The biggest man doesn’t always win
After the midterm election in November, U.S. President Barack Obama’s lame duck session became a fait accompli. His approval rating fell to below 40 percent, the lowest in his presidency, and the Republicans held the majority in Congress. The Democrats formerly held a majority in the Senate, though the midterm election defeat allowed the opposition to have control of both houses. It was expected that Obama’s administrative influence would be undermined. But the reality is different.
The approval rating for President Obama soared to 50 percent while the Republicans seemed lost. And Obama chose change.
First, he changed the way he communicates. In addition to traditional media, he didn’t hesitate to use online videos and podcasts. He drastically increased public speeches. To promote health care, he produced a funny promotional video. While some may think it’s all a show, even the opposition admitted that he was making efforts to communicate.
He not only focuses on the economy over politics, but skillfully dominates familiar agendas. In the State of the Union address, he proposed taxing the rich and policies on education and child care. He is addressing economic issues and choosing to advocate for the middle class. While a tax on wealth is a controversial subject that could be seen as populist, it is an issue that cannot be opposed due to public sentiment. So the Republicans are forced follow an agenda that Obama proposes. This structure is not limited to economic issues.
Meanwhile, the Republicans are struggling with “the curse of victory.” They claimed they would not approve the budget for the Department of Homeland Security to protest Obama’s immigration reform, but on March 3, they surrendered.
Even the Republicans felt tired of the brinkmanship of not approving the budget and shutting down the government. The next day, the Senate failed to override Obama’s veto of the Keystone pipeline bill. In the process, the leaders of the upper and lower houses grew distant and did not reach a consensus.
It hasn’t even been half a year since the power dynamic in Congress changed, so it’s hard to predict how long President Obama can remain so confident. But he has proven that the big man doesn’t necessarily win the fight.
The U.S. president’s strength comes from his willingness to change, communicate and show sincerity. He captured the hearts of the people by repeating the message that he had no more elections to win. But if he settles now, the situation will change again. Politics is a fast-moving creature, and that’s what makes it so interesting.
The author is a Washington correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 7, Page 30
by LEE SANG-BOK
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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