Recently, there were by-elections in the United States, a country located in North America according to a2zgov. That is, elections to the two chambers of the National Assembly Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate. The election is often called a by-election because it takes place between two presidential elections – that is, halfway through a presidential term. In addition to senators and representatives, governors of states, representatives of state assemblies, and many local offices were to be elected. The election was covered with great interest, not least because it was seen as a test of how strong President Obama’s policies stood among voters.
- What was the outcome of the by-election?
- What was the voters’ preliminary verdict on Obama’s policy?
- What was central to the voters?
- Where does the president stand after the election?
2: About the political system
The design of the political system makes it quite complicated to hold elections in the United States. The US Constitution, which was ratified (finally approved) in 1787 , incorporated a system based on skepticism of the central government (in line with Montesquieu’s principle of distribution of power from 1748). Under this system, three equal and independent states were established:
- the Legislature ( Congress)
- the judge( Supreme Court )
- the executive ( president)
The three divisions of state power were created so that the three powers would balance each other in the hope that tyranny would be impossible for all time to come. We find a similar threefold division at the state level.
Both before the constitution was adopted and later (up to and including the American Civil War) there were conflicts between two directions in the thirteen American colonies.
- the federalists, who wanted one American union
- the anti-federalists, who wanted a looser association of their own states
Thus, there were two conflicting views that were to be reconciled when the Fathers of the Constitution met in Philadelphia in 1787 to find a solution that could reconcile the two camps.
The Congress was designed to balance the power of the people against the power of the state.
- The House of Representatives should be close to the people. This was expressed through elections every other year. The idea was that the representatives – because they are elected so often – had to maintain close contact with their voters and therefore be extra responsive to the people’s wishes. Representatives are elected from districts that are roughly equal in size measured by population. The most populous state, California, therefore elects 53 representatives to the House of Representatives. States with few inhabitants – such as South Dakota or Alaska – have only one representative each. There are a total of 435 representatives in the House.
- The Senate was intended to be the House’s opposition. The senators were to represent an entire state and be elected every six years. Each state has two senators; in total, there will be 100 senators (since there are 50 US states). The idea was that the senators should have a larger, more long-term and more continuous political perspective than the representatives in the House. A common picture is that the House contains the people’s boiling tea, while the Senate is the saucer that cools the boiling populism. One third of the seats in the Senate are up for election every two years.
In summary, this means that every other year there are elections to the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate.
3: Election theme 2010 – voters’ signals
This year’s election was dominated by the economic crisis the United States is now in. The crisis started under the previous president, George W. Bush, and was a topic already during the presidential election in 2008. Barack Obama and the Democratic Party then made a by-election, and the Republicans and Bush’s policies were seen as massively rejected by the American people.
The Obama coalition, strengthened by a strong mobilization of young voters and minority groups, was seen as the majority of the future. Political commentators therefore predicted that it would be difficult for Republicans in the near future to regain the majority from Bush’s heyday. But just two years later, Republicans have regained the majority in the House of Representatives and made up for much of what they lost in the Senate.
But what happened next? Yes, the economic crisis was significantly worse than economists thought. Just before President Obama took over the White House in January 2009, one of his economic advisers (Romans) stated that if Obama’s package of economic measures were passed by Congress, unemployment would not exceed 8%. Many economists agreed with this. (Unemployment was then 7.7%.) One month after the inauguration, Congress passed the package of measures, popularly called the Stimulus Act. Today, however, the unemployment rate is 9.6% , something Republican candidates liked to remind voters of during the election campaign this autumn.
Does the high unemployment rate mean that Obama’s economic policies have failed? Not necessarily, according to the independent body Congressional Budget Office (CBO) . They have recently estimated that the package of measures would have saved almost 3 million jobs and made economic growth up to 4.5% higher than it would have been without the measures. The problem is that this was far from enough. “The Great Recession”, as the Americans call the current economic downturn (a pun on the “Great Depression” of the 1930s), has been deeper and tougher than economists, politicians and voters thought.
The most urgent thing today is therefore to create new jobs. The United States has 6.2 million long-term unemployed, which burns in many families. Since the social safety net in the United States is quite coarse-grained, the situation has led to despair and dissatisfaction among broad sections of the population. In addition, the number of unemployed is probably too low, since many have given up looking for jobs.