Forecasting the consequences of U.S. midterm elections

The Democrat’s loss of the U.S. Senate should not be underestimated going into the 2016 Presidential election. The Republican Party now in principle have the power to set the agenda for President Obama’s last two years in office, meaning that a stand-off and hostility between the two parties is likely to increase. Indeed, one prevailing view is that 2015 and 2016 will be dominated by repeated Presidential vetoes, a barrage of investigations into executive branch practices and a ramped-up effort to block the undoing of Mr. Obama’s health-care law.

This poses significant problems for the U.S. leader. He has been labelled “a lame duck President” and a peripheral figure. His last remaining two years as leader will not be an easy ride. Long-muted tensions within the Democratic Party over policy and strategy are already beginning to surface publicly, a sign of leaders looking beyond President Barack Obama’s tenure.

Worryingly for Obama and the Democratic Party, the Republicans will be able to put significant pressure on Obama’s flagship policy, Obamacare. The Republicans feel very strongly about an individual mandate regarding health insurance – requiring the compulsory purchase of health insurance. Now that the Republicans hold both chambers, they will, in effect, go above the President’s veto and try to enact changes with its majority. Republicans have always been hostile to universal healthcare, thus it’s likely that they will try and tinker with, and attempt to limit the influence of Obamacare. This issue of the veto is likely to be one of the main arenas of conflict in the next two years. Obama has vetoed less legislation than any President in modern history: just two bills, both in late 2010. However this number is likely to increase substantially in the next 24 months.

A Republican Congress, with an eye on 2016, will also aim to take a number of steps to make life harder for presumed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, first and foremost by continuing their investigations into the Benghazi tragedy. The rhetoric Obama will have to face in the Senate regarding the death of a serving United States Ambassador in Libya, Christopher Stevens, will only become more prominent as Obama’s second term comes to a close.

Obama wants to leave a legacy when he leaves office in two years time, but his failed promises on both the domestic and foreign stage means that his presidency will be seen as a period of many promises, few results. The promise to shut Guantanamo Bay, Obamacare, the national deficit and subsequent government shutdown and conflicts in the Middle East are some of the most prominent issues in American politics. A 40% approval rating suggests that the majority regard Obama as a failure in handling the abovementioned list of priorities. His decreasing influence on the world stage and the dominance of Russian President Vladimir Putin means that the American public are also more suspicious and sceptical of Obama’s ability to secure American interests globally.

The breadth and scale of the Republican victory is likely to reset the political landscape ahead of the 2016 Presidential campaign. The Republicans are certainly in a better position going into the 2016 than they were just six months ago. The reducing influence of the Tea Party, and now with a clear strategy to limit Obama’s ability to enact laws and bills that favour Democrats, the Republicans feel that they have every chance of being back in the White House in 2016. The Democrats on the other hand are worried that they lacked a compelling position in the midterms. They are split over whether to advance a centrist message or a more populist economic argument that casts everyday families as victims of overly powerful corporations and benighted government policies.

President Obama now has a difficult decision to make. Will he move towards the Republicans in areas of common interest and mutual gain, such as tax reform and trade, or will he dig in and hope a Republican overreach will give his party a lane for a comeback. This decision may well have a significant impact on the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections.

By David Willsher

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: North America

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