What will Barack Obama’s final two years in the White House be like? After the midterm elections, which allowed the Republicans to achieve a crushing victory, many wanted to see the Democrat from Chicago become a drifting, useless president condemned to making up the numbers. However, as fate would have it, Obama has just reasserted his authority both domestically and on the international scene, proving that he is nowhere near sacrificing his political vision on Washington’s altar of small calculations. In Beijing, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, he showed just how pertinent his swing policy toward Asia was, astutely maneuvering his American pawns into concluding an ambitious Trans-Pacific partnership. He surprised everyone by finalizing an unprecedented climate agreement with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
The electoral debacle of Nov. 4 seems, paradoxically, to have lifted quite a weight from his shoulders. The president no longer has to look after a Democratic Party that cannot identify with the activities of the White House. He no longer has any qualms about upsetting the Republicans, who are locked in a political struggle where the first victim will be American democracy. The order on immigration he has promised to sign is the biggest indication that he has regained his authority. His decision to guarantee the neutrality of the Internet is part of this same audacity.
Obama’s surge of pride must not, however, mask the Republicans’ crass inability to take emergency measures, both on a national and international level, nor the incapacity of American institutions to make compromises. The Republicans in Congress are already prepared to lead a scorched-earth policy, from which the world’s premier economic power, prosperous once more, could suffer heavily. Their absurd opposition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supposedly to save jobs, and their refusal to reform the shamefully ineffective immigration system that typifies this country places them firmly on the wrong side of history. If they push their logic until there is gridlock in government, the Republicans, who claim to want to re-establish proper governance, could pay a high price for it. Americans feel the fight against global warming has higher priority right now. They are a majority that approves of the regularization of illegal immigrants, and who, without actually saying it out loud, are starting to appreciate Obamacare, the president’s health care reform.