A fiscal cliff, a shut down and a botched Healthcare launch…it was not a good end to 2013 for President Obama and he will doubtless be hoping for a better 2014. However he is fast approach that twilight zone for US presidents – the 6 year mid-terms.
At 6 years, the public are looking to cast a verdict on all the things that a President has promised set against what he actually delivered. In most presidencies, this means the potential of becoming a lame duck president. A lame duck presidency is where there is an imbalance in the separation of powers, with Congress holding considerably more power than the president in reality (on paper, nothing changes, of course, as the Constitution is sovereign). This was seen at the end of G. W. Bush’s time in office, with his inability to pass the necessary Bail Out Bill without support from President-Elect Obama.
Lame duck presidencies should not be confused with losing the House, Senate or both. Clinton had an opposition Congress for six of his eight years as President and managed to steer a largely positive course (save for the odd shutdown) and history has largely been kind to him. Lame duck presidencies are rather when the President is so unpopular, often reflected in the 6 year midterms, that Congress feel able to challenge him more effectively – they stop acting with deference.
This article identifies the flaws in Obama’s polling figures at the moment, and they do not make for particularly happy reading for the President. For some level of analysis in your essays however, you should think about how much of this was of his own doing…with expectations so high in 2008, was there any way he could live up to them? Either way, Obama needs a bit of a pre mid-term boost to avoid following the path of his presidential predecessors.