YATA Netherlands Article: “President Barack Obama’s Second Term: Domestic and Foreign Policy Outlook”

Category/Categories: Our Views

This well-visited guest lecture by dr. Susan MacManus, distinguished professor at the University of Southern Florida and renowned politics commentator, was organized in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in The Hague and Utrecht University and took place on February 5th 2013.

Dr. MacManus started her lecture by shortly looking back at Obama’s reelection, and then particularly at the deadlock in which the Democrats and Republicans find themselves. Neither is willing to give in the slightest bit, the fiscal cliff being the latest example of this.

During her lecture, dr. Macmanus created a complicated but clear overview of the topics that interest the American voter and the demographical developments that are likely to influence American politics in the near future. Polls taken in the week after Obama’s reelection were the main tool to demonstrate the concerns of the U.S. citizen. These polls covered both domestic and foreign policy topics.

Demographically, a few developments are of importance. First, the group of non-white voters (Latin-Americans, African-Americans and Asians) is growing. It is predicted that in twenty years white people will be the minority in this country. This will likely result in a loss of votes for the Republicans. This will be exacerbated by the rejuvenation of the electorate. Younger generations tend to vote Democratic.

The one point on which everyone seems to agree is that the economy must be the focus point of the President. But there is much less agreement on which measures need to be taken. Whether Obama will be able to create more jobs and reduce the national debt remains to be seen. Interesting side note: Americans think economic growth is more important than economic equity, indicating a huge trust in the positive effects of economic growth.

There is much less trust in politics, and then particularly in Congress. The majority of the American public has a greater dislike for Congress than for cockroaches and lice. This bad reputation for Congress is mainly due to the unwillingness to cooperate, but there is no expectation that the situation will improve soon. The result of the lack of trust in politics is that people come to consider voting a waste of time.

Looking ahead, there are many challenges for Obama in his second term. Not only because history shows that a President’s popularity rates tend to decrease in a second term. Obama has to deal with the economic crisis, while simultaneously having to deal with extremely uncooperating Republicans.

A final note on the disinterest in foreign policy: the better the domestic economic situation, the more interest there is for foreign policy. Thus dr. MacManus expects that with economic recovery the U.S. will become more involved in world politics again.