Obama’s Second Term: What it means for America and the Rest of the World

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By Nicholas Morine

On an election night which crackled with energy, with millions upon millions watching across the world, President Barack Obama emerged from the race victorious. His margin of victory was sizeable — if not the landslide that it was in 2008 versus John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin. As of December 6th, the American public seemed to have a great deal of confidence restored in the re-elected President, with Quinnipac University polling Obama at 53% approval, with Rasmussen and Gallup reinforcing this picture with numbers of 54% and 52% respectively. What this spells out for political junkies watching this post-election season in rapt attention is that everybody loves a winner — and further, that American moderates are tired of the obstructionist tactics employed by the House Republicans.

A fork in the road for John Boehner — the high road or the low road House Speaker and Republican House Leader John Boehner is a much-maligned fellow on the American left and a somewhat tepid figure when seen from the perspective of the American right. Often teased colloquially for his deep tan and distinct speech, Boehner nonetheless represents and speaks for the most effective arm of the Republican brand left functioning. As Republican House Leader, Boehner has been known to be an unrepentant obstructionist, taking the role of opposition to new heights as the much-promised “era of bipartisanship” sought by President Obama failed to materialize. As Democrats lost ground in the midterm elections of 2010 to Republicans and newly minted members of the Tea Party, Boehner seemed to grasp this as an opportunity to dig in and to hold the line against controversial legislation related to themes such as the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), same-sex marriage and women’s reproductive rights.

Should Boehner continue to oppose any sort of forward movement, particularly while brandishing the double-edged sword of “the fiscal cliff”, it will likely signal to already irritated voters that the Republican House is not ready to work with the duly elected executive branch in order to start getting things moving forward again in the country, and indeed the rest of the world waiting on recovery. This would likely lead to an electoral slaughter at the polls during a midterm election, although given the recent electoral record of the American right this eventuality may not be apparent. Should the Republican House majority and their leader decide to co-operate and to make compromise with an increasingly assertive Obama, it is likely that they may make slight gains during midterm elections and have a much better shot of retaking the White House in 2016, particularly if Obama’s promised economic recovery does not materialize in the interim. A dangerous prospect for the Democrats no matter which way it is played, as well as the option most likely to satisfy the broadest swath of voters from all walks of life, it is this path that would appear more attractive to the savvy statesman.

An unapologetic Mitt Romney comments on his defeat Multiple new sources including Canada’s National Post and Chronicle Heraldas well as American blog-journalist outlet Huffington Post reported as recently as mid-November that Romney had made no specific apologies to those who supported him during a conference call amongst his campaign donors; however, Romney did indicate quite clearly that he felt that the Democratic President and his government had too many “gifts” targeting voting blocs such as blacks, hispanics, women, youth, and the working class whom he perceives as being dependent on government. Also the subject of criticism with relation to his infamous 47% video, which was leaked on September 17th, displaying Romney in a negative light as he criticizes an alleged 47% of Americans who take from the system rather than contribute to it.

Coupling this latest performance with a rather rocky start with relations here in the UK, particularly during the London Olympics, it would seem that Mitt Romney remains steadfast in his belief that all was handled as best as possible and at the end of the day, it simply wasn’t his time.

Less hope and a thirst for change: Can Obama turn it around? While things looked absolutely depressing when Obama was first sworn into office, the economy continues to be somewhat stagnant even if the global market has taken a few steps back from the precipice. With markets in Europe looking shaky as well, particularly nations such as Greece and Spain, it leaves a large portion of the decision-makers wondering if Obama will be bringing the bully pulpit with him into his second term. Now that President Obama no longer has to worry about fighting another campaign for re-election due to term limits, most analysts seem to agree that he will be much more aggressive in his push for economic and social reforms in the final four years of his presidency. This can already be evidenced in his firm stance on same-sex marriage, supporting equality in all fashion for same-sex partners. This initiative may see some remaining opposition at the state level but it is quite unlikely that presidential candidates from this point forth would risk bringing up a moot point amongst most citizens in this twenty first century.

Obama’s Second Term Economy, Culture, and International Relations with the
UK / EU

On the economy, the President seems to be moving towards more stimulus funding, though he has conceded to a fair degree of cuts to infrastructure and social programs; even the much vaunted defense budget appears to be headed for a trimming in the next session. While there’s little doubt that the United States will, out of necessity, move towards a single-payer or universal health care solution over the course of the next decade or two, there remains enough political opposition to the idea at the grassroots level to ensure that even the mild Obamacare reforms remain controversial and contentious enough to slow progress in this sector.

How will the second Obama term impact international relations, particularly between the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the EU as a whole? It’s a near certainty that Obama and his Democratic colleagues are a much better fit for a more progressive European ideal, however there will likely be a raising of trade barriers and tariffs in order to protect American business which may deal slight damage to high-value British exports, in favour of increased trade with China and other Asian partners.

From a diplomatic standpoint, relations are sure to remain steadfastly friendly, as traditional allies to the United Kingdom over the course of the past century there is little anticipated change in this vein. The American President remains extremely popular amongst the British population, with Time reporting that ~67% of Brits claiming approval of Obama as of April this year, a number which is surely even higher immediately following his re-election. One thing is certain: Obama has solidified his place in American and indeed global history with the victory of his second term. Had he failed to achieve re-election, pundits and conservative historians may have been able to pigeon-hole Obama into the meme of having been a “one-term oddity” or a blip on the radar. As it stands, however, with two decisive electoral victories under his belt, Obama faces some of the most brutal opposition of his career coupled with the rather tense hope held by all that he will finally bring both hope and change back to the bargaining table as we move
foward into 2013 and the three years following.

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