Global politics are still American. It is not even necessary for a presidential election to occur for half of the world’s attention to fixate on the operation of the polls in the United States. We know how they will determine the international actions of President Obama, the head of what it is and will remain the primary superpower for a long time, but we are also paying attention to the decisions that set trends in the world, such as the popular state initiative to legalize marijuana, defeated tonight in California.
If Washington leads the world, North American society is the mirror in which we see ourselves and discern future horizons. Little happens with the new emerging powers, in many cases organized around secrecy and arbitrariness. The United States, by contrast, provides an exceptional show of transparency and stability, so that at this time we already know almost everything about the new distribution of power that will further tie the hands of Obama, as well as the reasons that mobilized the conservatives to go to the polls and demobilized the progressives, who easily won the last presidential election.
The terrible performance of the economy, and more specifically Obama’s inability to create jobs, is the main cause of last night’s Democratic electoral defeat; something common and predictable in a democracy. This crisis will be ahead of many governments and leaders: no less the Democratic Party. It happens in all crises, but it will happen even more in this one, because it is a crisis of epochal change and model, one that coincides with the displacement of economic and political power in the world.
However, in the North American case, contrary to what happens in Europe, the crisis enervates the anti-government feelings of the citizens. Instead of focusing their fears on the preservation of social rights, which happens with the Europeans, they fear that Washington is taking advantage of the situation to increase the size of the state, the taxes, and the government intervention in the economy. They like neither sickness nor medicine.
Every North American Election Day breaks some record. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives, 60 seats according to the latest polls, is the highest since 1948, coinciding with the beginning of the Cold War. The accumulated expenses in the group of election campaigns are also probably the greatest in history. Without precise details at hand, it is conceivable that no U.S. midterm election, in other words, without the presidential figure being at stake, was followed with more attention all over the world. The expectations raised by Obama’s presidency have been so high that they necessarily continue to attract and captivate an election that will tone down his ability to act and influence.
In some parts of the world, like the Middle East, the balance of power between Congress and the White House is observed with the same or even more attention than the ups and downs of global politics. The peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have been paralyzed due to disagreements between negotiators over the Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory, but above all due to the new direction that Obama will take starting today, once he takes the measure of the new distribution of parliamentary power.
If global politics are still American, local politics are also determined in many places in the world by what happens in Washington. The United States is no longer the only superpower, capable of dictating global trends by itself, but the majority of the world does not have another context in which to find the signals that orient us: Other powers only emit signals for themselves or emit unclear signals or do not even allow us to peer into their decisions.
Hence the fascination that American democracy arouses, and its exceptional ability to harmonize and balance victories and defeats; fortunately, this has still not been overcome by the new fascinations that the impenetrable decisions of Beijing or Moscow raise.