Obama in Chains

It is hard for international observers to grasp the political paralysis that grips the US, and that seriously threatens its ability to solve domestic problems and contribute to international problem solving. Indeed, America’s governance crisis is the worst in modern history, and it is likely to worsen in the years ahead.

NEW YORK – It is hard for international observers of the United States to grasp the political paralysis that grips the country, and that seriously threatens America’s ability to solve its domestic problems and contribute to international problem solving. America’s governance crisis is the worst in modern history. Moreover, it is likely to worsen in the years ahead.

The difficulties that President Barack Obama is having in passing his basic program, whether in health care, climate change, or financial reform, are hard to understand at first glance. After all, he is personally popular, and his Democratic Party holds commanding majorities in both houses of Congress. Yet his agenda is stalled and the country’s ideological divisions grow deeper.

Among Democrats, Obama’s approval rating in early November was 84%, compared with just 18% among Republicans. Fifty-eight percent of Democrats thought the country was headed in the right direction, compared with 9% of Republicans. Only 18 % of Democrats supported sending 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, while 57% of Republicans supported a troop buildup. In fact, a significant majority of Democrats, 60%, favored a reduction of troops in Afghanistan, compared with just 26% of Republicans. On all of these questions, a middle ground of independents (neither Democrats nor Republicans) was more evenly divided.

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