Wednesday, January 13, 2010

US: How to go from 76 to 48% in 12 months

In the last few days (and weeks) I have been reading various press reports and analyses regarding Obama's falling approval ratings. It seems that his performance rating as President has gone from around 75% when he took office to about 50% these days. While baring in mind that these are results of sampling (polls) of the US public opinion, that means a loss of about around 25% or one quarter of the electorate.

So what, one could comment. Obama is only 25% into his 4 year term, the problems that he and the US (and the world) are many, complicated and very inter-related (like a Gordian knot). Plus, he inherited them. And after all, he is human, not wearing a red cape. He is neither Superman, Ironman or Batman. And I am not sure even they could solve the problems at hand in the US today.

Plus the reason that a President or Prime Minister or by government is given usually a 4 or 5 year term is for them to have the time to plan, push and implement and see the results of their policies. Because policies are not like instant coffee or food, they take time from conception to results.

What complicates things, at least in the US case, is those mid-term elections in Congress (not to mention governor and state Congress elections). It does seem that at any point in time there is an election taking place or pre-election campaigning going on in the US. And that the President's performance affects the results that candidates of the same party get in US Senate, US House of Reps, governor, and state Senate and House elections. To what extent the causal link, that is for poli-sci experts to say.

What makes the US system even more complicated is that the checks and balances principle means that a President's policies have to be voted for, in the US Senate and the US House of Reps, by whose seat is coming up for a challenge in those mid-term (the President's term) elections. So to what extent are they willing to risk their re-election by voting for controversial new policy initiatives?

On top of all this, the situation the Democrats found themselves after November 2008, ie Presidency as well as majorities in both houses (Senate and House of Reps) is the "top", ie one only has one way to go: Down!

And tge icing on the cake: That Senate "rule" or tradition that one needs 60 rather than 51 of the 100 Senate votes to pass a bill. Will not bore you with the technical terms for it.

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