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El País, Spain

The US Encounters a
Period of Great Decisions


By Antonio Caño

Translated By Krystal Miller

7 November 2012

Edited by Gillian Palmer


Spain - El País - Original Article (Spanish)

The winner, Barack Obama, finds himself with a very politically polarized country with enormous challenges — more so international than domestic — for retaining his influential role as a first-world power.

The electoral campaign has shown, at those moments, a strong rivalry that the two large parties face head-on, in addition to also revealing that they are much more ideologically distanced than in other moments in history. Both parties, especially the Republican Party, have alienated themselves from the center; they have become the traditional political battle of a dispute among both state models. The winner is with a part of Congress that isn’t just hostile, but ready to stop what will be considered as an assault of the core values of this nation.

Obama will have a House of Representatives dominated, once again, by the Republicans. The tea party, as such, has lost its influence within the last few months. However, the opposition is dominated by conservatives committed to the reduction of taxes and the shrinking of social welfare.

The Democratic Party will continue to control the senate. Any intent of the Republican Party to reform the structure of the state by reducing the debt and deficit — an essential task, before or after, one way or another — is going to find itself at the forefront of opposition from those who see that as an attempt to eliminate the network of social protection.

This situation could drive the U.S. into a dangerous stagnation at a moment in which more dynamism is required. The universal predominance of this country, although not discussed for the short term, is more threatened than ever. The emergence of China, India and other large developing nations is already creating an embryo of a new international order. The economic problems and European identity deprive Washington of a basic alliance for exercising its international supremacy. The indifference toward Latin America diminishes the potential growth of the North American population and its field of political influence.

All of this coincides with outstanding challenges that the U.S. president will have to encounter immediately — the first of those being Iran. The dossier on this country’s nuclear program and the way it can be prevented has been waiting on the table of the Oval Office throughout the campaign months. However, it is doubtful that it can wait any longer. Israel is impatient, Iranian society has become poorer with sanctions and everything is needed to move this chip as soon as possible.

Syria can’t wait much longer, either. The opposition of the country’s greatest hopes for change were centered, paradoxically, on Romney. Obama hasn’t created false illusions in this campaign in regard to an intervention for avoiding the killing. It is hopeful that the outward knowledge of his first term will continue.

Aside from the electoral emergencies, the U.S. is, in brief, where it was before the campaign: in a renovation phase in the midst of a very difficult environment. Despite the fact that the economic situation is improving, developing and creating jobs at an enviable rhythm in Europe, it still isn’t enough for following the footsteps of the emerging powers, much less covering the huge structural holes in the country.

If the president crosses the threshold on January 20, he will have to admit that he cannot continue spending more than what he can take in, at the cost of a growing debt that, although not yet punishing the financial reputation of the United States, will increase its dependence on other nations and weaken the U.S. itself.

Difficult decisions, like the growth of taxes, the reduction of the military budget or the reconstruction of the most expensive social programs, will be on the agenda of the next president. Any of these enterprises, which are already difficult, at times, for both parties to come to a mutual agreement on, can become impossible if the present polarization cannot be overcome.



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