President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, is among a number of U.S. presidents whose bid for a second term was rejected by voters.
A former peanut farmer, Carter's folksy persona contributed to his popularity. At the start of his administration in 1977, Carter had the support of seven out of 10 Americans. But by the time he was up for re-election four years later, the stagnant economy and rampant unemployment, coupled with his perceived weak-kneed foreign policy, had seriously eroded his popularity.
Ronald Reagan, his Republican challenger in 1980, declared during his campaign, "Recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his (job)." Carter lost his job; Reagan, promising a strong America, won by a landslide.
Some people see a similar pattern this year.
Democratic President Barack Obama is struggling. The ardor and exuberance he fired up four years ago seem to have dissipated and his message of "change" has lost much of its magic. His Republican contender, Mitt Romney, keeps attacking him for the still-slow economy and high unemployment.
The Democratic national convention wrapped up on Sept. 6, one week after the Republican national convention. Currently, Obama and Romney are neck-and-neck in the polls.
The visions Obama and Romney offer the American people differ sharply. Obama stands for international cooperation and "big government" that spends tax dollars on economic recovery and welfare. Romney is for "small government" that relies on the market; he insists on maintaining the strength of the world's most powerful armed forces, and rejects nuclear disarmament. In short, Romney is calling for a return to a strong America.
One could say that the president of the United States symbolizes the ideal America of that particular era, sought always by the nation's diverse population. It is said, for instance, that in 1976 the Americans were weary from the Vietnam War and disillusioned by Watergate; they enthusiastically welcomed Carter who was a pious, unassuming humanitarian.
But high expectations can turn into deep disappointment when things don't go well. Is this the case with Obama? On election day on Nov. 6, he will get his "report card" for his four-year performance.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 8
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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