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2014 and the Midterms

In his 2014 State of the Union speech President Obama spoke of successes: millions of new jobs created (by businesses); autos more fuel efficient; more children able to receive medical treatment (Obamacare); unemployment at its lowest rate in five years; the housing market recovering; the deficit cut in half. "Business leaders around the world," he said, had declared that the US had surpassed China "as the world's number one place to invest."

"Let's see," he said, "where else we can make progress together. Let's make this a year of action."

Republicans were still bad-mouthing Obamacare, Senator Orin Hatch of Utah describing Obamacare as having a "job-killing" impact. Obama went on the offensive, encouraging citizens to sign up for coverage. At the end of the first open enrollment period in early April he would announce that 7.1 million Americans had signed up for private insurance plans through the marketplace, meeting his administration’s target.

According to NBC News, more than 55 percent of Congressional Republicans were climate change deniers, and Jerry Brown (Governor of California) claimed that "virtually no Republican" in Washington accepted climate change science. Obama used his authority to create more-stringent carbon emissions standards for power plants beginning in 2030. Republicans criticized Obama's use of executive authority regarding issues not addressed by Congress. Obama increased in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for federal contract workers. This angered House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and other Republicans and they threatened to sue Obama for misusing his executive powers.

The economy during the first three months of the year was in decline, and Obama also had foreign policy concerns. In Ukraine, street protests against the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovich, were making news, and the Russians were accusing the US of arming, funding and training those hostile to Yanukovich. Secretary of State John Kerry proclaimed US support for Ukraine's "fight for democracy." By March 1, Obama was on the telephone with Russia's President Putin. Obama is described as speaking of "serious repercussions" unless Russia halts its military operations in Ukraine.

The Obama administration also had concerns regarding Egypt. Regarding Egypt's detention of the three Al Jazeera journalists (for spreading false news and for having links to the Muslim Brotherhood), numerous journalists around the globe tweeted photos of themselves with their mouths taped shut. Numerous journalists around the globe tweeted photos of themselves with their mouths taped shut. The Obama administration spoke against the detentions.

An insurgency by Islamic State (ISIL) proponents overran Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and they overran Tikrīt (about 100 miles north of Baghdad). In agreement with Iraq's government, Obama sent approximately 275 armed personnel, and he was soon to authorize airstrikes against ISIS positions in Syria — while some in the US were blaming Obama for having removed US forces from Iraq too soon. By September, Obama would be ratcheting up his campaign against ISIL, including authorization for air strikes inside Syria. He pledged that he would not return US combat troops to the region but asked Congress to approve some $500 million for the training and arming of "moderate" Syrians.

Meanwhile, by the summer of 2014, the US also had a growing crisis on its border with Mexico. Since October 2013 more than 50,000 unaccompanied children (most of them from Central America) had been taken into custody while trying to enter the United States illegally. And in the news was the issue of nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants called "dreamers" who had been brought to the United States as children.

Also there were the "Black Lives Matter protests." In Ferguson Missouri on August 9 an unarmed black 18-year-old, Michael Brown, had been shot and killed by a policeman, and there protesters had been chanting "black lives matter" and clashing with police. (Some whites complained that white lives mattered also, as if this was not well understood.) Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, spoke about the issue but Obama was criticized for his reticence.

midterm campaigns

With elections coming in November, Republicans were wanting to discredit the Obama administration. Some guess that this was the motive behind Speaker Boehner in early May having proposed that a House select committee be formed to further investigate the Benghazi attack. House Republicans voted for the committee's creation, 225 in favor and 186 Democrats against, 7 Democrats voting with the Republicans, with Adam Schiff (D-CA) to proclaim that the committee's work would be a "colossal waste of time."

Economic growth (GDP) picked up between April and September — at an annualized rate of 4.9 percent in the second quarter and 5.1 percent for the third. But these gains were little noticed — while Obama's approval rating continued to hover around 41 percent. The unemployment rate from June through October was declining slowly, from 6.1 to 5.8 percent, And, according to the Pew Research Center, 48 percent of the potential voters thought that the most important issue to consider was jobs. According to Pew, 42 percent thought that health care was the most important issue. Immigration was close behind among Republicans and Independents but less so among Democrats, who were more concerned about income inequality. Global warming wasn't given much attention by anybody. It seemed that Republican voters were motivated against the opinions of Democrats, and Democrats against Republicans, including the issues of Abortion and Planned Parenthood. Pew Research noted that among conservative Republicans support for abortion had declined from 32 percent the year before to just 16 percent.

According to a CBS News poll, a big issue among potential voters was which party was going to control Congress. More than half (59 percent) of the Republicans polled said their vote for Congress was a vote against Obama. And "by a lopsided margin" voters thought that most members of Congress did not deserve to be re-elected.

In mid-September The left-leaning Huffington Post described the Republicans as waging "a relentlessly negative campaign," and as having a paradoxical message: "Elect us because we don’t like government, and markets are inherently self-correcting and therefore there's no need for government regulation regarding bank fraud or polluted water.

On the left were those wondering when Congress would establish campaign finance reform and restore democracy. And there was concern about the decline of the "middle class."

Democratic Party office seekers were not speaking much about positive developments under the Obama administration. Some apparently wanted to distance themselves from Obama's unpopularity. (Bush had been similarly unpopular in 2006 when his party lost the House and Senate to the Democrats.) There were those who would argue that the Democrats should appeal more to those burdened by economic hardships such as barely being able to pay their rent every month — a group that had not been big on voting. But economic hardship was not an issue that matched the party's narrative about the blessings of the Obama presidency.

Election Results

Turnout on election day low. The Republicans triumphed by picking up 8 Senate seats and winning control there: 54 seats to 46 for Democrats. And the Republicans increased their majority in the House, picking up 13 more seats, giving them 247 seats to 188 for the Democrats — the largest majority in the House since 1928.

Of all the ballots cast, Republicans running for House seats had 40,081,282 votes. and the Democrats had 35,624,357 votes. Despite the public's increase in animosity toward Washington, third-party candidates improved their percentages little or none. Libertarian Party candidates won a total of 1.2 percent of the vote for House seats. Green Party candidates won only 246,567 votes (0.3 percent), fewer than the 372,966 they won during the presidential elections of 2012.

The was also the "We Deserve Better Party," which gathered up 1,784 votes.

CONTINUE READING: The Obama Presidency, 2015-16

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Copyright © 2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.