Choosing the American President

The voters have chosen, but what will the next four years bring?

The voting is over and Barack Obama has won a second term as president.

This election took place against a background of rallies and conventions, social media, biting political satire, and billions of dollars of television commercials blanketing the airwaves. Through it all, the debate on the role of the federal government became increasingly polarised.

This is really one of the great questions of our times … why do people mistrust government more and more and more, even when arguably this is the moment when they should be doing the opposite?

– Thomas Frank, an author

The US has not been this divided since perhaps the civil war. But this is a battle that has been brewing for decades.

In 1964, Democrat Lyndon Johnson painted Republican Barry Goldwater as a right-wing, small government extremist, and won in a historic landslide. The day after the election, the Republican base began organising for a rematch. With the Reagan revolution, the tide was turned.

Former President Ronald Reagan famously said: “Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.”

Every Republican candidate since, including Mitt Romney, has promised to follow in Reagan’s footsteps. The Republican Party offers a vision of a drastically reduced federal government, while Democrats argue that government intervention is the only thing that kept the great recession from becoming another depression.

Throughout the campaign, the candidates positioned themselves as leaders of two opposing camps, but their actual records suggest many fundamental similarities.

Some argue that the real question is not the size of the government, or even its role, but rather whose side the government is on. Has it been bought and sold by the one per cent, or is there still room for the 99 per cent? Or even the 47 per cent?

Empire asks: How different will the US look in the next four years? With a divided Congress and citizenry, will partisan gridlock rule, or will the Obama administration, given four more years, alter the path of the US?

Joining us as interviewees: Kwame Anthony Appiah, a Princeton professor and author of Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen; and Thomas Frank, the author of What’s the Matter with Kansas and Pity the Billionaire: The Unlikely Comeback of the American Right.

And we discuss the results of the election and what the next four years will look like with our guests: Cynthia McKinney, a former presidential candidate for the Green Party, the first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia in the US House of Representatives where she served six terms and the author of The Illegal War on Libya; Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a former member of President Clinton’s National Security Council and the author of No One’s World: The West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn; Ellen Laipson, the president of the Stimson Center, a former vice chair of the National Intelligence Council and a former member of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board; Helle Dale, a senior fellow in Public Diplomacy at the Heritage Foundation; and Steve Rademaker, a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney and former assistant secretary of state under President George W. Bush.


Click here for more Empire