Thursday 22 February 2018

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Uppity Obama left shellacked by angry brigade

US voters are far from happy, as the midterm results reveal, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

The US midterm elections were bad news for all the key players. No one should rejoice. In America as in Britain, and as will be in Ireland, citizens voted in anger not enthusiasm. In Western democracies, few people like politicians these days.

For President Obama it was, as he put it himself, a shellacking. His party has lost a slew of governorships as well as control of the House of Representatives and has a tiny majority in the Senate. For a proud man, it's hard to bear, and he did not conduct himself well in his press conference despite his attempts to feign humility. He persists in believing that the problem is that the White House failed to communicate to the voters what a wonderful job his administration is doing. It's not. The problem is that he believes in 'Big Government' and a majority of Americans don't, which is part of the reason they feel so alienated from him. His distant, superior manner doesn't help.

When in 1994, to Bill Clinton's consternation, the Democrats lost both houses of Congress the canny president tacked so fast to the centre that he wrong-footed the Republicans and was re-elected two years later. Obama says he'll be prepared to compromise, but being more principled than Clinton there's little chance of him fundamentally changing direction. Gridlock beckons. As does trouble in his party between disenchanted liberals and Democratic dealmakers. For Congressman John Boehner, future Speaker of the House of Representatives, who is notorious for bursting into tears publicly, there are plenty of problems ahead to make him cry. Should he, as the Republican right want, try to destroy Obama's legislative programme and have the party perceived as wreckers? Should he try to initiate radical legislation to shrink the state that he knows will fail in the senate or be vetoed by the president?

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