Surprise US result should not come as a surprise
By OP Rana (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-11-05 07:56

The world will wake up to a new US president today, ending an almost two-year wait. If the opinion polls were anything to go by, Democrat Barack Obama would have made it to the White House, though he can take charge of office only on January 20.

But what if the polls were wrong? What if the pollsters and the Western, especially the US, media overlooked the proverbial slip between the cup and the lip? What if Obama lovers wrongly assumed all their eggs would hatch into chickens? What if all that talk about America and Americans being desperate for change was a bit preposterous?

In that case, Republican John McCain would take over the most powerful office in the world. The US and the world will, for better or for worse, see another four years of Republican rule. The US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue. A lot many issues, which the US has interest in, will continue making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Will an Obama win, for that matter, make things different? For one, he has vowed to end the war in Iraq. But the Iraq war, according to polls, is of secondary importance to US citizens now. It's the economy they are worried about the most.

So if Obama steadies the rocking economic ship, can the US public forgive him for continuing the war in Iraq a bit longer? (By the way, he has vowed to send more US troops to Afghanistan to "finish off" Al-Qaida and Taliban.) Will that shoot up oil prices to record highs again?

On the other hand, what happens if he actually ends the war in Iraq but fails to stabilize the US economy?

None of the answers depend on the new US president, be it Obama or McCain, alone.

Unfortunately, the businessmen and their executives, who created the global financial crisis in the first place, will still decide which way the market turns. A US president, Republican or Democratic, is the boss of the administration and defense. He can decide on policies.

But when it comes to the economy, it's the market and the people who run it who are supreme.

Or else, why did the crude oil price touch almost $150 a barrel when it should have stayed around where it is now? Why did US and other Western banks keep investing in the mortgage market blindly? Why couldn't corporate managers and executives, who come up with analyses and suggestions for others, see they themselves were about to fall?

Obama may be the favorite in the US, as well as most of the other countries, to win the election. Even the Chinese, according to a recent opinion poll, are rooting for him.

Perhaps, it's his charisma that makes him such a favorite. He is different not only because of his color, but also because of the way he thinks.

But Obama, like McCain, is an untested commodity for China and the rest of the world. The Democrat has spoken his mind on China and most of the rest of the world, though. McCain has not, except for voicing his support for the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That perhaps makes Obama a better-known element. It's easier to know what he has up his sleeve because till now he has been shooting from the hip.

Maybe it's because he's not a seasoned politician like McCain. And that's why the Republican senator would have become the new US president this morning.

Remember the 2000 US elections, and what happened in Florida? Al Gore lost to George W. Bush despite winning the majority of popular votes.

That is not to say history will repeat itself as farce so soon. But we should not be surprised to see McCain laughing his way to the White House. After all, pollsters and the media do not decide a US election. More than the voters, it's the US Electoral College that does.

That's what the 2000 experience tells us. And if the farce plays out again, which is highly unlikely, it would be democracy US-style.

E-mail: oprana@hotmail.com

(China Daily 11/05/2008 page8)