Saturday, 30 October 2010

US Mid-Terms - Obama's Nadir or his Saviour?

It was not long ago that I asked the question on this blog, what went wrong for Obama? That was September 5th and now, almost 2 months later, the mid-terms are upon us.

Obama's hopes look as bleak now as they did then. For the reasons that I mentioned in that earlier post, it isn't really surprising.

However, I couldn't help but notice a comment that I made, that if as expected, the results go against the Democrats, then to quote Bachman-Turner Overdrive and to paraphrase D:ream, 'You ain't seen nothing yet' because 'Things can only get worse'.

Hope for Obama?
I hold by my belief that the Democrats should just narrowly hold on to the Senate but are unfortunately likely to lose the House.

But having read Rupert Cornwell's front page piece in yesterday's Independent, perhaps I should not be so pessimistic, even if this scenario is played out.

Now, Rupert Cornwell is one of the many reasons why I read The Independent. The paper has some excellent commentators and Rupert, with his wry but keen observational eye on north American politics and life in general, always delivers with his incisive comment.

He made the valid point yesterday that if Obama does lose control of Congress, it may not be the disaster that it looks at present. Of course, if the 'Tea Party' contingent pull the Republicans in the House of Representatives further to the right, then we could have a complete and utter dead-lock.

But having said that, running the House would suddenly give the Republicans responsibility. They won't suddenly be able to play the obstructionist card which they have done so effectively (and to America's great damage) ovet the past 2 years. If they did, then they should suffer at the hands of the electorate in 2 years time.

The Clinton Experience
I mentioned it in my earlier blog post and Rupert Cornwell also alluded to the Bill Clinton experience is such a circumstance.

Clinton went from seeing a Democratic control of both Houses of Congress evaporate within 2 years of his election as Newt Gingrich's Republicans swept the board in 1994. Yet it didn't play against Clinton's chances when his re-election came around in 1996.

Clinton moved to the centre and worked constructively with the new Congress and it was to his credit. Suddenly, he was not soley to blame for the country's ills. The 'Republican Congress' also had to take it's fair share of the blame for the nation's discontent.

Republican intrasigence whilst leading the House will not play in their favour. At least it shouldn't do.

The Mid-Terms - Obama's Nadir or his Saviour?
So perhaps, losing outright control of Congree might make it easier for the Democrats to share the blame in the years ahead and help Obama in his re-election in 2012.

Having said that, it goes without saying that I'd much prefer the Democrats to retain overall control of Congress. No doubt I'll report back when my predictions have been blown apart this coming week.


  1. Don't get your hopes up for Obama. He's completely toast, imao.
    Bill Clinton, in 1994, could move just about anywhere because Bill was and is VERY 'flexible', and pragmatic. Obama is neither by nature, nor this time even by opportunity. Bill also 'connects' with the people who don't live in Manhattan, and California, even when they didn't agree with him. Obama is now absolutely loathed by those people. They are 'bitter' and 'clingy', and now evidently, 'enemies' as well. Obama moving cynically to the centre won't matter to them at all. They have tuned him completely out and no longer even listen to him, and now any retreat by the President will just be viewed as weakness not as an attempt to co-operate for public benefit.

    The only thing that might save Obama personally in 2012 is the lack of a compelling alternative, but even then ---- he's still done, and will now serve at best as a neutered figurehead while all power passes to his sworn opponents in Congress. The economy won't get better and he will wear that as well. Much as I personally don't 'like' Mr.Obama all that much, the economy is not his fault, but unhappily for him, he failed to grasp the meaning of 'the buck stops here', when he thought it would be 'neat and cool' to be President.
    It's really not all that much fun when things go South and that is where they are going to go over the next few years.
    I agree that the Republicans have few useful ideas but the problem is that Obama has none either. The useless and wasteful 'stimulus' was his only kick at the cat, and like Krugman, he is now widely viewed as an economic doofus.

    As to the 2010 election predictions ---

    The House ---- a complete republican blowout.
    The Senate --- likely a Democrat hold but now completely run by 'conservatives(including the remaining Blue Dogs).
    The Governors --- again an almost complete Republican blowout just in time for the 2011 re-districting, which will then be done with a Republican tilt.

  2. Hi Doug,

    Thanks for your comments. You may well be right and it'll be interesting to see how it all pans out on Tuesday.

    You mention a Republican 'blowout' in the House. What's your definition of 'blowout'? How large a majority do you expect the Republicans to get?

    You make a valid point with the Senate. Even if the Democrats hold on the socially consedrvative 'Blue Dogs' within their ranks as you say will likely hold the balance.

  3. "You mention a Republican 'blowout' in the House. What's your definition of 'blowout'? How large a majority do you expect the Republicans to get?"

    I frankly have no idea as ,imao, just about every Congressperson is about as bad as the others and I can't understand how many of them ever get elected in the first place. But personal qualities aside, just on structural fundamentals, I'm going for a Republican gain of about 60 seats. That guess and a handful of coins might buy you a coffee. Well mostly the handful of coins to be honest, :-)

    You know the worst thing about all of this ? It won't matter at all as no-one has any idea of how to undig themselves from the hole they are in, and as soon as this election is over the 2012 campaign begins.
    Permanent Elections -------- No Vision.
    Bad combination.

  4. Yep. It is an issue. You sound as if you're based in the US am I right?

    Over here in the UK we have the same never ending series of elections - be it national, regional or local (not forgetting European!)

    What would you suggest would be better for the Congress?

    I'd say the Senate is about right alrady with elections in thirds. But what about the House? Move towards the same system or have an 'all up' election every 4 years instead of 2? It does strike me as slightly mad that as soon as a Congressman is elected it's almost straight into fundraising for re-election 2 years down the line.

  5. Actually I'm based in Canada but just between you and I, this place is very much a smug backwater in just about every sense of the word, and politically --- not even worth discussing on the net. So US politics it is.

    I'm not sure what can 'fix' the US system but I can assure you that all the commentary from my neighbours to the South is that it is really and truly not working. I'm not even convinced that it is really the electoral terms themselves although perhaps going to a 4 year term for Congress AND fixed term limits might make sense if everything else that was wrong was corrected as well. I have a feeling that 2 year terms were instituted to allow public displeasure with a Government that was unresponsive but the whole apparatus is now seen as unresponsive and out-of-touch. That's why you're getting the Tea Party being such a force. Again as I said I truly have no idea on what could fix the problem. The constant elections and the constant campaign are merely symptoms of the illness, not the cause of it.
    What does concern me however is the effect the dysfunction is having upon the institutions of a democratic State.I am beginning to think that the failure of systems to actually get to grips with problems and the self-insulation of the political elites is turning people off at some basic level and in the event of a REAL economic collapse, might well lead to the rise of a rather extremist solution to the problems. The Tea Party is,in this view, therefore, not the end of this road ---- but just the beginning. Populist rage is bubbling very close to the surface in quite a few places and not just over here on this side of the pond. But I'm pessimistic by nature, so there's that.

    I wonder if Democracies do systemic crises very well at this advanced point in their life cycle ? In the UK, the Coalition is performing very well indeed but if a Party had run on the platform it is now implementing, that Party would probably have gotten hammered . Over time luxuries somehow morph into necessities, which then become viewed as 'rights'. In a time when the pie looks to be not ever growing, as we were led to believe it just was, this is a big problem.
    What did the residents of Rome really think as they saw the Empire decay around them over time ? Were they objectively perfectly well aware of the situation, and just stopped caring because the rot had gone too far to be reversed, or was it like boiling frogs ? I always wanted to know that. But I sort of wanted to know that a little less subjectively. :-)

    Very nice babbling at you. Like Macarthur --"I shall return".

  6. Oh,Canada! Excellent! (I must admit that after our Welsh national anthem, yours is one of my favourites...just saying!).

    You clearly have a better 'feel' for the US opinion than I do so I've got to bow to your points on that.

    From this side of the pond, I think the whole coming of the 'Coalition' does show that things can be done differently when required by necessity. I think credit must be due to the leadership of both parties for thinking 'outside of the box' on this. After all, Britian at a UK-wide level, doesn't 'do' coalitions. We've not had one since 1945!

    I say that as a Liberal Democrat who can't stand the Conservatives but needs must and the out-going Labour Government was a busted flush.

    I think on the whole in fact, you'd be surprised at how there's a general acceptance over here about a need to tighten our belts. The devil of course is in the detail and it's going to be an interesting few months and years ahead. But at least I think we can say, 'we tried to do things differently'. Whether we're rewarded for that though is a decision for the masses!

    I'm glad you didn't quote Arnie!

  7. OK. One last comment. And I do note that that interlude was a very short Pacific campaign. WOW, all those air-craft carriers really made a difference. Who Knew ? :-) Mac.

    I am VASTLY impressed with the coalition and my fondest hope is for a successful Government until 2015, no matter what gets thrown up in the meantime. I'm sort of a non-ideological type myself, but I guess if you had to classify me it would be a Uncompromising Utilitarian. I just want things to work as well as possible for the greatest number possible as CHEAPLY as possible. Oh and I don't really 'get' how a State can spend far more than it takes in FOREVER. I'm not too bright but that issue just beats me. It sounds great though, and I wonder if they have some sort of Government booklet that I could get(free of course) that would shoe me how I could run myself like that. That would be GREAT, and I kid you not.

    But anyhoo back to the Coalition. I manage to get myself abused with some regularity at Conservative Home becasue I continue to tell the readers there that they should be EXTREMELY grateful to the LibDems and in particular to Nick Clegg for demonstrating so much maturity and good faith. Some don't like that very much but surprisingly quite a few like it not badly at all. You might be surprised. Of course I also get abused by LibDem types as well for exactly the obverse reason, so I consider myself vindicated by reason of combat. :-)
    As an observer only and I know it's early days but what I would hope would happen after 2015 is some way that the Best Of The Coalition could be offered to the voters as a viable choice. I don't care how it gets done, but i think it would be an excellent opportunity for the UK to move more towards a spirit of 'National Interest' wherein different types can and will come together to try to implement the OPTIMUM policy.
    Wouldn't that be ever so nice, :-)

  8. I think that's taking it a step beyond in all fairness but I can see where you're coming from!

    I think we've just got to be grown up about the mess the UK is in and we need to sort it out. Bickering from the sidelines wouldn't get it done and if the Lib Dems as a party couldn't grasp the opportunity of being in government for the first time in 65 years, then what's the point of being in politics?

    What we did was brave, possibly foolhardy - we'll find out in due course! But it was a matter of putting the country first and party second. Remind me of that quote when my party gets obliterated in 2015!!

    Been nice chatting to you mate. Where'd you live exactly? I went to Toronto back in 2005 - loved it. Fell in love with Baseball whilst I was there - been a Blue Jay ever since!