News / USA

    US Political Forecast: More Gridlock

    President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and transportation at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington, July 1, 2014.
    President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and transportation at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington, July 1, 2014.

    Americans are off to the beach, the mountains and even local rooftops to celebrate our 238th birthday. But when it comes to our current political landscape, it’s hard to find much to celebrate.

    Washington remains mired in political gridlock and the outlook for the remainder of the Obama presidency is far from rosy. The latest poll numbers for President Barack Obama no doubt depress even his most loyal Democratic supporters.  In the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, only 40 percent approve of his performance. Quinnipiac also asked more than 1,400 voters nationwide who has been the worst president since World War II and, unfortunately for the White House, Obama was at the top (or bottom, depending how you look at it) of the list.

    Thirty-three percent of those surveyed said Obama was the worst president in this period, followed by former President George W. Bush at 28 percent and former President Richard Nixon with 13 percent. If you are old enough to have lived through the Watergate period of the 1970s, it’s kind of amazing to see that voters today place not one but two presidents below him on the ratings scale.  Of course, it’s always wise to remember what pollsters say, that these surveys are nothing more than a snapshot in time often prone to wild swings as the years go by. Bush surely hopes that is the case. Obama may be having some similar thoughts as well.

    So who do people rate as the best presidents post-World War II? The Quinnipiac survey found former President Ronald Reagan in the top spot with 35 percent, followed by former President Bill Clinton at 18 percent and former President John Kennedy at 15 percent. Clinton in particular remains an amazing political phenomenon, a proverbial cat with nine lives who rivals Lazarus with his ability to rise from the political dead.

    Clinton left office in early 2001, but he remains a potent force on the U.S. political scene today and could be an enormous help if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decides to run for president in 2016. Remember, Clinton came out of nowhere to win the 1992 Democratic Party nomination, beating an incumbent president (George H.W. Bush) who had led the country to a decisive military victory in the first Gulf War. Clinton then survived the Republican Revolution of 1994 to bounce back and win re-election in 1996. 

    Most amazing of all was that Clinton’s popularity actually grew once he left office despite the fact he was only the second U.S. president impeached by Congress – later acquitted by the Senate.

    Hardening positions and tough rhetoric

    The political clashes of the 1990s between the likes of Bill Clinton and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich are starting to look like the good old days compared to what is happening now. Obama is increasingly frustrated with Republicans efforts to either block his agenda in Congress or not act on it, with immigration reform being the latest example. House Speaker John Boehner says Republicans intend to sue the president, and though the specifics aren’t clear yet, the thrust appears to be an effort to stop the president from acting unilaterally through executive orders.

    Obama has been highlighting the differences in recent speeches. He told a crowd in Minneapolis that Republicans "aren’t doing anything and then they are mad that I am doing something." The president seems intent on taking some action on the immigration front, especially in light of the situation on the southern border and the influx of tens of thousands of young illegal immigrants, many from Central America. Obama seemed to dare Republican congressional leaders to try and stop him during a recent speech in Washington with a simple challenge: “So sue me.”

    Republicans will no doubt use this tougher rhetoric as fodder to drive conservatives to the polls this November for the midterm congressional elections.  Conservative talk show hosts and some activists have long driven a narrative that the Obama administration’s unilateral actions fit nicely into the category of “an imperial presidency”, a possible clarion call to Tea Party supporters and Obama critics to turn out in big numbers in November.

    Focus on the Midterms

    Given that the chances for agreement on substantial legislation in Congress are now fleeting, both sides are ramping up their arguments for midterm voters.  Democrats start with a huge disadvantage.  A lot of their folks are much less inclined to turn out in midterm congressional elections than they are for a presidential contest. 

    Obama and other Democrats are now heavily focused on encouraging core Democratic supporters, especially what they like to call the “rising electorate”, to get off their rumps and out to the polls in November.  That rising electorate includes younger voters, especially unmarried women, as well as Hispanic and Asian-American voters.  In fact, many Democrats see motivating younger unmarried women as the key to boosting turnout enough that it could save their majority in the U.S. Senate.

    There is general consensus among political analysts and pundit-types that Republicans appear to have a big advantage in holding on to their majority in the House of Representatives. In fact, by some estimates, they could add seats. The real battle is for control of the Senate, where 36 of the 100 seats are at stake. Republicans need to gain six Democratic seats to reclaim a majority.  That would normally be a tall order in any election year but this year there are far more Democratic seats at stake than Republican, and many of the Democratic seats are in states where Republicans have an advantage. 

    Most analysts right now give the Republicans an excellent chance of winning the six seats they need.  It may be close in the end, but most of the experts say that Democratic control of the Senate is now teetering on a knife’s edge.

    Foreign policy impact

    One of the main drivers of Obama’s weakening approval numbers is declining support for his handling of foreign policy. A couple of recent polls have it down to only 37 percent, undoubtedly due in part to what has been taking place in Iraq, Ukraine and Afghanistan. The latest Quinnipiac poll found that 57 percent of those asked disapproved of the president’s handling of Iraq. But in the same poll, 51 percent also blamed George W. Bush more than Obama for the current situation in Iraq and 61 percent now say it was wrong for the U.S. to have invaded back in 2003. As to further U.S. involvement in Iraq, Americans say it is not in the national interest by a margin of 56 to 39 percent.

    Obama gets better marks on his handling of Afghanistan.  Forty-six percent say the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is “about right”, 26 percent say it is too fast and 20 percent say it’s not fast enough.

    Foreign policy had been one of the president’s strengths and one of the reasons he won re-election two years ago. But now poor presidential approval ratings on both foreign policy and the economy could hurt Democrats at the polls this November. 

    Analysts have long pointed out that there is usually a connection between presidential approval ratings and the fate of the president’s party in midterm elections. Right now, things are not looking good for the president or for Democrats in November, and time is running out to try to alter the political landscape.


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: meanbill from: USA
    July 04, 2014 11:14 AM
    POLITICAL GRIDLOCK means democracy is working, doesn't it?..... You don't have political gridlock in communist countries, Socialist countries, Dictatorships, or Monarchies, do you?.... Just call it Democracy at work, where all side get to voice their opinions, and their vocal opinions mean something, doesn't it?
    In Response

    by: Faubet from: France
    July 04, 2014 5:18 PM
    Hi there,
    Hopefully gridlocks exists even in socialist countries like France, Germany,Italy when they have a socialist govt, as well as in Monarchies like UK,Spain,Denmark or Belgium.
    You cannot compareSocialist countries or Monarchies to Dictatorships or communist countries

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora