Are Democrats and Independents Being Too Tough On Barack Obama?


As the Republican presidential candidates were making their final rounds in Iowa, President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign began circulating a video of a campaign speech the president made in January of 2008. The video contains many promises the then-candidate Obama made and claims that he kept those promises during his first term in office.

The video makes a compelling case for Obama and is a clear attempt to garner more public support for the president’s policies at a time when his approval rating is only 42%, according to a Gallup a poll. What is particularly worrisome for the Obama administration is the relatively low level of approval he is receiving from proclaimed Democrats and Independents. This begs the question: Are Democrats and Independents too harsh on Obama? 

When dissecting the Obama reelection campaign’s claim in the video, it is evident that the President did not keep all of the promises entirely in full. For instance, Obama’s health care act may have actually had a part in raising health care premiums this year as pointed out in this article. That would contradict his promise to make it more affordable for all Americans. Also, while America’s dependence on oil imports has lessened since Obama became president, this can be attributed in similar fashion to a rise in local production coupled with a decrease in demand as well as Obama’s increased fuel-efficiency standards for cars.

To be clear, Obama has signed a large health care reform bill, enacted a large tax-cut for middle class families, ended the Iraq War, and decreased demand for foreign oil as his video highlights. Also, according to, Obama has kept 159 promises and broken only 56.

Yet, Gallup puts his approval ratings at 76% for registered Democrats and just 39% for Independents. To provide some perspective, Gallup shows that at the same point in George W. Bush’s presidency, his approval ratings among his own party and Independents were 93% and 56% respectively.

Certainly, Obama’s approval rating is being hurt by the sluggish American economy. A recent Rasmussen poll of likely U.S. voters showed that 80% listed the economy as “very important” to the 2012 election. While many would argue that Obama handled the economy incorrectly upon taking office, the fact of the matter is that the situation was of such complexity that it is uncertain whether any single course of action would have been sufficient to jumpstart the nation’s markets. 

However, Obama cannot completely blame the lethargic economy for his approval rating woes. He has made questionable decisions regarding many issues important to Democrats and Independents alike, such as his refusal to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center (a campaign promise) and his signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, which makes indefinite military detention of American citizens legal. He also failed to hold Wall Street accountable for its reckless actions during the financial crisis and conceded to Republican threats over raising the debt ceiling and tax breaks for the richest Americans.

Obama’s new video intentionally neglects to address any of these issues that are concerning to Democrats and Independents (and Republicans as well). For that reason, it will be judged by some as just another campaign ad skewing the facts in the candidate’s favor.

However, the video does lay out a number of Obama’s policies in a clear way and states that he is directly accountable for them. In doing so, it will force voters to consider the good deeds he has performed along with the bad ones. If he is fortunate, Democrats and Independents will soften their stance toward his presidency and approve of the job he is doing in higher numbers. For now, it is impossible to tell whether they are being too hard on him. Luckily, soon enough, we will decide for ourselves. 

Photo Credit: transplanted mountaineer