The view from abroad is that President Obama has further lost credibility to represent the interests of the American public. Obama will find it extremely difficult to get his chosen ambassadors appointed by a Republican Senate, which won’t help diplomatic efforts overseas. His upcoming trip to China, Myanmar and Australia will be rough. He is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, then attending the East Asia Summit and the US-ASEAN Summit in Myanmar, followed by talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Australia. He needs to publicly get bipartisan support on foreign policy issues now in order for this trip to be effective. Without re-establishing his weight in Washington, Obama will be in no position to display leadership on East Asian or Eurasian issues. Recent leaks, such as his secret letter to Ayatollah Khameini and Robert O’Neill coming forward as “The Shooter,” serve to further undermine his leadership credentials. In short, Obama will be the biggest loser talking to a lot of winners. Those conversations will not be easy, and if interactions in Washington are any indication, then negotiations are not Obama’s strong suit.
Now that the GOP controls the Senate, it is likely that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will push the FCC to strike down Net Neutrality. The issue, which was hanging in the balance before the election, may now sway in the favor of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which want to make profits from tiering internet service. Technically, the FCC has the deciding power on policy. Additionally, three of its five commissioners are Democrat-appointed; however, the legislative power the GOP now controls can significantly alter the debate. The end of net neutrality would continue to make the United States an outlier among developed countries in maintaining the open and democratic nature of the Internet. The glimmer of hope is that President Obama has officially endorsed the position of defending Net Neutrality championed by Fight For the Future (FFTF) this past week.
Climate change deniers rejoice: Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the new Chairwoman of the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources, claims that “emissions that are being put in the air by [a]volcano [in Iceland]are a thousand years’ worth of emissions that would come from all of the vehicles, all of the manufacturing in Europe.” The causal link between climate change and increasing unrest around the world is still a hotly-debated topic, but new research in the field shows at least tangential connections between the two. With the Peru and Paris UN Climate Change Conferences fast approaching, division and denial of climate change by ranking members of the US Senate will unquestionably delay any universal agreement on climate change for the near future.
In the spirit of finding a silver lining in light of Jack, Alessandro, and Ben’s pessimism, one issue of both national and international importance that will move forward because of the midterms is comprehensive immigration reform. The reasons why are two-fold. First, GOP obstructionism — which blocked reform in 2013 and also shut down the government — will not be tolerated by a 2016 electorate that will feature a younger and more diverse and liberal electorate than the anomalous and abysmally low 2014 midterm turnout. Republicans’ feet are now being held to the fire, and they will likely succumb to pressure to produce legislation. It will be more moderate than the bill they killed in 2013, and likely not include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants who currently reside in the United States, but it will likely include important visa and border security reforms. The second reason to be optimistic on immigration is simple: as his second term winds down, President Obama is no longer in reelection mode, he is in legacy mode. He knows that failing to take executive action on immigration over the summer, like he promised, was a grave mistake, and that Latinos are an ever expanding and powerful political bloc who won’t blindly follow the Democrats. Look for executive action in the near future on a pathway to citizenship. It will both cement Obama’s legacy, and pave the road for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
I actually feel a lot more positive about the recent elections than do my colleagues, which probably has something to do with the fact that I’m a moderate Republican and a whole ton of moderate Republicans just got elected. Oh well, I never claimed objectivity anyways. I think the new class of Republican Congressmen and Senators will actually prove more willing to work with President Obama than did their Tea Party predecessors who swept Congress in 2010. The Tea Party Caucus and its allies, committed as they were to rigidly ideological conceptions of the purpose of government and the sacredness of austerity, could essentially do nothing but block legislation. Their libertarian leanings do not easily reconcile with anything inside the Beltway. But the new class of moderate main-street Republicans has less ideological baggage, less vehement antipathy against the President and a much more powerful incentive to work with Democrats on such critical issues as immigration reform, the Keystone Pipeline and the TPP. Obama, for his part, can expect a lot more support from GOP moderates, and has no choice but to trust them–his legacy needs action if it is to transcend his currently shattered reputation. I see, then, an active, stable and forward-moving two years leading up to the 2016 elections, and we are all the better for it.
The views expressed by these authors do not necessarily reflect those of the Glimpse from the Globe staff, editors, or governors.