The 2010 midterm elections were an obvious example that voters were not happy with the direction of the country and did not see the change in Washington that they envisioned two years earlier. Voters were still concerned about the unemployment rate, and they have now put Republicans into office in hopes that they will adequately deal with unemployment issues.
As a result of these elections, I expect three main things will happen.
First, Democrats will hone back in on pushing a message. The White House’s biggest problem has been a lack of communication with the American people. In President Barack Obama’s recent interview with Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes,” Obama admitted that his staff was focused too much on legislating and not enough on explaining themselves to the American people. Expect Democrats to be united and still try to push for a jobs bill and extend unemployment benefits.
Second, expect Republicans to block progress on anything and everything. In a press conference, Republicans told reporters that they want to push repeal of health care and start government investigations. They did not mention a jobs bill or any economic legislation. I do not think health care will be repealed while Obama is in office, and the Republican investigations will do nothing but muddy the waters and increase mudslinging in Washington.
When Democrats took over Congress when George W. Bush was president, Nancy Pelosi made sure to take impeachment investigations off the table. There was nothing on which to impeach Bush, and there is even less on which to impeach Obama, but Republicans will conduct investigations simply in hopes of ruining his public image.
Third, Obama will have to govern some with executive orders and other methods where he will not have to wait on the slow, drawn-out process of Congress.
In Obama’s “60 Minutes” interview, he reflected on his first two years: “What I didn’t effectively, I think, drive home, because we were in such a rush to get this stuff done, is that we were taking these steps not because of some theory that we wanted to expand government. It was because we had an emergency situation, and we wanted to make sure the economy didn’t go off a cliff. The last thing I would have liked to do as an incoming president is figure out how to save GM and Chrysler from bankruptcy. That wasn’t on my list of to-dos when I was running for office.”
Obama brings up a good point. He came into office amid one of the biggest debacles of our financial system in years. He also became the first commander-in-chief ever to inherit two wars when coming into office. For these reasons, we cannot pass judgement on his presidency yet.
Sure, he will have to change some of his methods with Republicans who are now stronger in Congress, but his legacy will be defined even more by what he does in the next two years. Expect to see Obama become more of a leader and communicator to the people than the legislator who often sounded like a law professor.
Republicans are signaling more gridlock, investigations and division as Obama urges them to work with him on several key issues facing the country. It is up to Republicans to allow this government to function, and they need to focus on providing solutions for this country, not just winning an election.
Alex Apple is a freshman political science and journalism double major from Nashville, Tenn.