It was a privilege to be right in the thick of it at Fox last night – on so many levels I’m an outsider and it was fascinating to watch and commentate on how the Mid-term process unfolded.
It is far too soon to be writing obituaries on Obama’s administration – anyone who did that to Reagan in 1982 and Clinton in 1994 was proven very wrong. History will be kinder to the first two years of Obama’s Presidency than the Electorate. History loves lists and Obama’s legislative achievements have not been seen since the Johnson era.
Last night made me recollect my first American History supervision at Cambridge University. Mid-terms, my eminent Professor proclaimed, were a kind of a ritual thrashing for Presidents, who invariably lost Congress to an extent. Most Presidents, he went on, also arrived in office with some sweeping talk about changing the Domestic agenda – but then switched their focus to foreign policy when facing gridlock back home. (Remember Reagan and the Russians etc.).
In textbook style, Obama is off to India on Saturday for a ten day tour of Asia. Make no mistake, Obama’s standing in the world is still impressive. He is more popular in Europe than most of the continent’s own leaders. Under Obama, internationally the US has reclaimed much of its moral authority, which was gravely weakened under Bush with “shock and awe” and the global financial crisis.
Two things have really stood out for me this week. The first is the Stewart/Colbert rally last weekend – 215,000 people turned up to be moderate. And in a recent poll, 80% of voters wanted Republicans and Democrats to work together and compromise in the event of the GOP taking control of one or both chambers.
The Republicans did well at galavanising their support base to get out and vote last night, but they should be wary. I believe that Congress has now swung further to the right than the US as a whole. The Politician and the Party who reclaims the middle ground will be the winners in 2012. If the GOP gets too belligerent, if Obama can look reasonable and blame gridlock on them a la Truman, he will come out ahead and win his second term.
Can Obama compromise? I think he’s already making noises – we saw it in the New York Times interview he gave a few weeks ago. And ask yourself this: who will be more willing to compromise and have a solution even if it’s non-purist – a Palin or Obama? The problem for the Republicans is they don’t have a moderate leader to emerge from the centre. Until they get one, Obama remains in control and victory in 2012 will be his…
… Unless a credible independent such as Bloomberg runs. Then it all gets very interesting.
A debate for another day!