21 November, 2016
President Barack Obama's public approval rating is higher now than at any time in his second term in office.
Many observers think Obama will have high popularity ratings when he leaves office in January 2017.
Yet during his eight years as president, the Democratic Party has suffered a sharp reduction in power at the national and state level. Republicans now hold more power nationwide than at any time since the 1920s.
The Washington Post newspaper recently noted that "the biggest stain on (Obama's) political legacy may turn out to be the decimation of the Democratic Party on his watch."
Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election this month. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle supported Clinton's campaign for the presidency. They made campaign appearances for her in many states.
But many Americans who had voted for Obama did not seem to support Clinton. The president told reporters "I think it's fair to say that I was surprised by the election results."
Voters also kept Republican lawmakers in control of the United States Senate and House of Representatives. A continued Republican majority in the House was expected, but many political experts thought Democrats would retake control of the Senate.
Republicans will have as many as 52 to 53 of the 100 seats in the Senate and at least a 41-seat majority in the 435-seat House.
Now, for the first time since 1928, Republicans will control the presidency, the House, the Senate, and most state governorships. They also have the chance to name a new Supreme Court justice.
Some observers have noted that soon after 1928, The Great Depression began, causing economic hardship across the country. And soon after 2007, The Great Recession began.
In 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president, he received more votes than any candidate in U.S. history. Voters gave the Democratic Party a 257-178 majority in the House. The party also had its largest majority in the Senate since the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter was president.
But two years later, in the 2010 congressional elections, Democrats suffered their largest losses since the 1920s. Republicans won 63 seats in the House -- enough to gain control of the chamber. Republicans won six seats in the Senate, but did not gain a majority.
However, in 2014, Republicans won enough seats to gain control of the Senate. They also claimed their largest majority in the House since World War II.
While voters made major changes on the national level, the National Conference of State Legislatures notes that "voters left the overall partisan landscape in state legislatures relatively unchanged."
Republicans gained power on the state level during the Obama presidency and expanded their control during the recent election.
Nationwide, there are 7,383 legislative seats on the state government level. The country now has at least 816 fewer Democratic state legislators than there were in 2008, when Obama took office.
In January, Republicans will hold 4,160 state legislative seats. That represents about 56 percent of the total. It also is the largest number of seats for Republicans since 1920.
Republicans now control the house, senate and governorship in 24 states. That is a record for the party. Democrats control the state house, senate and governorship in just five states -- California, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon and Rhode Island. That is the lowest number in the history of the Democratic Party.
The United States now has the fewest number of divided-government states since the 1940s. Experts say fewer American voters are "splitting the ticket" -- voting for both Democrats and Republicans in the same election. Many voters now choose either all Republican or all Democratic candidates.
In 2008, 29 states had Democratic governors. Now, just 15 do.
There are now 33 Republican governors, the most since 1998. In 1922, there were 34 Republican governors.
In 1992, the Democrats controlled every state government in the 15 states that make up the American South. Now, Republicans control all of them. Almost two-thirds of all state legislators in the South are Republicans.
As a result of the 2016 elections, Democratic lawmakers now control the New Mexico House and the Washington State Senate. There was a tie in the Connecticut and Delaware Senates. Democrats retook control of both chambers in the Nevada Legislature. And Democrats now control every seat in the Hawaii Senate. This is the first time one party has controlled all the seats in a state chamber since 1980.
The National Conference of State Legislatures said Republican candidates won more offices in the recent election than experts had predicted. It said this happened at a time when many experts thought that Democrats would increase the number of seats they controlled in state legislatures.
Republican control of state legislatures is important for many reasons. Dan Diorio is a policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. He told DailySignal.com that "despite total Republican control in Washington now, states are where the action is -- and will be -- for public policy that actually impacts people."
The speed of the Republican Party's success began to increase in 2010, two years after Barack Obama was elected president. From 1952 to the early 2000s, Democrats controlled a majority of state legislatures.
Many observers say it appears Democratic candidates cannot count on the support voters gave to Obama as recently as 2012. As the Washington Post noted, "the impressive political operation that Obama built does not appear transferable to other Democrats, and therefore may not live on past his presidency."
I'm Jill Robbins.
And I'm Alice Bryant.
Christopher Jones-Cruise reported this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
stain – n. something that causes people to have less respect for someone; something that damages a person's reputation (usually singular)
legacy – n. something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past
decimate – v. to severely damage or destroy a large part of (something)
chamber – n. a group of people who form part of a government
partisan – adj. strongly supporting one leader, group or cause over another
landscape – n. a particular area of activity