With the Democrats yielding control of the US Senate to the Republican Party, the long decline of Barack Obama’s presidency has well and truly begun. Mr Obama presided over losses in the Senate and key governor races just two years after he rallied a broad coalition to defeat challenger Mitt Romney in the 2012 elections.
While Mr Obama had some key successes in his first term such as tiding over the financial crisis, enacting controversial health care reform and killing Osama bin Laden, his popularity has significantly waned over the continuing poor outlook on the US economy and his handling of foreign policy issues like the rise of ISIS. The US economy has lately shown signs of recovery but jobs and wages have not surged enough to reverse the tide for the Democrats. Mr Obama’s perceived failure to strike to deals with Congress also added to his loss of authority. Few could have imagined such a precipitous decline for a brilliant, historic president.
The remaining two years of Mr Obama’s presidency may well see more extended battles with Republican-controlled Congress, even though they have solemnly committed to try and work together. There is plenty for both parties to fight about. The Republicans will control powerful senate committees and can shape judicial and political appointments. Discussions on issues like reducing the trade deficit and reforming health care will be fraught. It will take a lot of dexterity to avoid the gridlock that Washington has become famous for.
There will be impacts on India too. Republicans are favourably disposed to India in general owing to the close contact and cooperation seen during the George W Bush presidency. The US’s continuing mistrust of Pakistan and India’s promise as a market sustain bipartisan interest in India in Washington. But the GoP is particularly hardnosed on immigration reform while New Delhi has been seeking more access for Indian professionals in the US. The Republicans also back businesses arguing for freer trade. India’s positions on the WTO and intellectual property will thus remain priority agenda items for Washington. There is a new post-Bush Republican elite for the Indian authorities to deal with now.