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by Wilmer J. Leon III
(NNPA)—In 2008, Sen. Barack Obama was elected president by beating Sen. John McCain by six points, 52 percent to 46 percent of the popular vote and carrying the Electoral College by a margin of 364 to 174. The Illinois senator campaigned against the failed domestic and foreign policies of the George W. 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 policies that took America to the brink of disaster.
Now, four years later 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.” The Obama buzz phrase for 2012 is “Are you in?”
Yes, we’re in—we are in trouble.
To be fair, 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 on the left is raising some very important questions.
Some say the president’s $787 billion 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 that allowed the government to indefinitely detain American citizens. 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 take the single payer option off the table? That’s something that candidate Obama campaigned on.
Maybe most important, why are some of the same people who advocated deregulating the financial industry that contributed to causing the fiscal crisis, now serving as the president’s key economic advisers?
Even as a senator, Obama supported broader authority for the government’s eavesdropping program and legal immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in it? It’s very important to remember that Sen. Obama was able to weave together a very diverse base in support of his run for the White House.
He was 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 Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana, 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 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 are 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 four years ago? Over the past four years, the administration has pandered more to his opposition than his base.
Even against a weak and damaged Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign 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 or McCain. We need to know where he stands on key issues before once again committing our vote. Am I In? Yes, if the president is.
(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. Go to his Prescription @ Face Book.com)
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