Archive for November 1st, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

US Mid-Term Elections: a Temporary End to big Initiatives

At Home, no Great Projects

If the scenarios on choice are that a) the Democrats retain their majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate; b) that they retain their senate majority but lose their majority in the House of Representatives; and c) that they lose their majority in both chambers, the only unlikely (or next to impossible)  outcome is the one mentioned first.

Republican control of both the House and the Senate has been the rule since 1994, according to a BBC article of November 2006 – divided government between the White House and Congress, to some degree, shouldn’t come unexpected when the polls close on Tuesday night.

President Barack Obama – and Democrat legislators who will have held on to their mandates – may then draw some consolation from the fact that even without the more controversial legislational issues  during the past two years –  hated by a very vocal moral minority in America, and viewed rather skeptically by most of the American public in summer, according to opinion polls, many voters would use the ballot as an occasion to judge the economic situation in general anyway, which is dire for many American families.

And the Obama administration’s healthcare package, most probably, stands. There is the opportunity to demonstrate that it will make health care available more broadly, or even universally throughout the country, at smaller costs than the previous, makeshift  system of many decades. If reform turns out to be an achievement, it is one that can’t be taken away from the Democrats.

No matter if divided government will be the result of tomorrows elections or not, the focus in the coming two years will be on reducing the federal budget deficit. It won’t be a period of great ( successful) initiatives either way – not for further social security programs, not for space quests, nor for anything expensive that would be dear to the hearts of either the Democrats or the Republicans. Only the “freeze” on all unspent funds authorized as part of the 2009 stimulus bill or the 2008 financial sector rescue legislation, as pledged by the Republican Party, seem to stand a chance.

Abroad, More of the Same

Under the Iceberg, Xinwen Lianbo, May 25, 2010

Meetings under an Iceberg, Xinwen Lianbo, May 25, 2010

Many conservatives in the US seem to believe that a Democrat administration is usually one which is “weak” abroad, and prone to “appeasement”. Evidence hardly supports such views. If anything, the US administration’s attention is shifting from Afghanistan and Iraq to the Far East – but it isn’t “appeasing”. It was George W. Bush who referred to China as a “strategic competitor” during the 2000/2001 presidential campaign, and who came close to becoming a “panda-hugger” in the end. And it is the Obama administration which has begun a noticeable American return to the Far East, probably pretty much into the direction Michael Turton, an American blogger in Taiwan, wished for in June, before a switch to a more robust approach from Washington became palpable:

[…] It should be obvious that the path the US is heading down is delusional, though I suspect also that much of the “delusion” is due to the fact that so many policy-shapers are doing business with China. What we should be doing is pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and refocusing on building our Asian trade, military, and diplomatic relationships, and pumping money into rebuilding the US infrastructure and industrial base.  […]

A Republican majority in either chamber of Congress, or both, may do some fine-tuning, however, especially in America’s relations with Taiwan. The initiative there, again, stays with the White House, especially when it comes to arms sales. The island features much more prominently on the Republican, than on the Democrat radar  – some horsetrading between the president and Congress may help to reopen the recently somewhat clogged pipeline. For sure, more Republican seats will lead to a modest rise in Taiwan’s diplomatic profile.

Overall, foreign policy will remain the administration’s domain.

Despite the stormy U.S.-China relationship, Drew Thompson, director of China studies at the Nixon Center in Washington, sees the administration taking a stay-the-course approach overall,

writes Associated Press (AP) and quotes Drew Thompson further:

“It’s only the Chinese who are down” about the rocky side of the relationship, Thompson said in an interview Thursday.

It remains to be seen in which fields US-Chinese cooperation will be possible during the next two years. The Obama administration has made it clear this summer, to China and to China’s neighbors, that America is there to stay in East and South East Asia. And while the switch in America’s policies on Asia was certainly essential, Americans in turn need to be aware that their country has become a useful concept of the enemy for the CCP, in its domestic propaganda, and its propaganda among overseas Chinese citizens. The concept that the rest of the world in general and America in particular are posing great dangers to China has become a handy corral, or, as it would suggest itself here, a Mental Great Wall.

Huanqiu Shibao assured the patriotic public in August that, being forced by the American imperialists to act as an adversary, China will be an adequate one.

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Related
The Erosion of America’s Middle Class, Der Spiegel, August 19, 2010
Vetoes, United States Senate website
US Midterm Election, Wikipedia
US Senate Elections, Wikipedia

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