The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors who cast votes to decide the President and Vice-President of the United States. The candidate who receives a majority of Electoral Votes (270) wins the presidency. The number 538 is the sum of the nation’s 435 Representatives, 100 Senators, and 3 electors given to the District of Columbia.
As regards the popular vote, at the time of the writing of this column, Obama had won 59.5 million votes, while Romney had 56.9 million. By contrast, in 2008, Obama/Joseph Biden won 69 million, while McCain/Sarah Palin had just 59 million. When the average qualified American voter casts his/her ballot, this is what is termed the popular vote.
Meantime, unlike 2008 when Obama had some two months’ grace period after the elections before he was formally sworn in as President of the USA, this time around, there is no honeymoon. Obama must swim, sink or flounder against a tide of discontent with his policies that had long arisen in both the Democratic and Republican camps. Buoyed as he is now by the support he has gained among Hispanics (soon to be America’s largest demographic), women, young people and gays among others, for his positions on healthcare, equal pay, same-sex marriage, taxes, and abortion and contraceptive rights, he has to follow through on campaign promises even as America faces a debt of US$16 trillion and teeters on the edge of the ‘fiscal cliff’. A save, according to political pundits, is only possible with the cooperation of the Congress, which is still controlled by the Republican Party, as it has been since the 2010 mid-term elections.
Cognisant of this, Obama said in his victory speech on Tuesday night: “We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honour and applaud tonight.
“In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.”
While Obama certainly does not have to face the American electorate again, he cannot afford to be anything less than proactive in dealing with the ‘fiscal cliff’ issue, which is a bread and butter one for many poor Americans, if he wants them to stay true to the blue. He must, while tackling current issues, also look ahead to 2016 and to bolstering support for whoever the Democratic candidate will be, since the Republicans would surely have started strategising yesterday.
Apart from all the other issues, Obama continues his journey with a significant section of America’s best-known and best-loved state, New York, still in the throes of the aftermath of the ferocious storm Sandy and much more devastation in neighbouring New Jersey as winter approaches.
Unfortunately, just as they expected it four years ago, many celebrating Obama’s win today, will be expecting the magic wand unconcerned that he attended Harvard and not Hogwarts. To paraphrase John Steinbeck in America and Americans, he will have “more work than a man can do, more responsibility than a man should take, more pressure than a man can bear…” He will be abused often, rarely praised, worn out, eaten up and used up, all because “Americans have a love for the President that goes beyond loyalty or party nationality; he is ours, and we exercise the right to destroy him.”
That Obama has signed up for all of this again speaks to his confidence. He has four years to prove it.