[Calgary Herald, Canada]



Gazeta, Russia

The Disconcerting Swings of America's Political Pendulum


"Barack Obama has collided with the other side of his incredible popularity: the depth of frustration is directly proportional to the scale of expectations. … the election result increases the volatility of American politics and promises new sharp turns - disappointment in 'simple' conservative prescriptions may come as fast as it did for Obama’s 'complicated' ones."


By Fyodor Lukyanov*



Translated By Yekaterina Blinova


November 3, 2010


Gazeta - Russia - Original Article (Russian)

The result of the 2010 midterm elections, which have been dubbed a political earthquake, was the quickest and most radical shift in American public sentiment since at least World War II. Only two years ago, Democrats won a crushing victory, and not just a quantitative  one (the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate), but also a qualitative one. Republicans were decimated morally - in 2009 commentators seriously wondered whether the “Grand Old Party” would ever recover from its defeat in the aftermath of the George W. Bush presidency.


But then the wind began blowing in the opposite direction. The voting on November 2nd brought Republicans the largest victory in the House of Representatives since 1948, although they fell short of winning a majority in Senate. Republican candidates won most of the gubernatorial races. The defeat of the president’s party during midterm elections is not at all unusual. American voters greatly dislike monopolies on power and are always trying - consciously or instinctively - to restore balance. This is why periods of complete domination of both branches of government by one party are more of an exception.


But what is surprising is the rapidity with which sympathies of citizens rushed in the opposite direction. According to the polls, on the eve of the election, 62 percent of Americans thought the county is headed in the wrong direction. This is a lower figure than at the end of Bush’s term (the figure than surpassed 80 percent), but for the current administration, such a statistic is nearly catastrophic.


Such a convincing defeat of Democrats wasn't expected even a few months ago, but the reasons are explainable. Barack Obama has collided with the other side of his incredible popularity: the depth of frustration is directly proportional to the scale of expectations. Two years ago, commentators unanimously warned that no politician is capable of satisfying the expectations that U.S. society attached to the ascension of its first non-White presidential nominee. But aside from the objective trap within which the man who promised to change America has found himself, there is also a personal factor. Even the lips of the most staunch Obama supporters are enunciating criticism of his failure to intelligibly explain to the nation what he's doing and why.


The qualities that helped Barack Obama win the 2008 campaign haven't been enough to successfully carry out the policies he stood for. He managed quite well to “fire up” the disgruntled, instilling in them hope for change. But to mobilize society in support of fundamental reforms, the details of which are hardly memorable, slogans alone are insufficient. For such a task requires either very accessible and patient explanations or a well-established emotional contact with the audience, the capacity to create the impression of empathy. These are powers possessed perfectly by Bill Clinton. Strangely enough, Obama has succeeded in neither.


Despite his evident eccentricity, which sets President Obama apart from traditional officialdom, he is an elitist. The public increasingly sees in him an intellectual with strange ideas who is removed from the people, not a person and doesn't embody their aspirations.


This “gap” between the establishment and the people greatly accelerated the decline in Obama's approval ratings. And since, under these conditions, Obama tried to take steps that touch on some of the central issues in American politics (for instance, reforming the health care system and refusing to double down on uncompromising U.S. dominance of world affairs), he became a target of criticism from all sides. In September, American cable channels never-endingly twisted an exchange at a meeting between the president and a group of supporters, during which one of participants told him in despair: “I'm exhausted of defending you.” [video below].



There is another aspect of the change: the sharp polarization of American society that began under Bush, has worsened under Obama. The country is at a crossroads in its development - economically, politically and socially. At the same time, different social groups have diametrically opposing ideas about what to do. The “Tea party” movement, which emerged at the start of the midterm campaign - is the flip side of the Obama phenomenon. Two years ago, people fatally disappointed in their leaders voted for a candidate that was different from the other Washington insiders - even visually. Now their sympathies have swung in the opposite direction toward every kind of radical conservative coalition, many of which hold differing views, and which are cemented exclusively by antipathy toward the status quo. And not just the Democratic one, but the Republican one as well. Experts note the growing role of so-called independent voters, meaning those who don't associate themselves with this or that party, but vote according to the situation, switching their support depending on the particular issue.


On the whole, this increases the volatility of American politics and promised new sharp turns - disappointment in “simple” conservative prescriptions may come as fast as it did for Obama’s “complicated” ones.


On the foreign policy front, positive changes are not to be expected. The "free hand" period for the administration is over. It will have to look to its opponents, who take a tough (and in the worst case, obstructionist) position on most issues. The list of people who will determine the foreign policy agenda in Congress gives a sense of the likely mood. Thus, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will be headed by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, famous for her well-known struggle against dictators and “communists” around the world, particularly in her native Cuba, but also in China and Russia. In the same category is the new “tea party” star, Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, who has been elected to the Senate.




Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Germany: Europe Baffled By Loss of 'Bloodless' Obama

Beijing Times, China: Elections Can't Cure America's 'Disease'
ABC, Spain: The Misguided Demonization of the 'Tea Party' Movement

Folha, Brazil: Obama: An American Anomaly?

Le Monde, France: Charting the Tortured Path of the Tea Party

Liberation, France: American 'Anti-Statists' Claim Midterm Victory

La Jornada, Mexico: A Dire Midterm Result for the U.S. and World

Le Figaro, France: Tea Party: An 'American Fever' that Will Quicky Pass

Wen Wei Po, Hong Kong: Blaming China Led Obama to Midterm Defeat

Le Temps, Switzerland: Obama Pays Big for Anemic Growth

News, Switzerland: Obama: Don't Bargain with Your 'Political Assassins'

La Jornada, Mexico: Obama 'Bit Off More than He Could Chew'

Le Temps, Switzerland: Cheap Advice for President Obama

Tageblatt, Luxembourg: Prepare for 'Tea Time' in America

El Pais, Spain: As U.S. Exposes its Divisions, China Powers Ahead

Global Times, China: The West is Forming an 'Axis of Evil Ideology'

Hispanidad, Spain: How Spain Can Build its Own Tea Party: Copy Palin

El Universal, Mexico: Immigration Reform: Obama's Ace in the Hole

Le Temps, Switzerland: America's 'Cry of Agony' Through the Tea Party

Izvestia, Russia: Evil Obama and China's Yuan: It's About the Midterms

Liberation, France: Christine O’Donnell at the 'Oral Stage'

Financial Times Deutschland, Germany: West Must Halt Slide Since 9-11

El Mercurio, Spain: The 'Neo-Nazi' Campaign Against President Obama

El Mundo, Spain: Beck and Palin Search for Mythical 'Paradise Lost'

Der Standard, Austria: In Despair Over Democracy - Both America's and Ours

National Post, Canada: U.S. Democracy Suffers 'Death By Talk-Show Host'

La Jornada, Mexico: Beck and the New U.S.-Right: 'Like a Horror Movie'

Iraq News Agency, Iraq: Sarah Palin: The 'Seductress' of the American Election


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Also to play a leading role in the upper house are Jon Kyl, who says he is inclined to ratify the New START treaty only if a whole list of additional conditions are met, Jim DeMint, a categorical opponent of New START, and John McCain, whose views on Moscow are well known. The likely majority leader in the House of Representatives is Eric Cantor - a well-known advocate of Israel and, accordingly, a representative of the most rigid wing in respect to countries that have ties to Iran, Syria, etc. A number of other figures in the Congressional leadership are associated with the traditional "power" line that adheres to the notion of non-negotiable American dominance.



Barack Obama will have to look for ways to work with his opponents. Republicans have returned under the banner of revising almost all that the president has done over the past two years. Many, however, recall the experience of 1995-1996, when the Republican Party, headed by the ideological leader of the “conservative revolution” Newt Gingrich, took control of both houses and entered into a major confrontation with Democratic President Bill Clinton. Then, the conservative push was so aggressive that in 1996, a confounded electorate ultimately voted to give Clinton a second term.


The situation today is similar, but there are significant differences. On one hand, it is unclear to what extend Obama is ready to work under these new conditions, which will require a greater degree of political mastery. Clinton, one of the most sophisticated politicians ever to hold the presidency, managed to cope with the situation. Not everyone sees such qualities in Obama. On the other hand, back then, Gingrich was the undisputed ideological and political leader of the Republicans, “empowered” to conduct policy in their name.


The composition of the new Republican majority has yet to consolidate itself ideologically, and then there is the unpredictable influence of the “tea party” enthusiasts. They will obviously continue to influence the socio-political atmosphere, but the nature of that influence is difficult to calculate, because the movement is extremely heterogeneous. Accordingly, House majority leaders will find it difficult to speak on behalf of the party as a whole. Be that as it may, it is already clear that the battle for the White House in 2012 will be a fierce and bitter one.


*Fyodor Lukyanov is Chief Editor for Russian in Global Affairs



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US November 8, 3:29pm]




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