US 2008 President Election Campaign: Features, News, Events
2008 US presidential election campaign was an outstanding event in the history of the United States of America. The campaign can be fairly named remarkable not because it was won by Barack Obama, a candidate with a ‘suntanned skin’, as Silvio Berlusconi said about him. This election campaign is thought to be distinguishing in terms of its outstanding candidates, serious programmes, and well-thought-out plans of political activity. Moreover, 2008 presidential elections have become a real example of winning democracy and tolerance with regard to political opponents.
In this essay specific features of the campaign will be outlined and discussed. Different candidates, their political agenda, and the most interesting and controversial situations will be highlighted.
Election outcomes are not simply the residue of campaign quality plus a dose of chance. Neither are they the automatic result of deterministic forces that can be foreseen in advance of the campaign. Voters are influenced by a variety of factors, some stemming from the candidates’ campaigns and some beyond the candidates’ control. (Erikson & Wlezien 2012)
One of the distinguishing features of 2008 US presidential elections was rhetoric applied by candidates. Importance of rhetoric was recognized during extensive media coverage whose purpose was to provide information about the candidates. Thus, every word uttered by the participants of the election race participants was worth its weight in gold as it influenced greatly the way politicians’ images were shaped. In addition, what they said considerably determined the final outcome of the campaign.
Talent of expressing their opinions on a variety of issues, as well as highlights of the candidates’ their electoral programmes were a subject of public scrutiny. Journalists eagerly discussed it in newspapers and on TV. Thus, Ms. Clinton was blamed for extreme ruthlessness in her political plans. Her notice about the intention of “bombing Iran into the stone age if Iran threatens to attack Israel” (Devera), caused immediate reaction of society. Truth that seemed to be twisted in Ms. Clinton mouth did not find support in human hearts and minds.
John Sydney McCain was evaluated by journalists as the candidate worth to be chosen. His career of a military man, numerous sufferings and tortures in Vietnam made him a real man responsible for his promises and able to act through the obstacles. It should be pointed out that the rhetoric of Mr. McCain was based on his liberal voting. The suggested structure of foreign politics created a good image of him as a politician and ensured more support from media and electorate.
Barack Hussein Obama was believed to be a unique candidate. His vivid charismatic personality combining with new ideas and electoral programme immediately captured the attention of the media and electorate. However, his rhetoric had a controversial effect on the society and caused heated dispute among journalists and scientists. For example, Robert T. Craig pointed out that national reputation that Obama gained during the pre-election race was due to his speaking talent.
Some other authors sharply criticized Obama. In his speeches they found stereotypical attitude to some questions of social behaviour and complaints concerning bitter white people. They pointed out that Obama distinguished "typical white people" and bitter ones. This fact sounded weird especially if to consider the fact that Barack Obama appealed to unity and equity of all people within one nation. He stressed that people are created equal according to God’s plan and should be treated in that way. Here it becomes obvious that religious question played a significant part in 2008 US president election campaign.
Both presidential candidates in 2008 not only worked to show the consistency between their particular policy goals and the values of various key religious groups but both also took pains to demonstrate that their positions were actually based in religious teaching and that their lives were shaped by religious faith (Smidt 2010).
In spite of the fact that politics and religion are two opposite fields that influence different aspects of human life, in practice they stand very close, influence each other and can even stipulate the final outcome. During 2008 US president election campaign this very fact was clearly observed and became the number one point for public scrutiny and personal attacks from the candidates’ opponents.
Religion plays an important part in American society. It is not only an aspect of spiritual life of people, but an integral part of life in general. There are not many things that American people do without applying their religious beliefs. They pray at every meal, they pray while studying, working, travelling, being sick or being happy. They do everything in faith. Religious faith has become an open phenomenon and has become common for almost all citizens in spite of the fact that they may belong to different churches. Concerning 2008 US presidential election campaign it should be pointed out that the electorate was very interested in religious beliefs of the candidates. At the same time this very public interest became a source of political speculations.
There appeared, for instance, a range of articles in newspapers and internet resources about probable beliefs of Barack Obama. The colour of his skin and his origin caused numerous suggestions concerning this question. For quite a long period, he was declared to be Muslim. This fact was supported by the information that Barack Obama’s parents were Muslims too. That is why, according to their religion, Obama received his second name Hussein. Numerous investigations were made in order to find damaging information about him and discredit his stable position in political world.
Journalists searching for sensation carefully fulfilled their fact-finding mission. Numerous hypotheses and parallel lines between religious beliefs of his relatives and of his were not proved. Neither Obama’s personal information nor secret spying could bring any information that would either confirm or disprove these suggestions. Barack Obama never prayed according to Muslim traditions. He never used Koran to read. Instead of this, he always held the Bible in his hands and declared himself to be a true Christian. He was baptized in Christian church, he believed in redemption and resurrection of Messiah, and promised to build his political decisions on the basis of commandments and according to God’s word.
Mitt Romney, the former senator of Massachusetts also believed in God. He also called himself Christian. However his Christianity experienced even more attacks in the media and the opponents than Obama’s did. The thing was that he belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which is also known as Mormon church. According to some sources this church belongs to the Protestant branch, while many scientists consider it to be a sect. Hugh Hewitt’s attitude to Romney’s religious beliefs was rather critical with no tolerance. Thus, he declared that if Romney had won the elections the influence of his church on the world would have been more powerful and significant. At the mean time he called the Mormon teachings to be irrational in spite of the fact that believers use Bible as well. The public scrutiny to Romney’s beliefs also resulted in numerous discussions worth to be covered by the media sources.
While entertainment and socializing are among functions of so-called social media and social networking sites, studies of the 2008 US presidential election campaign and political campaigns in other countries including Australia and Malaysia, and analysis of MySpace, Facebook and sites such as LinkedIn, show that these media are used extensively for political campaigning, civic action, recruitment and job hunting, and other professional and business uses. (MacNamara 2010).
The media presented the percentage of religious issues in candidates’ speech. According to these data, the overwhelming majority of the speeches included religious questions. Barack Obama also highlighted the problem of race equity on the basis of Christian beliefs. However, all religious stories or related issues were revealed in order to illustrate and support rather strategic elements than spiritual components .
The interesting feature of 2008 US president election campaign is that religious beliefs of the candidate did not influence much the process of decision making of the electorate who shared particular beliefs. The example of this fact was found on one forum where a young man in the comments to the article concerning Mitt Romney and Mormonism pointed out that in spite of the fact that he also belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints he gave his vote not for Mitt Romney but for Barack Obama because his political agenda seemed to be more rational and correspondent to the society needs.
However, the data of exit polls showed that in general religious preferences of Obama had a particular impact on the electorate. Thus, black Protestants supported him considerably which allowed to gain an additional percentage of votes.
The religious aspect also touched controversial scientific issues as well. Questions of abortion and stem cell research caused hot debates between candidates, more political speculations and black PR.
Sarah Palin always declared that she was against abortion. Abortion also did not coincide with her religious beliefs. Even before 2008 president election campaign, in 2006 Sarah sharply criticized abortion. Her position in this question was firm: she preferred life even if her daughter could have been raped. This point of view was subject to public scrutiny. Sarah Palin also faced the intense opposition from the Democrats who insisted that every woman should be able to make a choice. Giving birth to a child is a miracle itself and a great happiness if a child was born in love. But if a baby is a result of rape or incest, his appearance would bring more sufferings to his mother. In 2006, Sarah Palin fenced with the question that no matter what wrongdoings people make they have no right to end an innocent life. Two years later, in 2008 journalists return to this subject with regard to new circumstances. The 17-year old daughter of Palin was pregnant. Moreover, there appeared information that the future child would have Down syndrome. Thus, the private information has become the subject to discuss during the election race.
Other candidates also joined the discussion of the abortion theme. Barack Obama supported the idea of abortion. He highlighted the idea that a total prohibition of abortion would not diminish its rates but will make abortions illegal, which is more irrational and dangerous. However, he insisted that government and society should work out a program of how to prevent late-term abortions, which are considered to be killings of little babies. He pointed out that abortion is not only a question of biology or religion. It also implies issues of philosophy and morality. After long discussions, the candidates of 2008 US presidential election campaign came to the conclusion that it was much easier to prevent the problem than to resolve it. Thus, in order to reduce the number of abortions it would be better to teach young people to use contraceptives. Contraceptives were said to be efficient at preventing abortions and the spread of HIV and veneral diseases.
The fact that the story of pregnant daughter of Sarah Palin was eagerly discussed in social networks and media sources showed that the role of these systems considerably increased.
A 2008 survey by the PewResearchCenter for the People and the Press found that 72 percent of respondents named television as a primary source for news about political campaigns, compared to 33 percent for the Internet, 29 percent for newspapers, and 21 percent for radio. The influence of television on presidential election extends well beyond the coverage of campaigns by journalists. Expenditures for television advertising dependably constitute the largest single budget item of any serious presidential campaign. (Polsby 2011).
The fact that 2008 elections were covered and supported by social networks, for example, Facebook, was proved by the fact that Barack Obama received considerable support from young people who apriori are active users of social networks. Moreover, the importance of the social net increased so to such extent that 2008 elections were even called ‘Facebook election’. If young people spend much time surfing the net , why can’t this time be useful? A lot of business nowadays is made by means of the Internet. Politics is not an exception although its part is not so big. Old machines of making politics are not effective anymore. They are replaced by new ones like internet resources. Elections of 2008 proved this fact. Obama used Facebook in his debates and struggle with Hillary Clinton and John MacCain. His tactic was successful and he partially attributed his victory in the elections to Facebook effect.
One more important feature related particularly to 2008 presidential election is its program. From the very beginning of the election race it became obvious that the political agenda of new candidates implied anti-Bush plans. Particularly, those plans focused on the question of bombing Iraq and maintaining control over oil deposits.
The position of Barack Obama was presented in his program and several speeches where he touched the important issue. Specifically, he emphasised that his plans as for the war in Iraq was to withdraw American troops. He stressed that fight against terrorism is an important task nowadays. On the other hand, war that brings more sufferings than achievements and kills innocent women, children, and old people should be stopped. Ideals of Democracy that Obama followed clearly contradicted the intentions of continuing the war. Also he added that before using any weapon, “talks” should be done first. Even the most difficult issues can be resolved by means of Diplomacy.
Considering the fact that Iraq is a so-called center of Mid-East and its oil deposits are rich enough and are able to satisfy US demands, diplomacy seems to be the only reasonable way to stop violence and build beneficial relationships between the two countries. Barack Obama understood this idea very well and included it in his agenda of changes. He pointed out that US aim was to provide support to Iraq in order to make it stable in relation to Iran as well.
“The only troops I will keep in Iraq will perform the limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out targeted strikes on Al Qaeda” (Cooper et al. n.d.). He planned to shift troops step-by-step to Afghanistan as saw no presupposition of terrorism war. Concerning the situation on the Pakistani border he assured that American troops are there to control possible terrorist acts. No action from commanders would be expected until there appeared real danger.
Senator John McCain had quite a different opinion concerning this question. In accordance with his point of view, the primary task of sending American troops to Iraq was to pursue victory. Without it the decision about withdrawal would be irrational. His military experience in Vietnam had a serious impact on his words. Thus, in his speech he emphasized that not only a president of the United States but also American generals should take decisions when and how to make withdrawal. Participation in fighting against terrorism is quite a serious task that requires flexibility and responsibility in decision making.
“I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there,” Mr. McCain writes on his Web site. “Our goal is an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighborhood” (Cooper et al. n.d.).
Hillary Clinton had a unique point of view on the situation of war in Iraq. Even John MacCain could have envied her strong character and firm way of thinking. Of course, her intention to bomb Iran to the stone in case of aggressive actions towards Israel may seem cruel and not reasonable. For her egoistic manner of expression Hillary Clinton could be blamed for the absence of tolerance to other nations. On the other way, such attitude was applied to terrorists and not to innocent people. Mrs. Clinton let others understand that evil and cruelty would not always be defeated by kindness. Terrorism as a serious problem had to be erased with the use of serious measures, she said. By saying this, Mrs. Clinton wanted the world to know that even a woman is ready to meet with evil and defeat it. She wanted victims to hear that with her they have a chance to survive and fight for peace and freedom.
To sum it up it should be pointed out that 2008 US president elections were a unique event in the history of this country. They have become the sign of true dependence between human choice and people’s future life. They revealed how complicated the political system and politics itself were. The electorate saw with their own eyes how the mass media could speculate on the global problems and private lives of candidates in order to find sensation and earn as much money as they could.
The election campaign introduced many candidates with various political programmes. It gave the opportunity to see that personal life experience of the candidates played an important part in their decision making, tolerance or strict attitude to any problem or situation in the world. John McCain, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney were the most outstanding personalities during the campaign as their speeches, programmes and points of view made people really think and evaluate what was right and important for themselves and for the whole world.
The American nation was the witness of hot debates around such issues as religious preferences and their outcome, abortion and its moral aspects, discrimination of minorities, fight against terrorism, peace issues, and many others. The most important thing here was not to agree or disagree with opinion of any candidate but to find the so-called ‘golden middle’ appropriate for the whole world.
Those elections showed that Barack Obama won the race because his personality included the image of positive changes that people had been waiting for so long. Energetic and charismatic, with a broad smile he wanted good life for the nation. And that desire was so big that millions of people believed him and followed him. They accepted the idea of diplomatic approach to resolving problems, and they shared his respect to everyone’s choice of religion, lifestyle, and culture. Choosing new president every American wanted to have a fresh breath of air. These elections were the example of Democracy, of how it should be presented and fulfilled. They proved that politicians could not only promise but apply their electoral programme in everyday life in order to make better life of those who trust their president and of those who have lost their hope. They demonstrated that people by means of their choice made a big step forward in order to continue building a strong society based on moral principles and rational approach in all spheres of life.