Swiss papers assess challenge to power from US mid-terms

The US mid-terms have cast doubt on President Obama's ability to get results in his remaining time in office AP

Newspapers in Switzerland have been taking stock of the changes that the US mid-term elections will have on the balance of power and political situation in the US, after the Democrats lost seats and support in both houses of parliament.

This content was published on November 6, 2014

The daily newspaper Tages-Anzeiger comments that Tuesday’s mid-term election results in the US were even worse than the Democrats had feared.

Losing their majority in the Senate is one thing, it says, but the fact that the Republicans gained an even larger majority in the House of Representatives is potentially even more dangerous.

“Those looking for even more bad news”, the paper says, should look to the country’s southern states.

From North Carolina to Texas, it now looks like a “one-party territory”. It’s only on the periphery of this area, in Virginia and Florida, that “the Democratic flag flutters”. Everywhere else has gone to the Republicans.

Political shift

It is a “remarkable change”, notes the paper, in a region where 57% of all African Americans live. The South is simultaneously “dynamic and unprogressive”, affected by rapid population growth and higher-than-average poverty.

Political opinion is deeply divided on colour lines, “the white majority votes overwhelmingly Republican, the black minority Democratic”, and Tuesday’s vote has further entrenched these two positions.

“A landslide but not a complete turnaround” is how the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper describes the mid-term results on its opinion pages. The piece comments on the normality of the “pendulum of politics” swinging in the opposite direction at some point, but adds that this time, the “slap in the face” was harder than normal.

In the House of Representatives, the Republicans have their biggest delegation in more than 80 years. The question now, the article goes on to say, is which party will prove to be the “cleverest tactically” in this situation.

The Republicans have not yet revealed how they will use their new-found power, but they can now try to develop popular proposals and brand the Democrats as a party standing in the way of progress.

‘Schmooze’ or lose

There’s something paradoxical about the vote punishing Obama at mid-term, writes the Geneva-based newspaper Le Temps.

In 2012, despite an overdue economic recovery, Americans re-elected Obama to the White House. Two years later, the American economy is beginning to grow and create jobs, says the paper, but this wasn’t enough to persuade Americans to support a president whom the Republicans describe as unfit to lead the world’s major power.

Barack Obama has made mistakes. He hasn’t always invested the political capital necessary to, for example, avoid the disastrous launch of the internet site which accompanied his programme of healthcare reform, says the newspaper.

He isn’t able to “schmooze” – as Americans say – with members of Congress  in order to convince them to accept his political vision.

But if he pays a high political price, it’s because he has transformed the way we think about the role of the United States in the world.

Without a doubt, he’s sometimes too deliberative. But he rejects the simplistic systematic use of force supported by Republican senator John McCain, Le Temps says.

In dealing directly with Iran to avoid a war, or with Cuba in an attempt to normalise relations with Havana, Barack Obama is conversing with the enemy.

His credo is simple: America’s power will always have military attributes, but these have to take a back seat to the economy, to free trade treaties with Europe and Asia, as well as to science and education.

Sanctioning Barack Obama – who, it’s true, hasn’t managed to share his projects with the American people in the manner of someone like Bill Clinton – is to hand over the reins of the country to a divided and unfocused Republican party, to avoid the complexity of the world and to provide cheap reassurance.

Barack Obama embraces globalisation, says Le Temps, but it remains a symbol of insecurity for a majority of the electorate.

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