News / USA

Obama Shifts To Political Center

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address, Jan 25 2011
President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address, Jan 25 2011

Political analysts say President Barack Obama continued his move to the political center Tuesday with his State of the Union Address to Congress.  But experts say the prospects for bipartisanship and cooperation between the president and opposition Republicans remain uncertain.

The annual State of the Union speech is always a combination of policy priorities and political theatre.  And this year’s speech had a twist with many lawmakers from both parties sitting together as a sign of solidarity in the wake of the recent shooting tragedy in Arizona in which six people were killed and several others wounded including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The national political climate seems to have cooled a bit since the Giffords shooting, and President Obama used the moment to make a fresh appeal for unity and cooperation.

“We will move forward together or not at all, for the challenges we face are bigger than party and bigger than politics," said President Obama.

New political reality in Washington

Mr. Obama is dealing with a new political reality in Washington that includes Republican control of the House of Representatives and a diminished Democratic majority in the Senate.

The singular Republican focus since last November’s election has been undoing the president’s health care law and shrinking the size of the federal government.

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan delivered the official Republican response to the president’s speech.

“We are at a moment where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century," said Congressman Ryan.

Tensions between Republicans and Tea Party

But in another odd twist, there was a second response from Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who spoke on behalf of Tea Party groups around the country.

“Because of you, Congress is responding and we are just beginning to start to undo the damage that has been done in the last few years," said Congresswoman Bachmann.

The Tea Party movement played a critical role in mobilizing voters in the November midterm election that led to Republican gains in Congress.  But tensions between Tea Party supporters and Republican congressional leaders could emerge down the line if Congress fails to enact the deep budget cuts that Tea Party supporters are demanding.

Political moderates saw signs of hope in the president’s State of the Union speech.  Republican political strategist Mark McKinnon is co-founder of a centrist group called No Labels that promotes bipartisan cooperation:

“We think that there is a real thaw in the political climate in Washington and we think that thaw will lead to greater discussion and ultimately solutions to the problems we are facing," said McKinnon.

McKinnon says political independents around the country seem to be backing President Obama again, in part because of bipartisan successes at the end of the last Congress and in part because of the restrained political mood in the wake of the shooting tragedy in Tucson, Arizona.

“There is no question that he is being rewarded for moving to the [political] middle," he said. "He has moved to the center much more quickly than [former President] Bill Clinton did at this time in his presidency.  It took Bill Clinton about six months to a year to pivot to the center and President Obama has done it in just a matter of a couple of months after the midterm elections.”

President Bill Clinton faced a similar political challenge when Democrats lost control of Congress to Republicans in 1994.  After a period of confrontation that included two government shutdowns, Mr. Clinton and congressional Republicans were able to find common ground on issues like trade and welfare reform.

Other analysts believe the tempered political rhetoric will be a short-term phenomenon.

John Fortier with the American Enterprise Institute expects both political parties to increasingly focus on the 2012 presidential election in the months to come.

“Some smaller opportunities for the two parties to work together, but also looking ahead to that election where we know things are going to pick up in terms of the politics of things, where things will be harder to get done, and the two parties will be looking to have great contrasts for that 2012 election," said Fortier.

Mr. Obama was at a low point in the polls shortly after last year’s midterm victories by Republicans.  But experts note how fast his poll numbers have rebounded in recent weeks, a lesson to both parties that in U.S. politics, change is often just around the corner.  

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More