To most of us in Britain the U.S. election next week is a strange occurrence. It dominates much of the news and is obviously important on a global level, but surely it won’t have a huge effect on our everyday lives? Furthermore Obama will almost certainly win, because who in their right mind (and even if said mind was dramatically to the Right) would vote for a man like Mitt Romney? It’s easy for us to think this way, because the issue is geographically removed and we struggle to relate it to our own politics, especially since Romney voters would be considered an extreme group in modern Britain. However, to do so risks over trivialising the issue. As depressing as it may be, we must realise that Romney stands a real chance and even if Obama wins, his second term is likely to differ from his first to a large extent. The dynamics of the American world of politics are to change, and like a pedestrian watching a potential car crash with sick fascination, we get to observe it first hand.
The Story So Far American
electoral politics is largely rhetoric and nothing shows this better than the pre-election debate system. The three discussions that have taken place over the last month have seen Obama and Romney shoot policy off in a manner akin to two small children with water guns. What’s important is not who uses the most water but who comes out at the end dripping less, or to abandon a stretched metaphor, looking more presidential. It was assumed that Obama, a well rehearsed thespian, would dominate the boards against the occasionally gaff prone Romney but in the first debate this didn’t quite come off. We call this ‘the Clegg effect’. A candidate who people assume will come across as awkward manages to overcome a more experienced opponent in a debate through surprising competence. It was never likely to last and the second two debates proved this. Obama upped his game and put on a show like the world’s media expected. This doesn’t mean that the election is his by any stretch, and Romney’s early victory has probably still had a positive effect on his campaign, but neither did it all fall apart for the incumbent as many of his supporters feared. The lack of a solid display of policy in the debates however, means establishing the shape of America’s future is a challenging prospect.
An Obama Continuation
How Obama would act, should he be successful in gaining a second term is perhaps easier to predict than trying to second guess America under Romney. The main thing to keep in mind is that, with the two term limit that America prescribes to its presidents, he will be concentrating on leaving a positive legacy over the next four years should he be re-elected. It would be a disservice to believe that, just because his place in history is secured by his initial achievement of the election, he will not want to leave his mark more obviously. He is after all, a politician. Obamacare is the obvious choice but to push this already divisive policy too far, especially given the economic climate, is a double edged sword. While it would cement his place in U.S. history easily, pushing too far would likely reduce the chances of his Democrat successor wining the White House in 2016. He would be faced with yet another challenging term in office with an economic climate that he can do little to alleviate, and an insurgency war he will struggle to win. A pessimistic outlook for sure but if the last four years have proved anything, it’s that Obama is not the messiah that unrealistic pundits predicted. Aside from a focus on legacy, a continuation of the Obama administration is likely to be broadly similar to what we’ve seen before. Further stimulus if required, combined with gradual social liberalisation in areas like gay rights and abortion while attempting to reduce troop presence in the Middle East, aiming for total withdrawal from Afghanistan. Obama is no longer selling change but expect a number of headline grabbing policies to secure his place in history.
A Romney Future
America under Romney may seem like the end of the world as we know it, but most guesses for his presidency are full of the kind of hyperbolic, apocalyptic predictions it are all too easy to throw at Republican candidate. While the opaque business background, the shady religious beliefs and the ‘binders full of women’ easily spin Romney as the Iago of the situation, the number of commentators who have noted the difference between the Romney of past offices and the Romney of the current campaign suggests he might not be as extreme a change as we have all been led to believe. This said there are obviously still plenty of aspects of Romney’s policy armoury which will terrify the grounded liberals amongst us. He may have spent the vast majority of the first debate denying that he would decrease taxes on the rich, this is almost certainly what he will do, although of course it will be spun to appear as a plan to revitalise the economy in favour of middle class America, a part of society which has never really existed. Furthermore he has committed to an extra $100 billion dollars to military spending; piling money into a war he fails to understand even the basic geography of, never mind the politics, society or culture. The main change to expect is, of course, the repeal of Obamacare, the healthcare bill that has polarised the nation. Despite the fact that Romney himself signed the health bill in Massachusetts on which Obama’s plan was modelled, his most prominent promise to the electorate and his donors has been its repeal. His opinions on other social issues, such as gay rights and abortion have also been notably unclear, if not worrying. The easiest option would be for him not to intervene, allowing the states to decide for themselves and although he may talk of resistance, Romney is nowhere near as socially right wing as many of his Republican counterparts, thankfully. The vast majority of the readers of the Leeds Student will be praying that Obama’s charisma proves enough to overcome the appeal that Romney holds to much of the American electorate. After the success of Obama’s election four years ago, although the idealised future may not have become a reality, Obama’s chance at recovering America may not be over just quite yet. Either way the next four years for America are going to be one of struggle, change and hopefully, Big Bird.