Informal straw poll reveals deep disillusionment with Obama among New Yorkers

There is a clear consensus emerging from my informal poll of the population of New York City: the president Barack Obama has failed, at home and abroad, and the city is now waiting for the next president to bring some fundamental change.

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There is a clear consensus emerging from my informal poll of the population of New York City: the president Barack Obama has failed, at home and abroad, and the city is now waiting for the next president to bring some fundamental change.

I must admit my polling technique was not particularly exhaustive or scientific. I just asked people in the city, the kind of people — taxi drivers, restaurant staff, shop assistants and others — what they thought of the president.

I may have got an unrepresentative sample, but the odds on all those people being against Mr Obama would have been very long. The only conclusion is that New York, after six years of his presidency, has reversed its previous enthusiasm for the country’s first black president.

A student at Columbia University I chatted to over dinner — a big fan of the president when he was first elected — was scathing about his inability to bring about any fundamental change in the fields of health care, education or social policy (this despite the president’s Affordable Care Act).

“It’s like we’ve been waiting every day for years now for something big to happen, but now we just have to get used to the idea that it won’t, at least not with Obama in the White House,” she said.

A taxi driver in one of the famous yellow taxis was equally critical of the president, but this time for his foreign policy record.

New York taxi drivers are notoriously free with their opinions on virtually any subject, but this guy was rather more considered, maybe because of his background.

As he drove me the trip from west midtown to the Wall Street area, he explained how he was born in Karachi but had lived in New York for 28 years, and was now of course a naturalised American citizen. He was also (like me) married to a woman from Azerbaijan, so I felt we had a certain empathy.

“He [Obama] can do nothing in the world any more. Look at what’s happening in Iraq, we [ie the US] are completely powerless to change anything. He was made to look stupid in Ukraine, and you will see … it is Russia’s turn to rule the world,” he said.

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I can confirm, however, that whatever inaction there is in Washington does not extend to New York, and especially not to the city’s thriving leisure and hotels industry.

I had not been to the city for about 10 years, and there have been a lot of changes. You might have thought the world financial crisis — the United States in origin of course, might have affected New York, the hub of global capitalism, more than other places.

But I could detect no enduring signs of austerity at all. New Yorkers seemed as happy as ever to just enjoy life, and have found several new ways, and venues, for doing so.

The hotel I stayed in — the Standard Highline to the west of the city looking over the Hudson River to New Jersey — was the centre of a vibrant day and nightlife that showed New Yorkers at their most hedonistically flamboyant.

The area, once the centre of New York’s food import business and still known as the meatpacking district, is a round-the-clock fun palace, determined, it seems, to prove again the adage about the “city that never sleeps”.

But what struck me most was the way New Yorkers have taken so enthusiastically to “football” — football to you and me.

I was walking over the Brooklyn Bridge as the US played Portugal on Sunday, and I swear from that vantage point looking back over Manhattan you could hear a huge collective cheer when they scored a goal to go 2-1 ahead in the game.

“Ahsome”, as they say.

fkane@thenational.ae

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