Now that the Republicans are finally making up their minds and ending their petulant tantrum – pretending that there is someone else vaguely electable other than Mitt Romney and needlessly dragging out the entire tired primaries saga – the real politicking can begin. The drama was written and cast a long time ago; 2012 is the year President Obama seeks to fend off a challenge from Mitt Romney.
Unfortunately, I just can’t seem to get into it. Unlike the heady days of ‘Hope and Change’ in 2008, it is depressingly difficult to get behind any one candidate. As much as the Romney platform troubles me, Obama has been a tremendous disappointment.
Four years ago, in a blend of naïve optimism, I actually believed in the message of ‘Hope and Change,' that a strong charismatic leader can push for the reforms a floundering American desperately needed. The Senator from Chicago promised much and nearly 53% of Americans were swept up by his soaring rhetoric.
Reality proved that it takes a lot more than a few slick words to run a country. Obama tried, valiantly, to make the best out of a bad situation. It would be pointless to blame him for the continuing economic hardship of the nation – the financial game was rigged to self-destruct through dodgy deals and decades of loose regulation – but one must fault him for his broken promises and half-hearted progressivism. Obama, perhaps cowed by Washington in-fighting, proved hopeless at battling Republican intransigence, afraid to push his advantages and sticking to a game of appeasement and containment rather than pressing his mandate. When we needed him the most, he refused to assert himself and lead.
When Obama swept into power, he sought to embody the promise of a new era. But for every one step forward – hooray for healthcare! – he took two steps back – dawdling over gay rights and keeping Guantanamo, that black hole where civil rights go to die, open. His campaign had promised a period of open government and a gradual restoration of sane, sensible government. Instead, for 2012, he one-upped the previous administration in its quest to quash the legal process and introduced a bill that would enable the government to indefinitely detain any citizen.
What happened, Obama? You promised so much and, if it weren’t for the drips and drabs of genuinely progressive acts, your liberal base would have dissolved a long time ago.
From a practical standpoint, I can, of course, sympathize. Obama’s got a cushy job – good pay, free housing, and a certain amount of prestige – and he’s still got two young daughters to raise and look after. Maybe he’s going for his progressive A-game in his second term, after he secures the next four-year gig, playing it safe until then.
A progressive can only hope that is the case and that he’s not, I don’t know, a secret conservative.
So to Obama, I say: Earn your next four years. You have alienated your core liberal, young demographic and are only just scraping by because the other guy – Mitt ‘Corporations are People Too’ Romney is a complete mess and anathema to the common citizen. But it’s not too late to win them back!
I know it’s been rough. Being President is more than Tim Burton soirees and living in a fancy house. The GOP has been sclerotic and made the legislature bung up more often than not with ridiculous legislative pedantry and a perverse love of obstructionism. We all wish there were some sort of congressional Drano so that, at the very least, the government can govern. But you are still the most powerful man on the planet and you can, and should, do something.
First off, before this term is over, actually try to fulfill your campaign promises from 2008. I’m not asking you to go back on the promises you’ve already broken – continuing the Bush-era tax cuts was, we know, done for political reasons – but there’s still plenty of time to work on some of the 175 you still owe us, the American people.
After four years, despite so few ups and so many downs, you still remain the best qualified person to lead this country. But you really have to do a lot more in the next 1-5 years if you’re going to live up to be the president we voted for.
Photo Credit: ProgressOhio