What to look for in U.S. politics in 2011 - Macleans.ca

What to look for in U.S. politics in 2011

While the Democrats lick their wounds, the GOP looks to rein in the Tea Party


What will a New Year in Washington, D.C. bring? In a phrase: more politics than ever.

It is true this year will end on a bipartisan note. But with the arrival in Washington of a contingent of Tea Partiers, watch for a lot of Congressional posturing. Despite their long-standing affinity for each other, Tea Partiers will test the leadership skills and patience of House Speaker John Boehner as the Republicans try to find a viable political platform. Will the GOP stick to an agenda of smaller government which they promised under Reagan and Bush, but failed to deliver? Will they tackle the hard issues of entitlement and defense spending? Can the GOP retain its pro-free trade stance in the face of the Tea Party’s isolationist tendencies?

The Democrats, meanwhile, are still licking their wounds from the mid-terms, and the party’s liberal-progressive wing is still smarting from the deal on the Bush tax cuts. Are they prepared to tackle reforms to the types of social programs that are dear to their liberal-progressive roots? And even though Barack Obama ended on a relatively high note, with polls showing some rebound at the end of the year, can he carry the remainder of his agenda forward with a divided Congress and Republicans eyeing the White House?

Going into the New Year, there is a long list of outstanding issues that could trip up either party: energy independance, immigration reform, deficit reduction, debt repayment, the war in Afghanistan, education reform, healthcare reform, and a slow economic recovery with its attendant high unemployment. It is on these issues that we will see if the politicians have correctly interpreted the message American voters sent on November 2. Because while Republicans interpreted the results as a rejection of the Obama-Pelosi agenda and Democrats saw them as a consequence of a bad economy, it is possible both parties misread the situation. According to polls in recent years, what the electorate wants is not a more dogmatic approach to policy-making, but more bipartisan efforts at crafting solutions. The lame duck session—and the compromises that emerged from it—have so far seemed to find favour with the American people.

Polls in recent days are sending mixed messages. Obama, for instance, remains widely admired, yet his disapproval numbers have risen to the mid to high 40s. While half the country believes the Republicans taking control of the House is good for the nation, three quarters of Americans expect the GOP to perform either worse or about the same as the Democrats.

How the political leadership will navigate through this is anyone’s guess. My sense is that Obama will reduce his dependance on Congress to push his agenda forward and shift his attention to foreign policy and international trade efforts. Domestically, he will use the bully pulpit and focus on incremental changes. Obama’s interactions with Congress will consist of getting financial support for existing reforms as opposed to pressing legislators to pass new ones. As a result, he will likely have to compromise on issues like the deficit, debt, energy policy, the environment, and immigration, meaning he will have little transformational change to show for his efforts except the impression he has understood the results of the mid-terms and acted accordingly.

The GOP will be the more fascinating party to watch in 2011. It is possible Sarah Palin will make a bombshell announcement in the first half of the year that she will not seek the presidency. There is a growing suspicion the Republican establishment is reluctant to have her as a candidate despite her obvious notoriety. Her low poll numbers among independant voters have done nothing to enhance her chances with key Republican operatives. Without Palin in the race, it is difficult to predict who would be the frontrunner Republican nominee. Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, or some as-yet-unknown candidate will emerge, but in a very uncertain political climate. The only certainty is that Palin’s celebrity status will keep her around as a force when the GOP gets around to picking its nominee.

By this time next year, we should have a better idea of the battleground for the 2012 presidential election. With the bipartisan tax deal, Obama has given the Republicans a share of the responsibility for the economy, since the deal was pitched as a sort of alternate stimulus effort—and a Republican-inspired one at that. If the slow pace of the recovery persists, the blame will like be shared entering the next electoral cycle, making 2012 even harder to predict.

John Parisella is currently serving as Quebec’s Delegate General in New York City


What to look for in U.S. politics in 2011

  1. One gets the feeling that Sarah Palin is right where she wants to be, right now: raking in the bucks, promoting her brand, with no responsibilities for actually getting anything done, and the freedom to snipe from the sidelines. Why she would want to step down into the role of presidential candidate is unknowable. The woman may be ignorant, but she isn't stupid.

    • Agreed. She is careful not to declare her candidacy because then the millions she is "making" would soon be deemed the millions she is "raising". A Christine O'Donnell she ain't.

  2. There seem to be a lot of assumptions here. Overall Obama is doing quite well, especially considering the challenges….and is highly unlikely to be challenged in the primaries.

    The Repubs have nobody.

    What any president is going to need though is jobs, and they aren't coming back

  3. It won't happen. Once the Tea Party is done with the GOP, the Democrats will be next.

  4. I hope to be strating a Sarah for Prez blog . Best lookin' prez ever . She butt a..i don,t agree . she will run and blow everone away . join me for a draft Palin movement .

    • About as articulate as Palin ,SFPrez . She is quite frankly a greedy idiot that Obama would wipe the floor with . Please run Sarah!

    • Your latent sexual dreams might have her blowing you away too! It must be her pearly white necklace that catches your psyche…

  5. The GOP won't be reining in the Tea Party, it will be the other way around. The days are numbered for Obama and his marxist college buddies.

    • Why is it no rightwingers know what a marxist actually is? If they did, they'd never confuse Obama with one.

      • No kidding. Marx promoted things like free trade, open democracy, free education for children, abolishing child labour and graduated income tax. Not everything that Marx proposed is savory, but western countries like the US and Canada ended up a heck of a lot closer to Marx' ideals than "communist" countries. Marx' version of the ideal society was actually one where there would be no government at all.

        You know, I don't think movements like the Tea Party are a bad thing, though it is unfortunate that it is largely driven by ignorance. It is good that people are out there bringing up issues that they obviously care deeply about. It might be folly for the Republican Party to embrace them, and if a "Tea Party" candidate gets selected to be the Republican presidential candidate in 2012, I think Obama will win again due to the general revulsion of most people. Or it could lead to record low voter turnout. The worst case scenario for the Republicans is that a Tea Party candidate puts in a independent candidate, and you have 1992 all over again. The Republicans might be wishing they had squashed this movement from the start.

        • You two geniuses actually believe that today's college marxists remain true to his writings? Those dumbsticks wouldn't dare question modern marxist interpretations, they're far too afraid of each other. Try another rebuttal.

          • Well you don't know what ANY kind of marxists are, so you don't need another rebuttal.

    • The Tea Party crowd will be overwhelmed by the Republican masters. The Koch brothers and Dick Armey are not mainstream republicans, they are corporate manipulators. Once these carpetbaggers have to put their backers money where their paid-for mouths are, expect their lower lips to droop and a self-conscious silence will prevail.

  6. The GOP got back the House via Tea Party (extreme faction of their side of the political spectrum) support. They will now attempt to push a ring wing agenda without going so far right as to make then unelectable in a national election with the White House in play — i.e. appeal to "undecided" and moderate conservatives who went Obama in the last presidential election.

    Hmph. There's a lesson in there Liberal Party of Canada and Michael Ignatieff. Pander like you've never done before, then if you are lucky enough, commit to ruling from "the radical centre." But first, get the support you need from where ever on the left you can.

    • I know you loathe Liberals but you don't make the connection from the above story in your rant. Stick to the topic or you'll sound like a spent, soggy tea-bagger. Our polity in Canada are all under one united party. Its called hold on to the seat your wallet sits on. Why do you think we have a minority government and will for a very long time? Canadians can't tell the difference from a bucket of crap and the bucket anymore. Ditto for Great Britain, Italy, Australia, ad nauseum..

  7. Republicains begin the road to take over the WH this year. That is the outlook .Palin will annonce by Easter .

    • Palin uses her family as props . She ain't too smart . She is a PHONY !!!So she won't run . Bet on Chris Christie and Mitch daniels .

  8. It will be a tough year if the economy doesn't improve. Romney will not be the chosen one but it is hard to predict who in his place.