YELLOW CARD FOR OBAMA
Barrack Obama and Jonathan
Americans on Tuesday sent a clear message to President Barrack Obama to change his stance over certain economic policies with a crushing defeat for his Democratic Party by opposition Republican Party.
The United States of America run a bicameral legislature with the lower House having 435 seats and 100 seats in the senate.
All the seats in the House of Representatives were up for grabs while only 37 seats in the upper house were in contention in the election. The governorship seats of 37 of the 50 states as well as all but four state legislatures were also in contention in the election.
According to John Boehner, the in-coming Speaker of the House of Representatives, the rejection of Obama's Democratic Party in the 2010 midterm election is a clear message to the President: 'The American people have sent a message to Obama – change course'
Perhaps the handwriting has been on the wall for Obama and his Democratic party men for a while. An exit poll conducted by the authoritative ABC before the election had suggested that 88 percent of Americans believed the national economy was in bad shape and nearly as many said the same just before Obama was elected. The findings also indicated that 73 per cent described themselves as dissatisfied or even angry, 26 per cent about the way the federal government was working, compared with 69 per cent in 1994, when the Republicans seized the House.
Prior to the election, the major issues that dominated the American political landscape were the issue of economy, healthcare and budget deficit. They eventually played key roles in the outcome of the election.
Voters were driven by worries about the economy, anxiety about rising unemployment numbers and a general fear that the nation won't pull itself out of the hole anytime soon. The economic crisis, which has led to high amounts of mortgage foreclosures and high unemployment rates, meant that the American people spoke and expressed their unease.
Apart from the general discontent over the management of the economy, the Democrats also had to contend with the emergence of a new political movement called the 'Tea Party', a radical group in the Republican Party that sees nothing good in the policies of the Obama administration. It never made secret its disdain for the policies of Obama. It rankles the Democrats to no end with its conservative anti-tax policy.
The Tea Party, powered by 2008 Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Paulin, gave the ruling Democrats all manners of trouble at the polls as it drew a lot of voters with its populist arguments.
With many Americans unhappy with the Democrats, it was therefore unsurprising that the Democrats took a tumble at the polls that was seen more as a referendum on the performance of President Obama.
Before the election, Democrats had 58 seats in the senate against 40 for Republicans with two independent candidates. In the 435 seat lower House; the democrats had 256 seats while Republicans had 178 seats and one seat still vacant.
After the election, the Republicans hijacked the lower House with 239 seats leaving the Democrats with just 183 seats. In the senate, the Democrats have 51 seats to Republicans 46.
With the result, the Republicans have gained at least 60 seats, which is even more than in the midterm elections of 1994.
The Democrats just about held on to the Senate although they lost six seats, some to the Tea Party. However, Obama's Democrats narrowly retained control of the Senate, despite losing six seats, including some to candidates backed by the Tea Party. Compounding the misery for Obama's Democrats, a Republican candidate captured the president's old Senate seat in Illinois. Beside, Illinois, Republicans also took Senate seats from Democrats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arkansas, North Dakota and Indiana. In Arkansas, John Boozman defeated incumbent Blanche Lincoln in a historic reverse for the Democrats. Rand Paul, a favourite with the anti-establishment 'Tea Party', held Kentucky for the Republicans.
John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, looks set to become House speaker, replacing Nancy Pelosi – and has vowed to make Obama change course. Interestingly, the Tea Party turned their potential into power. Its candidates won House and Senate seats and the South Carolina governorship. Backed by former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement had managed to replace establishment Republican candidates with their candidates in some areas. Marco Rubio, 'Tea Party' favourite beat not only his Democrat rival to Florida's Senate seat, but also former Republican star, Governor Charlie Crist. Harry Reid, the veteran Democrat and Senate Majority leader, however held off his 'Tea Party' challenger, giving his party something to cheer.
Other good news for the Democrats came in from West Virginia, where Joe Manchin won a Senate seat for the party, and Connecticut, where Richard Blumenthal also won a seat, beating Linda McMahon, a former World Wrestling Entertainment chief executive. The seismic shift witnessed in the Congressional race was just as pronounced at the state level, with Republican gubernatorial candidates sweeping into office in at least eight states that had previously been in the Democrats' column, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Mexico. Only California defied the trend, denying Republican candidate and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman in her bid to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor.
John Kasich defeated Ted Strickland in Ohio, thus handing the Republicans control of a state considered crucial to the 2012 presidential election. It was not however all reverses for the Democrats, they made in-roads in some areas. In California, Democrat Jerry Brown defeated Republican Meg Whitman. In New York, Democrat Andrew Cuomo won the office his father held in the 1980s and early 1990s.
In the US, the party that controls the state legislature and holds the governor's office has influence over the redrawing of the Congressional district map for the next 10 years.
Boehner who won the House seat for his Republican Party was less celebratory in his election speech.
He said, 'This is not a time for celebration,' he somberly warned. 'This is a time to roll up our sleeves and go to work.' He called the election results 'a repudiation of Washington, a repudiation of big government and a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the people.'
The immediate implication of the result is that Barrack Obama's presidency will be severely impaired, as the Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives, which means that passing any legislation will henceforth be very difficult. Obama will now have an even tougher time advancing his agenda than he had during his first two years in office. While Republicans regained control of the House, the party's majority is not big enough to constitute a clear policy mandate. Analysts believe the Republicans and Democrats now face a choice of either finding areas of compromise, or sticking with the stalemate that has made voters unhappy with Washington.
BBC North America editor, Mark Mardell, sees the results as ' a stinging setback for a president who was elected with so much hope and so much exuberance'. He noted that the result places Obama in a difficult position. 'While there will be much talk of compromise and reaching deals, many Tea Party supporters' explicit aim is to block and undo Obama's agenda. Alex Slater, a British analyst, however points at the history of America's political history, insisting that the president's party usually loses seats in the House and Senate in the first midterm election.
To him the result is not a great surprise, adding that the result is not 'dissimilar to those of nearly every president's party that has lost seats during the midterms, including President Bill Clinton's'. Close watchers of American political history insist that Tuesday's event is not politically abnormal. In fact, record shows that most of the time in modern political history of US, the same party has not typically controlled the executive branch and the two chambers of Congress. In fact, only 10 times since 1945 had both chambers of Congress and the Presidency been controlled by the same party.
In the last 30 years or so, power has shifted three times in Capitol Hill due to huge losses suffered by the ruling party – twice under the Republicans and once under the Democrats. Analysts believe that although the democrats suffered reverses in the election, it might not necessarily indicate that Obama's Presidency might not be renewed in 2012. The reason is simple. Many of the flagship races that the Republicans targeted as highest priorities ahead of the 2012 presidential election were held firmly by Democrats.
The best example is the Republican inability to dislodge Senate majority leader, Harry Reid in Nevada, whose predicted defeat was supposed to be the flagship of the Republican sweep and to position the Republicans for a return to the White House in 2012. According to Manu Raju, a political reporter for 'Politico', 'The National Republican senatorial committee has all along made Nevada a top target in this election.' It was so important to them that they poured $5.2m into the attempt to defeat Reid. All they got out of it is a defeat.
Except in Ohio, the Republicans were also not able to win California, Washington, Nevada, Delaware and Colorado. The entry of the Tea Party movement into the equation is another issue that can create distortion in the race. Although the Tea Party still identifies with the Republican Party, it differs sharply over how to handle the outcome of the midterm polls as well as what should be the relationship with the Democrats. While the Tea Partiers want the Republicans to stop Obama's policies, the Republicans are calling for collaboration and cooperation to get the best for Americans.
The real effect of the emergence of the Tea Party was mixed. While the Tea Party may be credited for generally increasing energy and turnout for Republicans, it's clearly time for recriminations in the Republican Party about their ultimate effect. Already, Republican Party leaders were bracing themselves for an internal battle - not just over Tea Party-precipitated losses, but more importantly, over the implications of Tea Party wins.
Scribe of Yoruba Socio-cultural organization, Afenifere, Sen. Femi Okunrounmu, while reacting to the outcome of the American midterm election, expressed deep sadness over what he called the 'docility of Nigerians even in the face of non-performance by their leaders. Apart from the issue of rigging, Nigerians are still to get to the level of saying a firm no to their leaders the way the Americans did to some policies of their Federal Government.
The ruling PDP government in Nigeria has failed several times in delivering in many promises, yet we still see some Nigerians running after them. I will want a case where we emulate the approach of the Americans in calling their non-performing leaders to order.'