The process of emerging from the economic crisis went faster for the U.S. during the last year, though serious political problems remained. These issues will carry over to 2015. Although the leading political parties (Democrats and Republicans) entered 2014 with less-heated debates on the federal budget and national debt, they failed to reach a consensus. Through Congress, the Republicans tried to set back the Democratic administration’s work. They looked for a way to revise the health care reform initiated by President Barack Obama and managed to block immigration reform.
Republicans put considerable pressure on the White House regarding its foreign and military policy. The Republican war hawks insisted on ground operations in Syria and increased sanctions against Russia because of the Ukraine crisis. There were war hawks from the Democratic Party as well.
In its foreign policy, Washington had to deal with situations that didn’t have easy solutions — for instance, the re-energized war in Iraq, during which the militants from the Islamic State almost seized Baghdad and proved that Obama failed to keep his public promise to end U.S. involvement in foreign wars. He had to dispatch combat aircraft to the region and send military advisers and instructors to Iraq. Washington’s attempts to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict proved to be unsuccessful.
Barack Obama’s decreasing [approval] ratings reached 40 percent, which is one of the lowest levels of confidence in a U.S. president for the last decade. The nation’s conservative political forces (including the tea party) became more active, and the organizational structure of the Democrats decreased. In some places, Democratic candidates for Congress avoided being associated with the president. The result was a devastating defeat for the Democrats in the midterm election in November. The Republicans managed to not only maintain control of the House of Representatives, but also gained the majority in the Senate.
Obama’s decisive actions were set off only by a failure: Bypassing Congress, he issued a decree on immigration reform. He then slowed down the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by replacing the secretary of defense.
However, the events of the last months of the past year escalated social tensions and damaged the image of the nation’s first black president. Following the lack of indictment against a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed African-American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, a wave of human rights protests swept across the country. New incidents, similar to the ones in Ferguson, only escalated the situation. In some places the protests became violent.
The U.S. again faced its imminent problem of racial inequality. Accordingly, there appeared a thought in public opinion that Obama’s administration hasn’t achieved any progress on this issue. The killing of two policemen in the streets just before Christmas illustrates the escalation of social tensions.
On New Year’s Eve, Washington talked about problems of separation of powers soon becoming dominant. With the newly elected legislators now in the Capitol, Republicans’ attacks on the White House will intensify. It is expected that the party will attempt to undo the reforms initiated by Obama and that it will increase pressure on the White House in regard to foreign and military policy.