When Mitt Romney took to the stage at the Republican national convention last August, he managed to sum up the disillusion many felt towards Barack Obama in one cruel but brilliant point: “You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as President when the best feeling you had, was the day you voted for him.” Obama rode into The White House on a campaign built around hope. A vote for him was a vote for change. So what went wrong?
In terms of foreign policy, it is under President Obama that America has left Iraq and Osama Bin Laden has been assassinated. However, he has reneged on the key campaign promise of closing Guantanamo bay. As a candidate, Obama vowed repeatedly that he would close the prison and he re-iterated this in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. The failure to close Guantanamo Bay has coincided with a significant increase in drone attacks ordered by the president in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. This has resulted in significant civilian casualties, which has become another propaganda tool for terrorists across the Islamic world. Obama’s foreign policy has, therefore, hardly been the liberal ‘new dawn’ that many had hoped. Arguably, it has been a continuation of the neo-imperialism that America pursued under Bush. Consequently, Obama has managed to create widespread disillusion among the youth of America, who were pivotal to his election success in 2008. In 2012 there is widespread voter apathy, based around the idea that a choice between Obama and a Republican is little choice at all.
In terms of domestic policy, however, his presidency has had significant success. When he inherited the economy from Bush, Wall Street had just suffered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Obama’s solution has been to use the state to intervene repeatedly to help the economy grow and America is now out of recession. This, coupled with the Affordable Healthcare Act that has ensured free preventative care for all and helped to limit the power of insurance companies, should be cause for celebration. Instead they have been denounced as socialism. This perception is of course largely ignorant, Obama’s tentative steps towards universal health care are pretty far from Stalin’s five year plan, but perceptions matter. You can’t blame the electorate for misunderstanding Obama, you can only blame Obama for failing to portray his successes in the way they should be shown. The fact that his two biggest domestic achievements have been transformed into electoral weaknesses is symptomatic of the lack of vision and enthusiasm his 2012 campaign. Gone are the days of hope, and instead we have a President desperately attempting to cling to power by mud-slinging at Mitt Romney, when he should be championing the significant reforms undertaken in the past four years.
By Tom Burch