07 November 2012

The US Election: 6 things we learned

I happened to be in Washington DC on election day (we are holding a Washington IDS Alumni meeting this evening).

Here are 6 things I learned:

1.  The Republican Party need a massive change in strategy to remain competitive. Republicans have now lost 5 of the last 6 popular votes.  In 1988 George Bush senior won 60% of the white vote and won over 400 electoral votes 270 is the target).  Last night Mitt Romney won 60% of the white vote but only scraped over 200 electoral votes.  This is because whites now only constitute 72% of the electorate.  The Republicans have to figure out how to become a national party--a party that appeals to all groups.

2.  This is no status quo election.  One of the commentators said a theme of the election is "I spent $6 billion and all I got was the status quo".  The election did cost a staggering $6 billion, but this is not status quo. Yes, there is no change in control of the Presidency, Senate and House.  But much like in Bill Clinton's second term, the Republicans and Democrats now have to make an effort to reach across the aisle to get things done for America. 

3.  Obama's big signature policies are now very unlikely to be turned back in 2016.  Affordable health care will now take root.  No new wars are on the horizon.  The deficit will not just be reduced through cuts--there will be some tax increases for those who can afford more.

4.  This was a disaster for the Tea Party. Their extreme Senate candidates got beaten in states where they should have been competitive.  In all the CNN, MSNBC and Fox coverage I caught there was no sign of Tea Party members.  No Michelle Bachmann, no Sarah Palin, no Amy Kremer.

5.  Mitt Romney was a weak candidate.  President Obama was a sitting duck.  High unemployment, a net 14 percent of the electorate thinking the country was heading in the wrong direction, healthcare that still has a net negative favourability rating.  And yet this was a decisive result for the President.  In the end, Romney was wooden, had shifting positions on everything, and just came across as fake.  Governor Chris Christie would have wiped the floor with the President.

6. Obama's victory is good for international development.  IDS' US development partners I talked to in the past few days were very anxious about a Romney victory.  President Obama is seen as an internationalist, a multilateralist, someone who understand the need to engage, someone who is serious about rights and who understands soft power.  And in the wake of "Superstorm" Sandy, some also have hopes for some much needed US leadership on climate change in Obama's second term.


Jeneral28 said...

I think Obama's view of development is no different from Bush II's second term: He still kept the MCC and the basic US development structure. On other issues such as Climate Change or aid volumes, now that's a different matter. But US aid rose during the Bush years; why would it not during Romney?

Lawrence Haddad said...

Jeneral28--you are right, US ODA doubled between 2000 and 2010 (although was banned for some activities), second only to UK, but my point was more about people wanting to work with the US under Obama in other areas, climate, trade, peace. financial flows, energy etc. Here I think the aura created by Obama, while not always delivered on, creates the space for some creative cooperation to happen