
That’s good news for Labour’s Chuka Umunna, who is the closest Britain has to an Obama, but it could also be a nail in the coffin for positive action as the mainstream conclude that black cream can now rise to the top without help.
African-Americans are increasingly showing impatience with the pace of change and are bound to raise the temperature if Obama is re-elected, just as South Africans are protesting that their great hope, Jacob Zuma, is failing to deliver for the poor.
My hope is that a second term will prove the catalyst for global cooperation of the African Diaspora to demand justice with new vigour and common purpose.
That we, as a people, will use and not lose the opportunity to force the president to get serious about dismantling racism barriers and make these demands in unison across the world.
A re-elected Obama may not morph into a ‘ghetto president’ but the only thing stopping the Diaspora renewing calls for justice, when it comes to getting what is due to us, is ourselves.
By Lester Holloway @brolezholloway