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Glitter and business
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 13 - 11 - 2008

All thoughts -- serious and otherwise -- are on 20 January as Americans try to forget their many troubles, says Anayat Durrani
Election 2008 was made for the history books. The first African- American was elected president of the United States. The highest voter turnout among students in history. The longest and most expensive campaign in history.
It was also the first time two serving senators ran against each other. The first time a Roman Catholic is elected vice-president. And, having served for the past 36 years, vice-president-elect Joe Biden became the longest serving senator in history to become vice-president.
President-elect Barack Obama won 53 per cent of the popular vote and 364 electoral votes of the 270 needed to become president. Obama's win toppled the last racial barrier in American politics. McCain won 46 per cent of the popular vote and 162 electoral votes.
An estimated 135 million Americans voted in the election, which some experts say could be the highest turnout since 1960. With the polls results in, experts say two out of three voters under 30 voted for Obama. Fifty-five per cent of white voters and Americans aged 65 and over voted for McCain.
African-Americans, Latinos and Asians voted for Obama. Obama held onto every state won by 2004 Democratic candidate John Kerry, but also captured states from McCain that were carried by Bush that year, including Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Indiana.
Obama will have a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, winning Republican-held Senate seats in Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire and North Carolina. Not since 1955 have the Democrats held the presidency and a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Obama visited Bush at the White House on Monday to begin the transition of power that begins 20 January, when Obama is inaugurated. Obama's campaign had sharply criticised Bush's "failed policies" while promoting "change" under an Obama administration over the economy and foreign policy. Obama's White House visit was historic considering the structure's history. The White House was built by slaves and staffed by slaves until 1850. President Bush and the first black president met alone in the Oval Office for over an hour, with no other staff. It was Obama's first time in the Oval Office. The two discussed the economic crisis and the security challenges facing the nation.
President Bush's approval ratings are at 24 per cent in contrast to the incoming president whose approval ratings are at 75 per cent. When President Obama assumes office he should have the highest approval ratings of any new president since Ronald Reagan in 1981.
The meeting at the White House came amid rumours of a new economic stimulus package backed by Democrats which is opposed by Bush, an expanded bailout for the insurance giant AIG and emergency aid for struggling automakers. Obama said he would not be attending the global economic summit that President Bush will convene in Washington on 15 November.
Members of Obama's transition team said on Sunday that once in office they would work to strike down or reverse some of the Bush executive orders that Democrats have fought against such as embryonic stem cell research and oil drilling. "Across the board, whether it's national security, the economy, the senior leadership that will manage healthcare, energy and the environment, I think he intends to move very quickly," Obama transition co-chairman John Podesta said on "Fox News Sunday".
Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter issued a statement saying that Obama would discuss any executive orders with both Democrats, Republicans and members of his Cabinet. "The president-elect has pledged to run an open and inclusive government, so before he makes any decisions on potential executive or legislative actions, he will be conferring with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, as well as interested groups."
Meanwhile, there is much excitement and anticipation over Obama's historic inauguration. The swearing-in and inaugural speech will occur on the west steps of the Capitol on 20 January. To get free tickets to the event, tickets must be requested directly from a senator or House member less than a week before the event and must be claimed in person. The government has printed 250,000 tickets so far, with scalpers already scrambling, despite Senator Dianne Feinstein's demand that Congress make it a crime to scalp inauguration tickets.
"We have heard reports that there are people trying to scalp Inaugural tickets for more than $40,000 each. This is unconscionable and must not be allowed," Feinstein said in a statement. "This inauguration will be the major civic event of our time, and these tickets are supposed to be free for the people. Nobody should have to pay for their tickets," she added.


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