BARACK Obama, the Democratic Party candidate, was elected the 44th President of the United States of America on Tuesday, with an overwhelming vote giving him 349 electoral college votes and only 162 for his Republican Party rival John McCain, with most votes counted.
The Democrats also made major gains in Congress, increasing their number of seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, ensuring a substantial majority in both.
After eight years of the Republican President George Bush, a growing economic crisis and demoralising defeats for US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, there was an upsurge by millions who responded to Obama’s call and voted for ‘change’.
A record number of people voted, estimated at more than 130m, in a 64 per cent turnout, a level of enthusiasm to vote not seen for almost 50 years. Obama took the states of Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico and Virginia, which were won by Bush in 2004.
The world economic and financial crisis of capitalism, with the US at its centre, dominated the election campaign and resulted in the huge vote for Obama.
Voters were aware that the US economy is already in recession, with a 0.3 per cent drop in GDP in the third quarter of this year, and there are fears of a deepening slump.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs are being axed, a million families face the repossession of their homes because of mortgage defaults and those without healthcare insurance is approaching 45 million people.
Exit polls revealed that 62 per cent of the electorate considered that the economy was the most important issue and nine per cent cited healthcare.
In his victory speech in Chicago, Obama declared: ‘It’s been a long time coming, but tonight change has come to America.’
He added: ‘Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.’
Even as he was being proclaimed as the next US President, Obama was expressing the contradiction at the heart of the election.
Millions of working-class and middle-class voters backed Obama and his call for ‘change’. They hoped he will secure their jobs, protect the purchasing power of their salaries, keep them in their homes, guarantee them healthcare, and put an end to the expensive and disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, Obama and his team are making clear that the ‘financial crisis’ and the state of the economy are their top priorities.
They backed Bush’s $700bn package for the banks. Their jobs packages are meagre and with the Federal budget deficit spiralling upwards tax cuts for ordinary families are likely to be small, or non-existent.
One adviser to the President-elect has said that the healthcare reforms would be easier to pass if ‘we take it a piece at a time’. Obama has also made clear that he will be involved in ‘two wars’ and is in favour of sending more troops to Afghanistan.
The huge vote for Obama is a semblance of the developing social revolution in the United States.
Millions of workers and their trade unions funded, campaigned and voted for Obama, as part of their fight to achieve their demands.
The fight to achieve their interests will grow in the weeks ahead as the effects of the recession and financial crisis grow. They will find that Obama is both incapable of, and opposed to, delivering the changes they are demanding.
The working class is appearing on the scene as the only force capable of delivering the US from the crisis of capitalism in its death agony through a new American Revolution.
The US unions must take the road of breaking with the parties of US imperialism, the Republicans and Democrats, and establish a class party, a Labor Party.
The most favourable conditions exist for building a US section of the International Committee of the Fourth International in the period immediately ahead, to lead the essential task of organising the forthcoming American Socialist Revolution.