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The election that people have forgotten about

November 3, 2014 2:36 PM
By Ben Fearn in Views from the Centre Left
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

There's a significant event happening on Tuesday (4th November) which people (including me for a while) have forgotten about in the UK.

No doubt it's frequently on the airwaves in America, but with the Scottish independence referendum taking political centre stage in the UK amongst other world events, the US midterm elections haven't been given much of a look in. They still may not be considered significant on election day, but the elections could have serious ramifications for President Obama and his presumptive successor, Hillary Clinton.

I remember quite a significant build up over here to the 2010 midterms, where the Republican Party seized control of the House of Representatives and eroded the 'supermajority' in the Senate. Barack Obama's healthcare reforms had been controversial for many, and the experience led to the use of the term "shellacking" from Obama. Although the Democrats kept the Senate, it has meant that the Republicans have been frustrating in their obstructionist methods (remember the fiscal cliff?). Obama did extremely well to win the 2012 Presidential election in these circumstances, but he has still been hampered at many turns.

Worryingly (if you're of a centrist or left-leaning disposition), forecasts predict that the GOP will not only retain the House, but also gain the Senate (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/oct/30/republicans-confident-midterm-success-america). The last two years of a Presidential cycle (in a second term) are often seen as the 'lame duck' years, but more so if an incumbent President's party does not control either House of Congress. It seems crazy that a Republican Party so torn apart by in-fighting and soul searching (sound like the Tories at all?) could triumph on Tuesday, especially if you go by these economic figures during Obama's reign:
Those figures were posted by a website entitled "The American Conservative", no less. I admit that I've not kept as close an eye on US matters since 2012, but I still do rate Obama as a President. He's not delivered in all areas, but he's done remarkably well under electoral restraints. It seems the cynics are coming out in force now, just as they did in 2012, chiding Obama for not delivering the "change" and "yes we can" attitudes that were promised. The problem is, whilst these slogans served as good rhetoric, how can you possible measure them? Obama has ended "don't ask, don't tell", drastically improved the economy (an unemployment rate of 5.9% presently versus a rate of 9.7% in January 2010) and achieved landmark healthcare reform. Without the Senate, Obama will be curtailed in efforts to go further on gun control.

Furthermore, should Hillary Clinton win the Presidency in 2016 for the Democrats (she'll have the Democratic nomination in the bag if she chooses to run), her programme will also be curtailed. However well she does against the Republican nominee, how can she enact her plans if both the House and the Senate are Republican-run? They've already shown over the last 6 years that they are not capable of consensual politics, let alone giving consideration to the democratic mandate that a President possesses (mostly; think of the 2000 election!).

I very much hope that the Democrats do better than expected, but sadly the last two years of Obama's presidency look set to be another lame-duck session. I would love the first black President to be followed by the first female President, and not for the sake of it; I think Hillary would make a great leader. The question is, what sort of plan for America will she put forward over the next two years, and will she be able to deliver it?
Ben Fearn is Parliamentary Spokesperson for Derbyshire Dales and blogs at Views from the Centre Left http://viewsfromthecentre-left.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/the-election-that-people-have-forgotten.html