In the U.S., the midterm election, which is considered an important test of every incumbent president’s popularity and performance, has now ended. The result was, as expected, a victory for the Republican Party. The term “midterm election” is rather unfamiliar to Koreans, and it refers to the fact that a national election is held in the middle of a president’s term. In the U.S., the presidential election is held every four years, and every two years, one-third of the members of the Senate and all of the members of the House are elected. Though the presidential and parliamentary elections are not held at the same time in Korea, the U.S. holds them simultaneously every four years to elect the president and members of Congress, along with a midterm election held after two years from the presidential election to elect members of Congress.
Each midterm election has a big political impact in the U.S. These are regarded as midterm evaluations of the serving president’s achievements during the past two years since he or she was elected. The crushing defeat of the Democratic Party in this midterm election resulted from the burst of people’s dissatisfaction with Obama’s policies. Of course, the Democratic Party has not presented anything as its policy to the people in a satisfactory manner until now, but people’s dissatisfaction is due to the hesitation that the Obama administration has shown regarding various policies. What is unfair from the perspective of President Obama is that his popularity has plunged to the lowest since he was inaugurated even though, for the first half of this year, economic growth rate reached 3.5 percent, much higher than expected, and every economic index has also improved, including the unemployment rate, which is below 6.3 percent
On the day before the midterm election, President Obama met the Chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, and they congratulated each other on the improvement in the economic indicators. However, such improvement of the economy was not yet felt by the general public. As a result, Obama got the dishonorable tag of being the first president in 56 years completely defeated in midterm elections twice in a row.
Since the Republican Party has control of both the Senate and the House, naturally, President Obama will quickly become a lame duck, and so he is expected to have a difficult time carrying out the policies that he has pursued, such as raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and North Korean policy, and also in dealing with the Iranian nuclear problem and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The problem is that the filibuster system might hold back the Republican Party now that it has become the majority. A filibuster is a legally allowed procedure through which a minority party intentionally blocks the legislative procedure. Korea also adopted a system similar to the filibuster through the National Assembly Act, but it once held back the parliamentary procedure to cause the Assembly to fall into a vegetative state. It will be difficult for the Republican Party, even though it won this election, to make any change with its narrow majority, 55 to 45, in the Senate. Sixty votes are needed to block a filibuster in the U.S. Senate, and 60 percent of votes are needed to change the National Assembly Act in Korea. It is easy to make a bad law, but not so easy to get rid of it. The U.S. Senate has tried several times to get rid of the filibuster system, but it has failed so far to abolish the tradition of hundreds of years.
However, public opinion will not make it easy for the minority party to use a filibuster on every issue, since the Republican Party has become the majority in the Senate. Thus, it is certain that the Obama administration will make changes in its policies. First of all, it will treat illegal immigrants as criminals by strictly applying the immigration law. It will also postpone raising the minimum wage, citing the need for a further study to form the public opinion. Since the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a Republican economic policy, it will continue to pursue that, and will move rather more actively on the policy.
In the past, there was a case where the Democratic Party continued the economic policies of the Republican Party. When Bill Clinton was a presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, he opposed NAFTA, which had been traditionally opposed by Democrats. But, once he was elected, he supported it by making his own proposing the agreement which was an idea put forward by his predecessor, President Bush, during whose term the foundation had already been laid, and claimed to be a “born-again” Democrat.
The victory of the Republican Party will also make big waves in international relations. The U.S., led by the Republican Party, will continue to have trouble with Russia which has a desire for the lands of Ukraine. It is expected that the Republican Party will respond more strongly against Russia and Russia will fail in Ukraine in the end.
Finally, it is highly probable that the U.S. will take an even harder line toward North Korea. The U.S. will claim that North Korea’s giving up of nuclear weapons is a prerequisite for talks to take place between the two countries, and it is expected that the Republican Party, which now controls both chambers, will try to send Kim Jong-un to the international Human Rights Court, which will put him into difficulties. Some hawks in the Republican Party might call for preemptive surgical attacks to put an end to the nuclear issues in North Korea lest the United States be messed around by the country any longer. Rather than immediate reunification through military forces, it is better to have reunification through a peaceful means that maintains two systems in one country, just like Hong Kong and China, through negotiations so that we can enter Russia and the Manchu region through the North. Now, it is the time for us to prepare for reunification. I think that it is the time to issue Roosevelt-style bonds for reunification.