Suzanne Leslie-Bailey, Contributor
I MUST confess that I hopped on to the Obama bandwagon in 2008 in the lead-up to that year's presidential elections. I found myself competing for space in a 'wagon' that was overcrowded, with equally starry-eyed women. For many, the United States (US) president paints a dashing picture (an appropriate euphemism I must employ in public media). But superficialities aside, the gentleman is just that - a gentleman, of great substance.
This is a man, with strong family values and who openly declares and shows his love and respect for his wife and children. How can one not admire a man, who, when he speaks, makes you want to stand up and belt out "I believe I can fly!" A leader should be able to so inspire a people. How can one not admire a man, who came with the promise of hope, to reverse the misfortunes of a weak US economy, mired in one of the worst global recessions the world had ever seen? Further promises to make health care accessible to more Americans; reverse the majority of tax cuts for the wealthy, while preserving such cuts for the middle-class and poor Americans; ending the war in Iraq; and implementing immigration reform that would see many illegal immigrants being placed on the road to US citizenship, won the hearts of Americans and Jamaicans alike. Whether he has been able to adequately deliver the 'goods' and live up to expectations is a matter of great debate.
Jamaicans, united as 'Team Obama', were glued to their television sets for each of the three presidential debates recently held. I would like to submit my unsubstantiated opinion that a possible reason for the reported poor attendance at the last home match of the Reggae Boyz was the fact that the second presidential debate was on that same night. Even after his lack-lustre showing at the first presidential debate, both my feet remained firmly planted onboard the Obama 'wagon'. I never wavered. Surprisingly, neither did many Jamaicans - they stayed put. While expressing disappointment at his less-than-impressive performance, many of the comments were words of reassurance, such as: "He will come back stronger next time" or the best one yet - "Don't worry, is a strategy." Apparently, there are some insiders to the Obama presidential campaign right here in Jamaica. What is of note is that there was no wholesale Obama-bashing that I could detect. Even Obama's support for same-sex marriages, leading into this election, has not substantially affected his ratings among homophobic Jamaicans.
How does one man from foreign shores, manage to engender such love, loyalty and commitment in so many Jamaicans, some of whom have a penchant for being 'wagonists'? Our own home-grown athletes and politicians have not been so lucky! Some have been subjected to the verbal 'thrashing' of many Jamaicans, when they fail to live up to our lofty expectations. Politicians, the Reggae Boyz, West Indies cricket team and the track 'legend' have all felt the wrath and scorn of these wagonists. So hard have we sometimes been on them, that the 'legend' now only sends greetings to his REAL fans.
stuck in our hearts
Is this dedicated and understanding attitude towards Obama simply a reflection of our love for all things foreign or is it partly due to the novelty of having the first black president in the USA? The few, not so besotted with Obama, have opined that the latter is the reason for this wave of 'Obamania' that has swept Jamaica. Whatever the reasons, this man Obama, has been able to find a solid place in the hearts of Jamaicans and unite us in a way that, regrettably, our own political leaders have failed to do. I am not asking that our political leaders be a carbon copy of Obama, although I have heard some people express the view that we need an "Obama". In my opinion, Obama is a good template for a leader.
The strong performance of Republican challenger Mitt Romney, in the first presidential debate, has given him a bounce that has gone unabated. President Obama is now confronting the greatest fight of his political life, with the threat of a possible one-term presidency looming, as public-opinion polls indicate a tight race.
Come November 6, the true test of our loyalty will take place. If things should not go as we hope, will it see the Obama bandwagon come to a grinding halt and us 'hop off' and look out for the next new, shiny 'wagon' and driver?
Suzanne Leslie-Bailey is former research coordinator to then Prime Minister Bruce Golding. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.