November 7th, 2012
04:27 PM ET

Obama: Change or continuity?

By Xenia Dormandy, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Xenia Dormandy is a senior fellow, U.S. International Role, at Chatham House in London. The views expressed are her own.

The big question in recent weeks has been whether the U.S. election would lead to continuity or change – Obama or Romney? American voters made clear yesterday that they wanted Obama (and more broadly the Democrats) to a much greater degree than most, including this writer, had anticipated.

However, the question of where continuity will take the United States, and what will have to change, still remains.

Some will argue that Obama has been given a much stronger mandate than anticipated. However, with the Republicans still in control of the House of Representatives, Obama will find himself constrained by a party that is loath to give him any policy wins.

At the same time, it remains true that around 48 percent of those who voted went for the other side.  As Obama noted in his acceptance speech last night, he needs to bring in all parts of America.

“We are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people,” he told the gathered crowds in Chicago last night.

So in many respects, the situation is actually not too dissimilar to where it was just 24 hours ago. And yet, there are also already some clear signs of change.

First, many Republicans were anticipating a presidential win, and certainly expected to pick up seats in Congress or perhaps even take control of the Senate. The fact that they ended up losing seats in the Senate should send a clear message that they need to reconsider their policies and position. And they should also be more willing to work with Obama, who in turn should see his negotiating position strengthened.

More from CNN: 5 things we learned on Election Night

But it’s also worth considering that second term presidents often take a different path from that of their first term.  With no presidential election ahead, incumbents can afford to antagonize both their party and traditional supporters, allowing them to take a longer term view.

Regardless, President Obama will face a number of imminent challenges in the coming year, namely continued slow economic growth and instability, Iran's nuclear ambitions, violence in Syria and the fall-out of the Arab revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the leadership transition in China.  In all of these areas we can probably expect continuity from Obama.

The biggest immediate economic challenge is the so-called fiscal cliff the United States faces at the end of this year.  Obama has assured the world that the U.S. will not go over it. However, this depends as much on whether the Republicans will work with him as whether he can find a path himself, and it's not yet clear whether the tough results for a number of Tea Party candidates will help or hinder these efforts.

Also of concern is America’s relationship with China. With China’s leadership transition taking place from tomorrow, there could be even greater uncertainty over Sino-U.S. ties (although the interconnectedness of the two economies means the new Chinese leadership is unlikely to significantly alter its policy of engagement).

More from CNN: Introducing China's mystery man

Finally, on the Middle East, Obama might well revert to his more assertive, early policy towards Israel, particularly Israeli building in the Occupied Territories. And, despite the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to be strengthened following elections in January, Obama can be expected to do his best to restrain an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

It was interesting to note before the election that, with the exception of Pakistan (another major challenge that will likely come to a head in the next few years), all the countries polled in a survey by Pew this autumn preferred Obama over Romney. But given the make-up of Congress, the international community must be careful not to expect Obama to achieve too much on key issues including the Middle East and the environment.

Ultimately, while the U.S. system can be a messy one, in the end, collaboration rather than division are the way forward. We can only hope that some of those countries struggling with democracy today – countries that will form some of the president’s key challenges over the next four years – recognize that reality.

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. clinuigonfild

    url=]prague escorts

    November 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  2. 100 % ETHIO

    It is a dangerous time, regardless of who the President is in U.S.

    Even nature becomes dangerous. After Hurricane Sandy, what is coming now?

    It sounds like, the Middle and poor-classes are changed American inside history, that have been kept secretly by Wealthiest Americans for so long.

    Over 99% of American-Jewish or Jewish-Americans and their Wealthy Middle-East Arab partners will cause a continue huge-Shocks against Christians and Christian-Americans, in general.

    100% of Jewish-Americans caste their votes to Republican. Their motives was, American Soldiers to die for them in the War with Iran.

    But now, American Soldier lives saved.

    November 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    The author wrote: "Republicans still in control of the House of Representatives, Obama will find himself constrained by a party that is loath to give him any policy wins". I'm not so sure if the GOPs would obstruct in the Congress. They did so in the first years as they tried to prevent Obama from winning the next election. Now he has his second term and will have to step down afterwards.

    November 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Reply
    • deniz boro

      Even the most established democracy may have some swings in an election year. Now that "Thanks God" the election is over, the oposite parties will find a way to reach an agreement.
      I believe and hope that Obama will CONTINUE to insist more strongly on the CHANGES he wishes to bring about now that he is on his second term.

      November 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Indeed in Iran and Pakistan, popular interest in the US presidential election was quite insignificant. The Iranians don't expect an ease on sanctions and Pakistanis believe drone attacks wouldn't cease, would Romney be elected.

      November 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Reply
      • deniz boro

        Please do refer to Asterix and Obelix series. : Obelix and Co. Simply.
        That is the simple explanation for the new comers on Wallstreet reaction.

        November 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
      • Earl

        Both Romney and Obama are Harvard graduates, intelligent, and excellent people with the best intention for the country and the rest of the world. That is why their policy toward Iran and terrorist Pakistan are pretty much the same if you set aside the rhetoric. It is good to see bipartisan agreement to defeat jingoistic Iran and terrorist Pakistan. It didn't matter who won, these two rogues countries will be straightened out in the next four year.

        November 7, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  4. 100 % ETHIO

    Wall-Street and other big financial Companies, got shocked.
    Their well drafted scripts to make it Law, when Republican President elected, became nothing.
    They tried everything, including contributed Billions of Dollars for election time, but Middle-Classes, Poor-Classes and wealthy Democrats become, undefeated.

    America must remained assertive.
    Individual Americans must know their surroundings, very-well.
    Christians must rise, before we are being thrown under the Buses.

    Almighty God is with US.

    November 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  5. JAL

    Both. Lets talk about other stuff. This election was a tough one for all.

    November 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  6. Delex.

    When will u guys begin to talk about what Obama's victory means for Africa. Afterall, Obama won most votes from Africa.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Reply
  7. Obama's Mandate

    Suck this 8=======> Romney!!!!!!

    November 8, 2012 at 9:53 am | Reply

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