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Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2009-11-05

In rural America, many still struggle to accept Obama

Twelve months after Barack Obama's historic election, many right-wing voters still haven't digested his victory. Our correspondent travelled to West Virginia, a rural state where anti-Obama sentiments run high.

Today's Focus guest are Zachary Miller, vice-president of Democrats Abroad France, and Paul Vallet, a professor at Sciences-Po Paris.

 

The anti-Obama movement has its roots in rural America, in places far away from the urban centre; like West Virginia, a mountainous state in the Appalachian region.

Ron Lott is a former Marine who displays his guns with pride. He owns a small revolver and a cheap rifle, made in China. Ron is a Vietnam veteran. His buddies were also in the military. Together they spend hours talking about the state of the country. In their world, Barack Obama should never have become president. They believe he was not even born in the US.

“He is a Kenyan-born nationalist. And I believe that any man that wants to hold the highest office in this country but can’t produce a birth certificate is a fake!”, claims Ron.

There are other reasons why Ron and his friends have still not accepted the election of Obama. They think for example that he is a Muslim… and what’s worse, in their eyes, he could be a “socialist”.

“If you look at the whole healthcare plan and things that he’s done: it’s all socialism, since he’s been in. So there we go, you know.”, he says.
A tough welcoming committee greets a few democratic activists in Parkersburg, West Virginia. They’ve been bussed in to explain and defend the president’s reforms. But their job here is hard: last November Obama lost badly to John McCain in this region.

Ron and his friends are here of course, to make their voices heard. But the democrats dismiss this type of disturbance as coming from a radical minority.

“55 % of the people in this country are in favor of reform. They’re in favor of reform now. They’re out of step with the rest of the country”, explains Helen Harms, an Obama supporter.

Tom Stark disagrees. He is convinced that the political tide is about to turn against Obama. So convinced in fact that he has decided to launch his own political career. He is running for Congress in 2010 as an ultra-conservative. Conservatives have been accused of racism when criticizing Obama. That’s why this newcomer to politics avoids personal attacks.

“This is not about his religion, it’s not about his race, it’s not about any of those things. It’s about what he is trying to do in the way of forcing more and more government decision-making into our lives”, explains Tom Stark.

One year after his election, Barack Obama remains relatively popular at the national level. But for Tom Stark there is no doubt that what is now a disgruntled minority will soon turn into a conservative uprising.

 

By Guillaume MEYER

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