In 2008, a majority of voters cheered on electing Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States, while it became clear that the United States and the world had been plunged into a financial crisis and on their way to recession. Increased unemployment and the deterioration of the US state economy followed. Towards the end of Obama’s presidential term, the economy was improving and unemployment rates were falling.
The 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections
The 2008 presidential election was a settlement over time during Bush and several years of national political trench warfare in which the two major parties were not considered cooperative. Obama went to election on a promise of change and hope for the future, winning a superior victory against his Republican candidate John McCain. Great enthusiasm brought voter turnout to its highest level since 1960.
In 2008, Obama gained a strengthened Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress, until 2010, when Republicans took back House of Representatives. But the first two years as president, he and the Democratic Party gained considerable leeway in national politics.
At the 2012 election, Obama relatively easily won a new term in battle with Republican Mitt Romney, but the enthusiasm surrounding Obama’s person and the belief in a better future was clearly weakened. The election campaign took on a more ordinary feel, with the struggle over the political issues that traditionally separate Democrats and Republicans. The aftermath of the financial crisis, not least the high number of unemployed, continued to affect everyday life in the United States.
Republicans retained the majority in the House of Representatives in 2012, so Obama still had to work across party boundaries to get a resolution passed. In 2014, Republicans also won a majority in the Senate. In 2016 they declined slightly, but retained the majority in both chambers.
The 2016 presidential election was won by Donald Trump, who surprised many both by winning the Republican Party nomination campaign and then by defeating Democrats Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s victory was given different interpretations within a framework where the common denominator was broad popular frustration with politicians and other groups they perceived as elites without a glimpse of their everyday lives. The election was followed by considerable national debate on increased economic disparities and the relationship between minorities and the white majority population. For information about North America, please visit a2zgov.
Demolition of wars
Obama completed, with some adjustments, the withdrawal from Iraq that had been planned under President Bush and fulfilled his promise to end US warfare there.
At the same time, the United States stepped up the war and the hunt for terrorists in Afghanistan and in the border areas of Pakistan. Here there were what were considered free areas for the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Since 2005, the Taliban had gradually regained its foothold in much of Afghanistan and increased the number of attacks. The United States greatly increased the number of soldiers in this area in 2010, before being lowered again as Obama believed many of the targets were achieved in 2011.
In 2011, Osama bin Laden was also located in Pakistan and killed by US special forces.
In 2014, the United States and NATO formally ended their combat operations in Afghanistan and entered into an agreement with the country’s authorities that an international force of 13,000 soldiers be left to train the national army.
The US ‘war on terror’ was increasingly under President Obama with drones – small, unmanned aircraft – from the regular armed forces and from the CIA. These attacks suspected terrorists, especially in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, with missiles without the United States having to place soldiers on the ground. Human rights groups have pointed to major civilian casualties in several of the attacks, and the systematic use of drones to kill individuals has been criticized for lack of transparency and for resting on an uncertain legal basis.
The Guantánamo camp with imprisoned terror suspects did not close within Obama’s first year as president, as he announced in 2009, though the number of prisoners was gradually declining. He maintained in 2015 that the camp should be closed and set 2016 as the target.
Diplomacy and alliances
Obama was received with tribute and high expectations for a more peaceful world during his first visit to leading EU countries, where relations with the United States were now normalized again after the Iraq war. In the first few months after the inauguration, he visited several continents with dialogue and cooperation as keywords.
When Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, enhanced cooperation with Russia on nuclear disarmament was central to the rationale. In Obama’s second presidential term, relations with Russia were again cool, with the wars in Syria and the east of Ukraine being the most prominent problems.
Israel received assurances about US friendship and support, accompanied by stricter requirements related to a two-state solution. Obama, in his first and second presidential terms, attempted to revive the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian authorities, without success. Relations with Israel’s political leadership were tense at times.
In 2014, Obama announced that the US and Cuba would resume diplomatic relations broken in 1961. Some elements of the sanctions the US imposed had been softened a few years earlier, but the decision represented a clear turning point in US politics. The decision did not immediately raise the strict trade restrictions, which the majority in the Republican-controlled Congress wanted to continue. Practical relief included financial transactions and travel.
In 2014, the US and China entered into an agreement on climate policy with specific targets for emission cuts. The lack of political agreement in the United States on national commitments, and appropriate burdens on American companies, has long hampered a US leadership role in climate negotiations. In 2016, however, the United States joined the Paris Agreement. Obama accepted scientists’ findings that humans were causing lasting climate change, but without a majority in Congress for far-reaching measures. Instead, Obama imposed stricter limits on carbon emissions from power generation by utilizing existing schemes managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The measure was suspended in 2016 by a federal court.