Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham writes for the Hill on the US agenda toward Africa following the recent midterm elections:
With last Tuesday’s midterm election giving Republicans control of the Senate and their biggest majority in the House of Representatives since Harry Truman sat in the Oval Office behind his “The Buck Stops Here” sign, President Obama has acknowledged that American voters sent a message and promised to “take care of business,” inviting congressional leaders to meet with him to search for ways to break the political gridlock in Washington.
If the president is serious about acting on what he described last Wednesday as his “unique responsibility to try and make this town work” and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the likely Senate majority leader when the new Congress convenes in January, continues to be of the mind that, as he expressed on election night, “we ought to start with the view that maybe there are some things we can agree on to make progress for the country,” then the risk of continued government dysfunction latent in the institutional dynamics resulting from the voters’ choices can be greatly mitigated. That’s why it is important to identify policy areas where genuine bipartisan consensus can be found, to deliver some early successes for any renewed cooperation across the aisles and down both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Africa stands out as one such area.
Within the policy community, the Africa constituency has long been characterized by a bipartisan comity — it could hardly be otherwise given how Africa has long been the stepchild of American foreign policy — that is reflected in the broad continuity through administrations of both parties. Moreover, current issues of concern on the increasingly important continent lend themselves to an agenda whose broad principles Democrats and Republicans would generally find agreement on, even if specific provisions will necessarily be subject to political negotiation and compromise.