UNITED STATES by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
U.S. midterm elections change American political landscape
, November 22, 2014
The stunning victory by the U.S. Republican Party in the 2014 Congressional elections deals a mortal blow to the political agenda of Barack Obama, probably the most left-wing President to have graced the Oval Office.
President Obama’s standing in the polls is negative. The Gallup Poll, one of the most reliable in the U.S., recently had President Obama’s approval rating at 43 per cent, with 53 per cent of respondents expressing disapproval.
The reasons for voter anxiety are not hard to gauge.
Seven years after the global financial crisis, the U.S. economy is not doing particularly well, with over 15 per cent of Americans describing themselves as “under-employed”, on top of the official 6.4 per cent unemployed. Obama is blamed for aggravating the problem by his anti-business agenda.
Numerous major energy initiatives, including natural gas projects and a pipeline from Canada to the United States, have been delayed by opposition from Obama’s Environmental Protection Authority and the Attorney-General’s Department, thereby impeding the expansion of America’s push for energy independence.
The $8 billion Keystone XL project to pump oil from northern Canada to the United States, a distance of nearly 2,000 km, has been under consideration for the past six years, and has secured regulatory approval from Canada, but has been held up by opposition from the Obama administration.
All Republicans support the project, as do some Democrats; but the development has failed to secure government approval. In fact, Obama has called for the phasing out of America’s dependence on fossil fuels, including oil and gas, while also opposing the expansion of the nuclear industry for electricity generation.
This pipeline is a critical infrastructure project for energy security and strengthening the American economy.
Along with transporting crude oil from Canada, the Keystone XL Pipeline will also support the significant growth of crude oil production in the United States by allowing oil-producers more access to the large refining markets found in the American Midwest and along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index — which measures the difference between those who believe the economy is going well and those who have the opposite view, expressed as a percentage — was recently at minus 10.
ObamaCare, the President’s attempt to put in place a broad-based government-backed health-care system, has suffered from poor administration, which led to fewer-than-expected enrolments in the scheme, as well as concerns from religious believers and church organisations that they will be forced to pay premiums for abortion and other services which violate their consciences.
In both Democrat and Republican states, “candidates who supported marriage as the union of one man and one woman won election, and those who didn’t were rejected by voters”, according to Brian Brown, president of the National Organisation for Marriage.
“The election results ... were a stunning rebuke of those who wish to redefine marriage,” he said.
Also, Obama is believed to be partially responsible for the current mess in Iraq, due to the premature pull-out of U.S. forces, and for the conflict in Syria, where the U.S. supports the militant opposition to the Assad regime, while simultaneously conducting air strikes against a key element in that opposition, the Islamic State terrorists.
His reassurances that the Ebola virus would not present a problem to the U.S. have been undermined by a number of cases which have cropped up, and, with many U.S. health workers in west Africa, that number is likely to increase.
The result of these concerns is that the Republicans, who already controlled the House of Representatives, secured the largest Republican majority for two generations.
This majority will make it impossible for Obama to push through, without Congressional approval, legislation to pursue further social reforms, or the UN-backed climate change agenda which he has publicly supported, or to introduce new taxes.
A separate issue is the composition of the Senate, where the Democrats previously had a clear eight-seat margin.
The Republicans have now secured control of the chamber, thereby forcing Obama to deal with them, at least on some issues.
The Senate plays a highly significant role because new senior members of the Obama administration must be confirmed by the Senate, and the President is unable to overrule legislation if carried by more than 60 senators.
Further, the President requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate to negotiate international treaties. The practical effect of this is that any attempt by Obama to implement the UN’s climate change agenda is bound to fail.
For his part, Obama has repeatedly declared that if the Congress refuses to implement his legislative program, he will bypass Congress and use administrative measures, creating the possibility of a constitutional crisis between the legislature and the executive.