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14 November 2013
The re-election is a chance for Barack Obama to achieve much of what he proposed in his first term, says Charles Adams.
The result of the American presidential election reflects two profound realities.
The first is that a majority of the American electorate, notwithstanding the painfully slow pace of economic recovery and the continuing unacceptably high rate of unemployment, has chosen to afford Barack Obama four more years in which to realise the full scope of the visionary programme outlined upon his initial election to the presidency in 2008.
This is to say that the second term of the Obama administration will see the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark legislative achievement whereby tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans now will have access to universal medical coverage; the putting into place, at long last, of a Grand Bargain with the congressional Republicans in the critical matter of debt reduction, through the combination of a return to previous marginal rates of taxation for wealthier Americans, on the one hand, and the elimination of waste and inefficiency in spending on entitlement programs and defence, on the other; further progress toward American self-sufficiency in energy, not merely with increases in domestic production of onshore and offshore fossil fuels but also through tax-incentivised investment in solar, Aeolian, bio-mass and other sources of renewable energy; and the continuation of a prudent and calibrated foreign policy putting a premium on coordinated multilateral engagement whenever possible, but with the option of determined unilateral initiative where no alternative is at hand.
The second reality is that the Republican Party, in the wake of its comprehensive defeat, is now confronted with the risk of inexorable demographic marginalisation, unless it turns away from an ideological platform primarily designed to attract an electorate of white, Anglo-Saxon, evangelical men of a certain age, to the relative exclusion of women, African-Americans, Latinos and other ethnic minorities, the LGBT community, and younger voters.
White male voters constitute in proportional terms a diminishing demographic cohort in the US, and the results of last Tuesday’s election demonstrate that even strong majority support for the Republican Party from this particular slice of the electorate is not sufficient, at the national level, to offset the alienation of other electoral interest groups. The Republican opposition in Congress is thus likely to find that the systematic obdurate obstruction of the President’s legislative proposals is no longer, if it ever was, a viable political strategy, since the electorate has made it clear that it is no mood to tolerate further gridlock and paralysis in Congress.
All in all, with the bitter and divisive election now behind us, there is reason to be optimistic that a political consensus can be formed as to the way forward for the US over the course of the next four years, as concerns for the preservation and enhancement of social justice are accommodated even as the private sector prospers and expands.
Charles Adams is the global head of international arbitration and the Geneva managing partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. In the just-concluded US presidential election he served as a member of the National Finance Committee of the Obama for America Campaign, and as co-chair of Americans Abroad for Obama. The observations above are made in his capacity as a private individual, rather than with reference to any of these affiliations.