Like it or not, the politics of the United States has international repercussions. The elections in less than two weeks for the House of Representatives and half of the Senate are extremely important and will set the tone for the final stage of Barack Obama´s presidency, as well as the race to see who will occupy the White House from 2017 onward.
Obama has serious popularity problems among citizens and his party members; many Democratic candidates have avoided having the president participate in their electoral events during the final stretch of their campaign that ends on Nov. 4 because they fear he will be more of a liability than an aid. Even though times have changed and the presidential figure no longer always enjoys universal respect, it is rare — as happened several days ago — that a large number of assistants at a meeting with Obama abandoned their seats when the president began to speak. Another sign of disenchantment: A survey by the influential journalism organization Politico indicates that even former President George W. Bush is considered to have been more efficient than Obama in terms of managing the federal government´s core responsibilities.
The president is running out of charisma; he suffers from accusations — by his opposition and sometimes his own ranks — that he lacks political initiative. He is criticized for his handling of the international crisis, and the perception of the current economic climate does not help his image either: He dealt adeptly with the worst of the crisis, and recovery numbers are in large part positive, but many citizens still have not noticed an increase in their purchasing power.
The design that the founders of the United States applied to the government´s balance of power and its reflection in popular understanding have made it relatively common for a president to govern with Congress dominated by his opposition. The performance of this legislative machine depends on negotiation, which has been hampered in the Obama administration. The extreme polarization, to which the Republican Party, kidnapped by its radical wing, has decidedly contributed, has carried the deadlock into some vitally important issues.
Republicans, who already control the House of Representatives, now have the Senate within reach. If they succeed, there will be repercussions in legislative, judicial and budgetary initiatives, and of course, in foreign policy. And it is likely that the impasse will worsen, impacting both national and international affairs during the two years that remain for Obama in the White House.