By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III
ABOVE PHOTO: President Barack Obama reads the letter left in the Oval Office Resolute Desk for him the previous day, by former President George W. Bush, Jan. 21, 2009. The letter from the previous President to the incoming President has become a White House tradition.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
In 2008 Senator Barack Obama(D-IL) was elected president by defeating Senator John McCain (R-AZ) by 6 points (52 percent to 46 percent) of the popular vote and carrying the electoral college (364 votes to 174). Senator Obama campaigned against the failed domestic and foreign policies of the previous Bush administration. Americans had become disillusioned with tax cuts for the wealthy and two mismanaged wars that contributed to out of control budget deficits.
Candidate Obama campaigned with a populist message. He promised to return America and its government to the people with a “transparent government” and “change we can believe in.” He championed a collective spirit of hope with the slogan “yes we can!” According to The Economist in 2008, America was “…unhappy, divided and foundering both at home and abroad.” Many voters feared that a President McCain would just support more of the same Bush 43′ policies that took America to the brink of disaster.
In 2012 under President Obama, Americans are still unhappy, unemployed, underemployed, divided, and foundering both at home and abroad. In 2008 the message was “Hope” and “Change.” For 2012 the slogan on the Obama 2012 web site is “Are you in?” The answer is yes; “We are in….trouble.”
The Obama administration has done a number of things right. However, in spite of all the things the Obama administration has been able to accomplish, even with a divided government, his base is left asking some very important questions.
Some say the President’s $787B stimulus bill saved the American economy from falling into a full-scale depression. He saved the auto industry and passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women. But why did the Obama administration back away from eliminating the Bush era tax cuts?
While President Obama deserves credit for ending military involvement in Iraq, killing Osama bin Laden and either capturing or killing other high ranking terrorists, he also signed the 2012 Defense Authorization Act allowing the government to indefinitely detain American citizens. Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder believes that the government can assassinate American citizens abroad without having to get court approval.
Why did this president choose to pass health care reform, yet took the single payer option off the table? ….something that candidate Obama campaigned on.
Maybe most important, why are some of the same people who advocated deregulating the financial industry and contributed to causing the fiscal crisis, now serving as the President’s key economic advisors?
Closer inspection will reveal that even as a Senator, President Obama supported broader authority for the government’s eavesdropping program and legal immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in it? That might explain why President Obama “turned the page” on the Bush administration’s lies to the American people about Iraq?
It’s very important to remember that Senator Obama was able to weave together a very diverse base in support of his run for the White House. He is the first Democrat since President Carter to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote. He captured 66 percent of voters between the ages of 18-29, 68 percent of first-time voters, and 47 percent of white independent voters. By capturing states like Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana President Obama changed the political calculus for 2012. These demographics turned out in support of the message of change, hope, and a more transparent government. Now many of these same people believe the Obama administration is more “Bushesque” than Bush.
The President will need to address some of the concerns addressed in this article if he wants to reassure his base that their support for him was not misguided. In 2009, The New York Times wrote, “Until there is true transparency and true accountability, revelations of that unresolved eight-year nightmare (Bush) will keep raining down drip by drip, disrupting the new administration’s high ambitions.”
Many in the Obama administration believe that they smarter than most and eventually the people will “catch up” with them. Is it possible that the base is smarter than they’ve been given credit for? Could it be that the base is anxiously waiting for President Obama’s arrival to the place where he told them he would be 4 years ago? Over the past four years the administration has pandered more to his opposition than supported the wishes of his base.
Even against a weak and damaged opponent like Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign for 2012 needs to develop and articulate a clear direction, a powerful theme, and cohesive message. People need to understand what they are voting for not against.
In 2008 the message was “Hope” and “Change” against a backdrop of Bush policies and an America that was “…unhappy, divided and foundering both at home and abroad.” In 2012 the President is running on his record, not against Bush’s. We need to know where he stands on key issues before once again committing our vote. “Am I In?”…yes, if the President is.
Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon,” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Go to Dr. Leon’s Prescription @FaceBook.com