POSTSCRIPT / November 6, 2008 / Thusday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Was it Biden who was elected next president?

OREMUS: May God now reach down to guide — and protect — Barack Obama.

The good Lord has chosen this black man for a most difficult, and hazardous, job. May Obama endure and succeed, not only for his fellow Americans but also for all peoples of the world.

As the Democratic president embarks on his mission of CHANGE, let us fervently pray for him. For his safety, for his health and his success.

* * *

HE INSPIRES: Many Filipinos may not care who wins the US elections. After all, some of the elements of news — immediacy and proximity — are absent, or at least not that apparent to Juan Pasang Krus eking out a living in these benighted islands.

Many Pinoys are wont to rationalize that whether it is a Democrat or a Republican presiding over at the White House, his administration would have no direct bearing on life in this former US colony set free 62 years ago. 

But there is something different about the just-concluded US election and the president-elect. As Obama materializes at the mountaintop that Martin Luther King merely said he could discern in the mist, suddenly change appears within reach.

That is the greatest gift of Obama – the man inspires. He moves people, and because he does, he can lead in a great way.

* * *

TAKE U.S. LEAD: The smart thing for us Filipinos to do — we seem lost anyway — is to latch on to the new, inspiring leadership in Washington.

Where I live just outside the former home base of the 13th US Air Force on Clark Field, every other household seems to have at least one family member making a living in the US — and sending Yankee dollars home.

Data reinforce this point: Of the more than 8 million Filipinos residing abroad, an estimated 2.5 million work in the US and contribute 60 percent of total overseas dollar remittance running to more than $1 billion a month.

And with jobs and exports hanging precariously because of a global financial meltdown, what can be more immediate and proximate, and inspiring, than stirred-up Americans lining up at the polls and voting for change?

* * *

HISTORIC VOTE: With the grand way US Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney and her staff set up yesterday an Election Watch in the capacious atrium of MoA (Mall of Asia) in Pasay City, guests cannot help feeling the electricity of America casting a historic vote.

Helping feed the election fever in the hall were two eight-foot-wide screens beaming live CNN poll highlights unfolding over four time zones, the regulation red-white-and-blue decorations (the ambassador-hostess was dressed in red), the chatter of the mixed crowd of about 800 (maybe 40 percent of them American and another 40 percent US-leaning natives), and backgrounders explaining what was going on some 12,000 kilometers away across the Pacific.

Voting in the US started in Dixville Notch, a barangay of some 75 residents in New Hampshire that opened its polling booths, as it has always done since 1960, after midnight on Election Day. In many places, meanwhile, voters elsewhere patiently waited in line for as long as three hours.

I heard that voters’ turnout was as much as 80 percent in some states, a vast improvement to the past lackluster showing of less than 50 percent. Something must have moved Americans to come out, and it was presumably their desire for change.

* * *

STRAW VOTES: It was buena mano in Dixville Notch for Obama, who won 15 of the 21 votes cast (or 71 percent). It was the first time since 1968 that the village gave it to the Democrats.

Then, as the sun raced westward to rouse up voters, other states followed. As I write this, the CNN count has Obama holding 338 of the 501 electoral votes (or 67 percent) on the scoreboard, with 270 votes being the majority needed to win.

At the Election Watch of the embassy, we guests were asked to vote. Result as of 2 p.m. was 490 for Obama and 139 for John McCain (Republican), giving the Democrat bet a 78-percent winning edge.

It was uncanny that the MoA mock poll results hewed to the result of a Philippines-wide straw vote commissioned by the embassy: 3,134 for Obama and 911 for McCain, giving the former a 77-percent win.

There was no analysis of the apparent local preference for Obama. It could be a rejection of the Bush administration’s warlike tendencies or its being there when the economic bubble burst. Or it could simply be a vote of confidence in the Obama promise of change in this chaotic world.

* * *

DARK THOUGHT: Here is that part that I hate to bring up amid the exultation of Obama’s triumph.

Not a few kibitzers have remarked that Americans may have elected not really Obama but Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. (his vice presidential mate) as upcoming US president.

The macabre thought have it that white supremacists or some fringe group may just physically eliminate the first black US president and — as succession goes — thereby make the obscure Biden the president.

Four US presidents have been murdered in office: Abraham Lincoln (16th president killed in 1865), James A. Garfield (20th president, in 1881), William McKinley (25th, in 1901) and John F. Kennedy (35th president, in 1963).

This is the reason I started out today by asking that we all pray for Obama’s safety. May the Lord protect him, and us.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 6, 2008)

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