Can Obama and Republicans find a way to work together?

Can Obama and Republicans find a way to work together?
Current President of USA, Barack Obama, who had served the nation since 2009.

THE day after a Republican landslide tipped the balance of power in the United States Congress, leaders from the Grand Old Party (GOP) and Democratic Party sought to move away from the bitter partisanship that has so defined the Washington climate of the past two years.

If there's one thing President Barack Obama and presumptive Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell could agree on after Tuesday's mid-term elections, it is that American voters are fed up with gridlock.

The stalemate in Washington has been a source of concern as well for many around the world in recent years. They see a US president often distracted from foreign policy imperatives by domestic politics. The question now is thus: Can a Republican-controlled Congress and a Democratic president work together?

While there are many compelling reasons for both sides to finally learn to compromise, there is no shortage of evidence to fuel scepticism of some sort of new dawn on Capitol Hill.

The President, for instance, started the day by congratulating the Republicans and pledging to reach across the aisle. But he also made it clear that this was not a change triggered by the electoral rout his party faced. He said he had always been ready to work with the other side.

Then he announced plans to defend against possible Republican volleys against Obamacare - "Repeal of the law, I won't sign," he said.

On pre-emptive executive action on immigration before the new Congress is sworn in next year, he said: "Before the end of the year, we're going to take whatever lawful actions that I can take."

On the part of Republicans, Mr McConnell wasted no time in declaring their intention to go after the President's landmark health-care Act, starting with a full repeal - or if that fails, moving on to its slow dismantling.

Taken together, what you have is a Democratic president vowing to continue to pursue unilateral action on an issue of great annoyance to the Republicans, and a Republican Party vowing to use its increased legislative power to attack the centrepiece of the President's legacy.

Hardly an auspicious start to what is supposed to be a new era of reconciliation in Washington.

And even if one were to try to give both sides the benefit of the doubt - dismissing the initial reactions as a hangover from previous battles - obstacles remain to make it tough for even well-meaning leaders to get things done.

The first is a longstanding structural problem - there are just no more political moderates.

Political commentators today speak fondly of a time when there was significant variation within both parties. The Democratic Party used to control large swathes of the conservative South and it was not uncommon to have Republican representatives in what is deemed the liberal north-east region of the US. As the parties grew apart, the number of moderate lawmakers also started to dwindle. It became harder and harder to find a Democratic governor in a deeply conservative state or vice-versa.

Tuesday's mid-term elections found even more such politicians booted out of office. Democratic politicians in deeply red states like Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia were all soundly beaten and Senator Mary Landrieu is hanging on for her political life in Louisiana.

The Republican wave that swept the Senate featured no notable victory in a deeply Democratic state. The GOP won in swing states like Colorado and Iowa but the sweep came on the back of regaining seats in Republican states.

More about

Barack Obama
Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.