The Republicans have won control of the Senate in the US mid-term elections and tightened their grip on the House of Representatives. They now control both chambers of Congress for the first time since 2006.
The elections were billed as a referendum on the incumbent President and this decisive Republican victory is a clear sign that the majority of American voters have lost faith in Obama. Senator Mitch McConnell said the result was a vote against “a government people can no longer trust”.
It is a sad state of affairs when you consider the euphoria and optimism surrounding Obama’s election victory six years ago. Six years, it seems, is a long time in politics and Republican victory is not surprising. Obama’s approval ratings are at an all-time low and the fact that the Republicans have taken the Senate is another huge blow for the President.
Obama is now faced with a very difficult final two years in office. The Republicans have the power to complicate, if not block completely, the President’s agenda. With economic anxiety fuelling a popular perception of failure, the Republicans will probably enjoy public support if they were to rebel against the Presidential agenda. We can certainly expect political deadlock and several unwanted compromises.
This situation is not as unusual as you might think. Both Bill Clinton and George W Bush served their final two years in office with an opposition Congress. Bush faced a global economic crisis so national unity softened the resolve of the opposition but Clinton had to fight for every ounce of his agenda. Obama could well have to do the same.
Nevertheless, it may not be as poor an indictment on the President as it seems. It is protected in the US Constitution, to prevent tyrannical rule, that their President leaves office after two terms. Sensible as this is, it must be hard for an electorate to remain inspired by a leader who will soon leave office irrespective of success, popularity and even electoral results. This will be easy to forget in the analysis of these recent elections but it is an important fact to remember.
Politics is cyclical. When Obama won the Presidency six years ago, he did so on a wave of Democratic support, taking both houses of Congress with him. Today the tide has turned against him and his rivals have the initiative. That’s politics. In years to come this will likely be forgotten and he will be remembered as the man who finally introduced medicare to the United States.
Barrack Obama has two more years before the 2016 Presidential election. Tuesday’s result will make those years very difficult and has handed the Republicans crucial electoral momentum. Despite all of this, in some ways, pressure has been lifted from the President’s shoulders as we all know he will soon be waving goodbye. He will focus on what work is left to be done with ISIS, Afghanistan, medicare and, of course, the economy. This result is a huge blow but Obama must now look to the future, see out these final two years, and secure his legacy.
Image Rights; James O Mallley & The White House