Weakened Obama Is Left in Boiling Hot Water by the Tea Party; the Vulnerability of Barack Obama's Presidency Was Exposed by a Dominant Performance by Republican Candidates at the Mid-Term Elections. David Williamson Examines Where the Once-Celebrated President Can Go from Here

Article excerpt

Byline: David Williamson

PRESIDENT Obama was elected in 2008 on a promise of change, but yesterday he surveyed a political landscape his Republican foes had painted red. The scene is now set for a bitter battle as Republicans work to unpick his landmark healthcare legislation.

The President's new nemesis, Republican John Boehner - who will be the new speaker of the House of Representatives - described the measure intended to radically extend health insurance as "a monstrosity".

Outright repeal of the legislation is unlikely as the Democrats have held onto the Senate, but the Republicans have enjoyed their greatest success in the House since 1948 and the grassroots Tea Party movement will demand an aggressive assault on the White House agenda.

Compromise will be essential to avoid gridlock in a divided Congress, but many of the moderate Democrats with most in common with their Republican counterparts have been ejected. Politicians of both parties will feel greater pressure from cash-rich special interest groups than their peers; these mid-terms were the most expensive in history, costing more than $3.2bn.

This is a chastening moment for Democrats as they ask why voters who are worried about unemployment have punished the President who invested massive political capital in widening access to affordable healthcare and channelled $814bn into efforts to kick start the economy through bold stimulus packages.

The election suggests that households who live in fear of losing their homes now see government as a threat to their livelihood and not the provider of a safety net.

While trade unions take to the streets of European capitals to demand state protection of pensions, the Tea Party movement has galvanised voters with its call for smaller government.

Michael Goodwin, writing in the New York Post, was euphoric, stating: "If ever there was a moment that captured the President's divide from the heartland, that was it. The President knew for months, a year even, that the nation was dead set against his policies.

"Instead of conciliation, he heaped ridicule and abuse on critics. He moaned about the tone in Washington as though he is an innocent bystander.

"The result was a wave against him that grew day by day. His harsh attacks reminded voters how wrong they were to see him as a reasonable man who would govern from the centre."

But not all Republicans are excited by this libertarian movement, and some believe it scared centrist voters and may have actually stunted the scale of the party's victory.

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum said the activists "threw away ridiculously winnable Senate seats".

With tangible anger, he wrote: "Will there be accountability for these selfinflicted disasters? It's one thing to lose an election over principle.

"But what principle requires the nomination of the inept and the arrogant? Here are candidates who declare that they are running to defend freedom from Kenyan Marxist fascism and then refuse to answer questions from reporters..."

His fury was focused on the likes of Christine O'Donnell, who failed to win in Delaware and was damaged by revelations about her financial difficulties and teenage dabbling in witchcraft, and Nevada candidate Sharron Angle. …