As widely predicted, the United States’ midterm elections to fill vacancies in the Congress (Senate and House of Representatives) and state governorships on November 4 delivered a decisive victory to the Republican Party. It took over control of the Senate and increased its majority in the House.In spite of an upbeat economy, characterized by modest growth, falling unemployment rate and consumer confidence, American voters handed victory to the Grand Old Party (GOP), thereby presenting the prospect of a lame duck Barack Obama Presidency in the remaining two years of its tenure.
It is not clear what change Americans voted for, except to keep faith with tradition that started in 1945. The President’s party has always been tossed out in midterm polls, except for President Bill Clinton who avoided losing the Democrats’ majority in the Senate in his second term. Despite the Democrats’ warning that their Republican opponents were extremists and in the pockets of billionaires, voters preferred the latter.
For sure, a number of issues, beyond the economy, were on the boil in these midterm elections. Obama Care, the President’s policy flagship that seeks to deliver medical insurance to most Americans, the spectacle of child migrants from South America into Texas, the racially charged riots in Ferguson, Missouri, the beheading of American aid workers by ISIS jihadists and, more recently, the first cases of Ebola on American soil, all impacted then way Americans voted in these polls. As is usual in American politics, big money amounting to 4 billion Dollars, according to Centre for Responsive Politics, also was a huge factor.
In spite of the election results, which revealed the divisive nature of American politics, key political actors have been making the right moves for reconciliation. Obama whose party was mauled by the Republicans has called for bipartisanship which, according to him, would ensure that the remainder of his tenure is “productive”. Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell, the new Senate Leader, has said he is not averse to bipartisan cooperation to break the so-called Washington gridlock. By the way, the US senate does not have the top-heavy structure of the Nigerian senate though we purportedly borrowed the Americans’ congressional system. The burgeoning Nigerian senate leadership, along with the huge funds needed to keep it running, stands in sharp contrast to the US’ modest senate structure.
On this occasion of a decisive Republican victory in the senate especially, we make a strong case for the reconstitution of the Nigerian senate in line with the best global practice. We need to reduce the heavy burden the cost running our senate places on the treasury. This burden leaves nothing for national priority infrastructure like health, education, roads, potable water, and even defence.
Americans have made their choice and we respect it and urge their leaders to focus on improving the welfare of ordinary Americans. We are, however, concerned that American elections are suffused with image manipulation, leaving voters with little honest assessment of the real issues.