“But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future,” President Barack Obama said in his victory speech, amid cheers and loud applause, after winning a second term in the White House. “The best is yet to come,” he told Americans. Both the statements are linked. The president was returning to the message that first brought him to national attention – hope.
As Obama begins his second term, political pundits and other experts are expected to do a postmortem and assessment of the factors which won him a second term. There is one factor which is unlikely to escape their attention: the president’s consummate communication skills and his excellent use of social media networks. Obama has been in constant touch with Americans and communicated with them on a range of issues which impacted their daily lives. This conveyed a feeling that the president was with them, compared to the more detached stance of his rival Mitt Romney, a powerful and successful businessman, who failed to fully exploit the potential of social networks. In this case, Obama serves as a model to other world leaders, especially in our region, who shy away from communicating with their people.
Obama’s victory wasn’t unexpected, and world leaders were quick to congratulate him. Outside America, the president was the favourite and for the same reason, his win has caused relief except in Israel where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing huge embarrassment and is being mauled by the media and political opponents for putting all his eggs in Romney’s basket. Netanyahu now faces the tough and unsavoury task of working with a president against whom he had worked ferociously.
In the Middle East too, Obama’s victory has caused relief, not euphoria. Expectations are low, and the president is unlikely to do anything drastic to regain the lost trust. Despite the animosity and lack of trust in relations with Netanyahu, he is still expected to favour Israel due to the insurmountable powers of the Jewish lobby in the US.
In his first term, the president was keen to repair relations with the Arab and Muslim world and do certain things in this regard, but the political realities caught up with him. In his second term, he is more powerful and doesn’t have to worry about another term. This provides him a unique opportunity to fulfill the promises he had given to the Muslim world, like the closure of the Guantanamo Bay and the restart of the Palestinian peace process.
In the coming months, we will get a vivid picture of what the President has in mind.