President George W. Bush and his Republican Party took a great risk when they tried to transform the mid-term congressional elections into a referendum on confidence in the President and his gambling-like anti-terrorist policy. The risk was successfully justified. The Republicans scored a dramatic victory, capturing a majority in the Senate, where they own now at least 51 seats. They also strengthened their majority in the House of Representatives. The White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer definitely had all the reasons to call this victory "historic." Indeed, it is only the third time in a century that the President-led party has improved its standing in the Congress. Previously, only Franklin Roosevelt in 1934 and Bill Clinton in 1998 managed to break the pattern of the inevitable ceasing of the dominant positions in the Congress. Bush Jr. has become the first Republican to join this cohort of lucky leaders. And he obviously earned this luck.
The results of the mid-term elections signify, aside from anything else, Bush's impressive personal triumph. The outcome of the elections was to a great extent decided by his present high popularity and the exuberant energy that he incessantly emanates during all election meetings almost in all states. Republican candidates basically "bathed in the reflected light of their leader." If the latest mid-term elections had followed the pattern established by the previous polls, domestic problems would have dominated the agenda. However, the horrible scenes of the fallen World Trade Center Towers are still too fresh in the minds of Americans. As a result, the voters ignored the sensitive subject of an internal economic crisis to support the President in his fight against terrorism, including, as they had been convinced by the government, one of the bastions of this global evil, Iraq.
The money factor, despite its vulgar and cynical character, also played an important role in the White House's electoral success. The Republicans managed to "milk" and spend 150 million US dollars on the campaign, while the Democrats, a mere $80 million.
But even if they had spent more than the Republicans did, they wouldn't have gotten away with the terrible chaos that reigns among their ranks. The Democratic Party approached the latest elections without a charismatic leader, much less with the unified position on major issues of national concern. Take, for example, the war with Iraq--some of the prominent Democrats are against it, others, not less prominent, are for it. Another example is the President's idea to "lower taxes for the rich," as the opposition calls it. Again, there are supporters of this idea among Democrats.
When a political party is in such a chaotic state, it can't really rely on voter support.
What changes are facing America after the elections? Undoubtedly, President Bush's position has never been as solid as it is today. From now on, it's going to be much easier for him to press with his conservative reforms, be it the lowering of taxes or the reduction of welfare programs, or even realizing his favorite dream of exploiting oil and mineral resources in the Arctic Circle.
It's unrealistic to assume though that the Republicans would smash the Democratic positions in Congress with great ease. If the Democrats manage to recover from their defeat soon enough, they would be capable of stalling or weakening many legislative initiatives of the President with their numerous amendments. In any case, George W. Bush and his party have regained what they lost in November 2000--voter confidence and, no matter how pretentious it might sound, moral superiority.
What are the implications of the American president's triumph for the world community? Washington's obsession with the war against Iraq as the main component of the overall anti-terrorist strategy will probably grow even more. It's going to be much easier for the President to ignore the UN if this organization won't adopt a resolution on Iraqi issue that would satisfy the United States, although that possibility is doubtful. The USA might assume an even stiffer unilateral approach toward international trade, environmental protection, and arms control--issues that have been irritating European countries for a long time.
Bush's personal triumph has an invaluable significance for his political career. It seems that the American nation has forgotten his humiliation brought by the uncertain and questionable victory in the November 2000 presidential elections. This time around, he almost secured his re-election for a second term in the White House.
At this point, there is not a single political figure in the United States that would get anywhere near George Bush Jr. in terms of personal popularity, skillful leadership in electoral campaigning, and favoritism among financial sponsors. But this doesn't mean there is no chance such a figure will appear by the year 2004. Two years in the Washington politics time is a century for a provincial town.
Everything bodes well today for the presidential camp, except one little problem. The responsibility has increased exponentially. The risk has jumped sky-high. The leader and the party that control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, all at the same time won't be able to point fingers at somebody else if things turn bad.
If the war with international terrorism stalls, if the attack on Iraq fails, and if the domestic economy continues to stumble, no one will remain to take the blame for all these mishaps but Bush and his entire Republican host.
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