I believe we can keep the promise of our founder; the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or where you love, it doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white, or Hispanic or Asian, or native American, young or old, rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.
-Barack Obama; 44th President of the United States of America
Barack Obama’s victory speech was nothing if not a consolidation of the values he believes in and a battle cry for his second term: gone are his equivocations on gay rights, gone is his safe rhetoric (though it will most certainly make a comeback); this was a night for broad brushstrokes. As only the second Democrat to win a second term in the White House since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940 there was felt still a whiff of the historic in the cold Chicago air.
But four more years means four more years of further complications; old problems and new problems. Now that the President has seen off once and for all the spectre of the ‘one-termer’ he must now get down to the real meat of the job: making things better before he is unceremoniously ejected in 2016. Whether or not he has considered a legacy-though I’d wager a fiver it might have crossed his mind-these next two years may come to define the Presidency of a man who seems to have been curiously underestimated in almost every way both by the pundits and the public.
Foreign policy will still occupy an incredible portion of his time. One of the less headline-worthy of his tasks, but potentially one of his most crucial, will be the forging of a working relationship with whoever is elected as the new President of the People’s Republic of China; widely tipped to be 59-year old Xi Jinping; a lover of NBA basketball and with links to the farming heart of America, the Midwest.
The proposed exit of Afghanistan in 2014 will be a further test of the United States’ now oft-questioned presence abroad, especially in a country which the American people have long espoused no desire to have their troops in. Due to the withdrawal Pakistan will continue to be a difficult nation with which the President must negotiate, whilst an election for Israel in January could mean a fluctuation in the political stability of the Middle East. Syria remains an issue for the entirety of the UN and NATO, the latter of which the United States essentially heads.
Domestic issues are tied down irrevocably by the continuing recession, high unemployment and price rises. Yet many laws that Obama passed during his first term will now be able to trundle into effect without the fierce opposition it would have garnered under a President Romney. The Dodd-Frank financial reforms will continue on their path. If Obama holds to his promise not to extend tax cuts those of the Bush Era will expire at the end of the year. In 2014 the Affordable Care Act will become law. The luxury of four more years in office will be a deeper entrenchment of the domestic changes Obama made in his first term; an ability to come to the end of eight years of Government and possibly have results to give to his successor, who could well be a Republican, on how effective these policies have been.
The Democrats kept hold of the Senate, whilst the Republicans kept the House of Representatives, a result widely expected. The President has now proved that though sometimes arduously slow and drawn out, his dealings with Congress can be effective to his cause. Though he may never be considered as one of the greatest operators of Congress in the line of Lyndon Johnson or Bill Clinton, he has shown that the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race school of thought is not the hokum that the fast-breathers have made it out to be.
Amongst these more political concerns there will also be discussions about where America is headed culturally over the next four years. The recreational use of marijuana was legalised in Colorado and Washington state whilst Washington as well as Maine and Maryland voted to legalise same-sex marriage. A vote to abolish the death penalty in California resulted in no change, and a vote to outlaw gay unions in Minnesota failed.
There may soon be a 51st State in the shape of Puerto Rico, whose referendum resulted in a desire to join the Union, which would result in the population statistics for the US invariably including greater numbers of ethnic minorities and potentially redrawing the political map in 2016.
The discussion of the US as a declining Empire may one day sound silly; it is, it seems, undergoing a generational transformation. It occurred at the turn of the 20th Century, it occurred in the 1960s, it occurred in the 1980s, and it is happening once again now. The American Century may be over, and President Obama recognises this much more than Governor Romney ever did. But the United States still wields a great deal of influence; politically, economically, and culturally. The world will no doubt still watch its progress wide-eyed.
‘You reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and oppression, that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope,’ Obama said in his victory speech. He talked of the ‘American family’, and of how ‘we rise and fall together as one nation and as one people.’ His notion that ‘for the United States of America, the best is yet to come’ is the belief with which the United States has endeared itself to generations since its inception. This is the promise that the President has now been re-elected to deliver.
-Barack Obama: United States Senate
-White House South Lawn: PHC C.M. Fitzpatrick, United States Department of Defense