I have just returned from the United States and confess to some bafflement as to the American electorate’s long term intentions.
President Obama remains personally popular but satisfaction with his performance in office has fallen to levels that suggest his party will lose control of at least one house of Congress in the Mid Term elections next month.
The Tea Party movement has energised the base of the Republican party and is gathering support among Independent and some Democratic voters. The central concern of members of the Tea Party is the growing Federal debt. In a way that Europeans do not, Americans take their country’s debt personally.
Many of those who voted for President Obama last time may not come out to vote, while more of those who voted against him will. This will tip the balance in favour of Republicans, who will certainly gain a majority in the House of Representatives, and possibly even the Senate. There will certainly not be enough Democrats in the Senate to overturn a filibuster. This will mean that ,in effect, President Obama will be unable to get legislation through either house. But the President will still have a veto on any laws the Congress passes, and it is unlikely that Republicans would then be able to marshall enough votes to overturn a veto.
The potential net effect of all this is a complete deadlock, with neither side able to pass anything. The Republicans will exhaust a lot of energy trying to repeal Obama’s health plan. They will not succeed, but they may prevent it becoming fully effective. Meanwhile health costs in America, which already spends 18% of it entire income on health, will continue to spiral. Al Qaeda will never bring America to its knees, but health costs will do so, unless something changes very soon.
It would be really bad for the world if the US legislative process were to become gridlocked for the next two years.
If this is not to happen, President Obama will have to look for Republican ideas he can agree with. One such might be a reform of the legal system to limit damages awards for medical errors. This could dramatically cut healthcare costs and could be a part of a compromise with Republicans to preserve the essentials of the Obama healthcare reform.