Obama, the weakening president

Spearhead Analysis – 07.11.2014

By Halima Islam
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

Washington woke up to a freshly defined political reality on Wednesday; one that many analysts have concluded will see the weakening of the American President, Obama. The Republican Party resulted in claiming significant gains in the US mid- term elections and their victory now emphasizes their control over both the US senate and the upper chamber of the US congress, which was previously controlled by the Democrats.

This win complicates Obama’s final years in office and he is now looking at the prospect of spending them as a “lame duck president” as mentioned by a correspondent on Al-Jazeera. With the wave of his unpopularity increasing, as he lurched from crisis to crisis at home and overseas, voters have put him in a vulnerable position. He will now have to contend with a Congress that is controlled firmly by a party that opposes his policies.

Mitch McConnel, the Senior Senator from Kentucky, in his winning speech on Wednesday announced that “Tomorrow the papers will have said that I won the race. But we begin another race, one that is far more important than mine, and that’s the race to turn this country around.” Not only is the rivalry highlighted through his statement but it speaks volumes of the disinterest of the republicans towards Obama as they deem him to be incompetent and question his management of the policies he set forth. The win of the republicans sends a drive of optimism towards their 2016 election campaign and hypothetically, upon winning the election, they will look towards obliterating, if not, undoing Obama’s policies as a whole.

The republicans were quick to describe this mid-term election as a referendum on Obama’s presidency and in doing so, succeeded in receiving the votes that they needed. The public voting rendered that Obama promised to fix things at home and abroad but has failed to do so. However, the republicans did go on to say that the policies may not have been the worst case for American interest; it was the mismanagement-as mentioned earlier- of them that strengthened their case. They also pointed out that Obama had vouched to reach out across to the republicans but in failure to do so, he should’ve seen their win coming.

Obama has been criticized on his domestic and foreign policy throughout and as a result the republicans will be seen as tightening their grip on both areas. Their main area of focus will be on Economy, immigration laws and taxation. Even though they have pointed out that the Obama care program will not be repealed, efforts to ‘fix it’ is what the Republican Party has put forward.

However, their influence doesn’t stop at the domestic level. Foreign policy is where they will intervene, as well.

Criticisms of Obama’s Foreign Policy:

The republican win will matter globally as Obama’s foreign policy is what has been greatly scrutinized. The problematic areas currently on which the foreign policy revolves around is the operation against ISIS, the escalating tensions with Russia, the nuclear negotiation deals with Iran and Ebola reaching the united states. However, much criticism has been posed towards Obama in these key areas as the republicans declare that he couldn’t keep Putin out of Ukraine, couldn’t stop Ebola reaching the United states and wasn’t able to turn the economy around in a convincing way. These bold claims by the republicans already show that they are more likely to demand presidential compromise than to seek it, as Obama is now going to be put under pressure to use stricter measures.

Democrats rightly argued that during the last republican rule, the foreign policy the Bush administration put forward was labeled as America’s worst in history. The Republicans will revisit that strategy and prompt that they would like ISIS to be dealt with by a ‘boots on the ground’ operation which may not be feasible when it comes to public and world-wide opinion. Military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have repelled the public and leaders abroad greatly and they are not willing to adhere to such actions either, which will prove to be a real test for the republicans once they come into congress officially. One may be in a position to then question whether this sort of feud between the republicans and democrats, reveals the cracks on the hold of the United States, globally.

Foreign policy from the Republican’s domain: 

As the republicans mentioned that Putin had become impervious to the condemnations of the Obama administration upon their involvement in Ukraine, they have made it clear that America will be in the position to hold an immediate standoff with Russia. Actions against ISIL will be taken on strongly and the likelihood of ground invasions may become pertinent. The question then arises whether Obama’s opposition of the ground invasion and military expansion, be effectual with the republicans trying to push for the opposite.

The republicans will also seek to curb foreign aid abroad through which countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan will suffer greatly. Even though set to exit Afghanistan in the year 2016, they still have not been able to conjure a strategy that will look at quelling militant, reactionary forces, that may stem- just like in the case of Iraq.

Iran will face the stiffest resistance with the republicans now coming into the congress. The US at current is trying to strike a nuclear deal with Iran in an attempt to collaborate with them against ISIS. Obama now has less chances of negotiation as the republicans, again, will push for a stronger stand against Iran and look towards increasing sanctions.

The situation in Israel and Palestine, with now the Scandinavian countries recognizing Palestine as a state, will come to another stalemate. Republicans being backed with a strong Zionist lobby will prevent any change occurring in the region and will push for further settlements in Palestine, despite the rising resistance.

The republican’s win demoralized the Democrats and it is at this point that they will have to gather and figure out what happened that a dramatic shift in balance of power occurred in the mid-term election. History seems to be repeating itself as Bill Clinton faced the same sort of ordeal, after which the republicans won a sweeping victory and the Bush administration-which mostly saw the world’s two biggest wars of the century- came into power. This win, gives the republicans a booster for the 2016 elections and even though challenging times lay ahead for both the republicans and democrats to work as a unified team, the US’s credibility and their ability to govern will be put into question. Not knowing yet, whether the republicans are looking towards more or less engagement abroad, limits their influence in the immediate future. In his campaigns, Obama has made promises along the lines of peace and negotiation, to the outside world; however, ironically he will now be coming home to a congress that doesn’t want to work with him in the same manner.