The next US president
Having bid farewell to the final TV debate between the two candidates in America’s presidential election, we have now entered the last round in the race to succeed Barack Obama in the White House. Looking at the latest polls, the Democrat Party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton, is set to become the first female president of the U.S. – barring some unforeseen, scandalous development in the next three weeks.
But her task will be far from easy.
U.S. voters will not only choose their president on Nov. 8, as congressional elections will also take place on the same day. The U.S. political system has a bicameral Congress made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Next month, 34 Senate seats and all 435 House seats will be up for election.
What is at stake for the Democrats is whether or not they will be able to win five seats and regain control of the Senate. Based on current mathematical forecasts, the Democrats’ control of both houses is not possible at present. However, working with Republican chambers will surely be a major constraint for a Democrat president because, contrary to what most Turkish people believe, the U.S. presidential system has its own checks and balances invested in the Congress that include the not-so-insignificant power to veto the president’s decisions.
Moreover, since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, the nomination to fill the top position at the U.S. Supreme Court has been a contentious issue in American politics. The political tendency of the Supreme Court will shape a number of issues such as family planning, abortion, gun ownership, LGBTQ rights, immigration policies, environmental decisions and so on. The confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice requires 60 votes in the Senate, which makes these elections all the more critical in terms of defining what kind of a country the U.S. is going to be.
Even if everything goes well for the Democrats, Clinton will still face an anti-internationalist coalition at home which amounts to roughly 30 percent of the American population and which is skeptical of different ethnic and religious identities, trade deals and international commitments.
In fact, it is this widespread disillusionment with the established political and economic system that mobilized the masses (mainly white, undereducated, religious people) to ultimately carry Donald Trump all the way to within touching distance of the White House for the Republicans.
So, will Clinton be able to address their concerns and restore trust in the system while implementing her own political agenda?
What’s more, there is the leftist base of the Democrat Party that rallied around Bernie Sanders, whose pressure eventually pushed Clinton toward the left and forced her to change her position regarding economic policies to match those of Sanders.
Thus, if Clinton gets elected, a tough term awaits her in terms of appeasing these two opposite currents.
As for international politics, for many, the strategy of “leading from behind” and the perceived retreat of the U.S. from regional conflicts during the Obama administration created a vacuum which encouraged rival actors such as Russia, China and Iran to fill in the void.
In part, it was a deliberate decision of Obama under domestic constraints. However, it is also possible to see it as the U.S. reaching the natural limits of its power. Maintaining supremacy is a harder task amid the forces of globalization, and perhaps a subsequent shift of power might be inevitable in the future.
The next U.S. president will take over command at a critical historical juncture and determine the course of the U.S.’ world leadership. Whoever sits in the Oval Office will have to maintain a delicate balance between conflicting domestic and international interests if the U.S. is to lead the world in spite of a society unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices and commitments to do the job.
And that’s why the upcoming presidential election seems set to be one of the most contested and momentous polls ever, both domestically and internationally.