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The US decides

Brian Taylor | 10:24 UK time, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Were you up for Washington? State, that is, not DC.

The moment, at 0400 UK time, when the blue line advanced beyond the 270 college votes required to ensure that Barack Obama is US President Elect.

After months of media hype and political hokum, it came down to lines of quiet Americans, queuing to vote.

Expended cash, endless effort, debate, argument, claim and counter-claim, an absurdly complex electoral system - and it's all settled by determined citizens, often standing in the rain for the chance to make their choice.

This morning in Edinburgh, I chaired a breakfast discussion under the auspices of the Scottish North American Business Council.

It was attended by a range of guests: politicians, folk from finance, sundry others.

There was palpable excitement at the election of the first president from an African-American background.

There was enthused analysis over the clarity of the outcome, over the reasons for victory and defeat.

Also, though, there was a sense of expectations which may be difficult to meet.

Just look at the raw economic figures in the US: manufacturing at a quarter century low, car sales slumping.

Questions raised this morning. Will President Obama - and the new Congress - maintain, in full, the banking bail-out?

Will there be an economic reinvigoration package: of what sort?

What happens to energy policy: will sustainability fall victim to the urgent need for economic growth?

What happens to foreign policy? The Middle East, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More generally, is this a seismic shift in US voting patterns - or change driven by one well-funded, highly-motivated individual, facing an opponent tainted by the unpopularity of his predecessor?

If it is a fundamental change, can President Obama retain the confidence of the young, the students, the African-Americans who have offered him their energetic support?


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