For many Americans, the Nov. 6 presidential election was not as contentious or climactic as originally anticipated. Before the night was over, President Barack Obama had been re-elected, the Senate had hardly changed and the House of Representatives was still in the hands of the Republicans.
Now, with the nation slowly returning to normal after more than a year of furious campaigning, many have begun to ask what these results mean for the United States.
In his victory speech, President Obama offered an optimistic analysis for the next four years. “Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you’ve made me a better president,” he remarked in his acceptance speech. “And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.”
He continued by vowing to work in a bipartisan manner to address the issues of the nation, saying, “I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.”
However, many are suspicious of the idea that change is coming. “If nothing has really changed as far as the composition of our political system, I don’t see how we can expect anything different to happen with regards to things like our budgets and deficit or our foreign policy,” Dylan Fisher ‘13 said. “It’s the same old political scene. Are we supposed to believe that everything will be magically better?”
Prior to the election, voters seemed fed up with political stalemates. An Aug. 14 poll conducted by Gallup found that Congressional approval ratings were at a historic low of 10 percent.
However, these same people did not vote for much in the way of change on Election Day.
“Maybe this is a sign of how polarized our country is,” said Nick Carapezza ‘16. “Everyone looks to blame the other guy and continues to vote for their representatives. So now we have the same situation and we don’t know what will happen.”
One possible scenario is that President Obama moves to the center, moderating his policies and gaining broader support from both political parties. Indeed, this bipartisan approach is one he talked about a great deal in his victory speech.
However, many wonder if Obama will use his victory as a popular mandate for his policies and thus adopt a “my way or the highway” approach to governing. If the latter approach is implemented, Americans will most likely see a political environment similar to the last two years, with the Republican Congress blocking most of the president’s legislation.
Regardless of the approach taken by President Obama, all voters agree he has a lot of work to do.
After the election haze wears off, he will once again face a struggling economy, a complex foreign policy and a myriad of domestic concerns. The approach he takes will be revealed in the coming weeks and months as he unveils his policy platforms, but for now many Americans are still left wondering: “What next?