QJPolitics: An Obama win

David Hadwen is QJBlogs’ Political Columnist. He’s a fourth-year history major with a specific interest in American Politics. Follow him on Twitter @David_Hadwen.

Tomorrow, the citizens of the US will vote to elect their president. Most predictions have Barack Obama winning the contest as he’s maintained his lead in the critical state of Ohio. The fight for Ohio has been exhaustive. Both campaigns have upped their spending there in recent weeks and both candidates are touring the state in hopes of inspiring undecided or unmotivated voters.

Recent sloganeering has been typical of the divisive campaign. Obama has scolded Romney for lying about a prominent automaker moving production to China, and Romney has responded by admonishing Obama for telling his supporters to cast their votes out of ‘revenge’.

It’s easy to get lost in the glitz and rhetoric of a presidential campaign. Indeed, this is the goal of the marketers and public relations people who craft advertising and ‘brand’ candidates in order to sway voters. However, it’s imperative that voters and outside observers step back and consider the policies advocated by the respective candidates and the political reality they will encounter in Washington.

With Obama considered likely to serve a second term as president, this begs the question: will he encounter the famed Republican obstructionism that held him back in his first term? In a word, yes. As it now stands, the Democrats will probably retain control of the Senate while the Republicans will maintain their majority in the House of Representatives. Put simply, this would leave Obama in a weaker position than he had at the beginning of his first term.

The next four years will be much like the past four. President Obama will continue to advocate for bi-partisanship in the political process and Republicans will oblige him reluctantly while demanding large concessions from his agenda. There are two issues that will inevitably become serious legislative efforts.

First, Obama will attempt to follow through on his promise to raise taxes for America’s biggest earners. This is an initiative with broad popular support; in some polls a majority of Republicans are in favour. Obama will also attempt to pass immigration reform. He has promised to pursue this issue since his 2008 campaign and there is some bipartisan support for reform in congress. Moreover, if Obama passes this legislation he will go a long way to firming up Latino allegiance to the Democratic Party, a critical voting bloc going forward.

Those who hoped that Barack Obama would be a transformative figure in American politics were sadly disappointed. Some on the left claim that Obama wasn’t aggressive enough in pursuing progressive legislation that has significant popular support and others claim he was hampered by Republican partisanship and was destined to get nowhere.

There’s some truth to both these claims, and the legacy of Obama’s entire presidency will produce similar disagreements. The possibility that his second term could see greater bipartisanship is a hopeful one for more moderate Americans. For those alienated from the entire process, of which there are many on the left and right, the next four years will sow still greater disappointment.

QJPolitics is a new column that’ll appear biweekly on Mondays. If you have a suggestion for a topic, email journal_blogs@ams.queensu.ca.

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