As a result of his severe defeat in the midterm elections, the president is forced to coexist with his adversaries and is given the cold shoulder by those in his own camp.
There are just about 730 days before the U.S. presidential elections. This is an eternity when you have lost most of your leverage in government, when the majority in the two legislative chambers belongs to the opposition and when the party that got you elected has abandoned you and is looking in adulation at Hillary Clinton — the one who aspires to take your place. Briefly put, Barack Obama has virtually lost his power and touch.
If you need convincing, you just have to look at what has been happening during the last two months, while Democratic candidates in the Senate or House of Representatives were campaigning to be elected or reelected. Very few of them wanted Barack Obama to come and support them. In much the same way, he was only invited to about 30 meetings in the states where Democrats were, in theory, not at risk of losing very much.
At the same time, Hillary Clinton was required to be in those states where the vote promised to be tight — states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida and North Carolina. In doing so, she made 42 appearances. Her husband, Bill, the veritable rock star of the Democratic Party, made even more. He presided over 53 meetings in 54 days.
From a French point of view, this disaffection for Obama seems almost unfair. Certainly, he has been a feeble and indecisive president, particularly with regard to foreign policy. His attempt to halt Putin in the Ukrainian crisis wasn't great, nor was his response to Bashar Assad when he used chemical weapons against his own people, and his attempt to prevent the jihadist Islamic State from becoming a threat to stable countries in the region was even worse. Even if he did decide to send reinforcements to the 1,500 men who make up the "military advisers" in Iraq at the end of the week, it seems a little late to become aware of this danger.
On the other hand, as opposed to many countries and particularly those in Europe, the United States has re-embarked upon an economic plan. A stock exchange which is faring better and an unemployment rate which is constantly dropping are increasingly significant developments. America is giving the sense that it has got itself going again quite swiftly.
However, all the newspapers across the pond are highlighting that the main reason for the Republican victory is because the Americans don't feel as if their country is on a roll, as it was under Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton. The average income is no longer increasing, or at least by very little. Rather, the wealthy are the ones who have profited from the economic recovery. For the middle class, not to mention those left behind, such pessimism for the future is appropriate and with it, the American dream has disappeared — two-thirds of voters believe their children won't live as well as they do. According to an exit poll, 45 percent of voters cited the economy as the main issue that guided their choice; this came even before immigration, health reform, gun control or foreign policy, which accounted for only 13 percent of voters' decision.
Obama's problem is that in the two years of his presidency that remain, there is little chance that he will be able to give his fellow citizens the optimism that he was unable to inspire in them when he was in complete control. In fact, he will now have to work alongside a hostile Congress: a Congress that will present laws to him, which he will be tempted to veto, a right accorded to him by the Constitution. Let's just say that America is in danger of treading water until November 2016.
That is unless Republicans figure out that pressing pause on the nation for two years would be the best gift they could give to Hillary Clinton. It is doubtful that the voters' rejection of Barack Obama is a rally behind a Republican camp that is not completely rid of the populist excesses demonstrated by members of the Tea Party movement. For the new majority, agreeing to cooperate with the White House could prove to be tactically clever. This is the only chance Obama has to finish his term in office in a better state than expected.