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President Obama Failed

Under President Obama’s tenure, the Republican party has just won control of the Senate, their largest majority in the House in decades, and a historic level of control over state legislatures. Given that the Republican brand is still pretty bad, our elections have become heavily nationalized, and the exit polls show over half the electorate voted to express support for or opposition to Obama. It makes sense to conclude that last Tuesday was a rejection of the president.
U.S. President Obama Speaks at Intel's Fab 42

The American people think he has been a failure. This means either Obama did legitimately fail the public, or Obama really did a good job but somehow the Republicans’ super-messaging has tricked a majority of the country. The latter theory has an impressive level of support among liberal pundits, Democratic campaign operatives, and journalists that benefit from off-the-record access to the administration. I can understand why — that would mean all that is needed to fix the problem is to throw millions more at their organizations. Personally, I think it is silly to think the problem with the Democratic party, which enjoys disproportional support in the music, television, movie, and social media industries, is that it can’t find anyone to tell a good narrative or sell a product.

Those chiding the public for not comparing Obama to an average president or failing to acknowledge he technically didn’t do as bad a job with the economy as some European leaders, misses the real point. First, you don’t want to go down the international comparison route because that makes Obama’s signature health care law look like an even bigger corporate-friendly turd than the American people think it is. More importantly, that metric is immaterial, because that is not the standard Obama set for himself. Obama didn’t campaign on being an average president. He promised HOPE and CHANGE. He promised to be a transformational president who would bring sweeping change. That is the metric by which the people judge Obama, and that is why he seems like such a failure.

Changing the tone in Washington

One of the biggest campaign themes for Obama was that he would change the tone in Washington. He claimed he would be a post-partisan uniter. While a big reason Obama failed to achieve this promise was Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) strategy of pure obstructionism, it wasn’t McConnell who made the promise. If you’re an actor who hires a new agent because he promised he could get you cast in Sony’s new Spiderman movie and you don’t get the part, you don’t blame Sony — you blame the agent that lied to you. By making it such a big campaign promise, Obama probably made partisanship worse since it gave Republicans major political incentive to oppose him. From the GOP perspective, Obama was in effect preemptively taking all the credit for any future bipartisan bills.

Immigration

Obama helped rally unprecedented support from Hispanics by promising immigration reform, and in this area he has completely failed. His biggest legacy on the issue so far is increasing the rate of deportations.

This failure is even worse than his post-partisan promises because he actually had all the power he needed to achieve this goal but chose not to. He didn’t try to force the issue in his first two years when Democrats had a clear majority in Congress. A big reason it didn’t happen in 2009 is that Senate Democrats and Obama didn’t want to eliminate the filibuster, a rule that effectively only exists because Southern senators wanted a way to stop anti-lynching laws and civil rights legislation.

To the people who cared so much about immigration reform that they rallied to vote for Democrats in historic numbers, it should seem like a slap in the face that Democrats chose to preserve one of Congress’ most racist traditions over passing an immigration bill.

To make matters worse, Obama continued to string immigration activists along with a series of lies and broken promises. He promised executive action by the summer of 2014 but broke that promise for purely political reasons, letting Hispanics know how little the party values them.

Health Care

While the Affordable Care Act is the president’s signature domestic achievement, the way he got it passed illustrates what little value he has put in keeping his promises.

Candidate Obama promised a health care bill that would be written without backroom deals and make health care truly affordable for everyone. It would have no individual mandate, include a national exchange, include a public option, and it would save Americans an average of $2,500. It would contain a real employer mandate, would allow drug re-importation, allow everyone to keep their current policy if they liked it, it wouldn’t tax employer-provided insurance, it would rein in the insurers, and it would be easy to use.

While it might have been difficult to write a bill that met all those promises, Obama didn’t even try. In one of the most cynical moves possible, Obama immediately set up secret backroom negotiations with the industry where he privately told the industries he would actively work for an individual mandate and against his other promises like drug re-importation and a public option.

Instead of openly admitting that Obama was planning to go back on many of his main health care promises in exchange for industry support, his team engaged in an elaborate shell game of trying to blame the concessions on individual senators as it was necessary to get 60 votes. This ended up being terrible politics on multiple levels.

It led people angry with the bill to believe they could use the special election in Massachusetts as a referendum to stop it. Yet even after Scott Brown’s (R) victory, Democrats just used reconciliation to pass much of the law anyway without 60 votes. It made opponents of the law even angrier because they felt cheated, and it proved to liberals that Obama’s excuses for all the corporate giveaways were an elaborate con.

Economy

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President Obama Failed

U.S. President Obama Speaks at Intel's Fab 42Under President Obama’s tenure, the Republican party has just won control of the Senate, their largest majority in the House in decades, and a historic level of control over state legislatures. Given that the Republican brand is still pretty bad, our elections have become heavily nationalized, and the exit polls show over half the electorate voted to express support for or opposition to Obama. It makes sense to conclude that last Tuesday was a rejection of the president.

The American people think he has been a failure. This means either Obama did legitimately fail the public, or Obama really did a good job but somehow the Republicans’ super-messaging has tricked a majority of the country. The latter theory has an impressive level of support among liberal pundits, Democratic campaign operatives, and journalists that benefit from off-the-record access to the administration. I can understand why — that would mean all that is needed to fix the problem is to throw millions more at their organizations. Personally, I think it is silly to think the problem with the Democratic party, which enjoys disproportional support in the music, television, movie, and social media industries, is that it can’t find anyone to tell a good narrative or sell a product.

Those chiding the public for not comparing Obama to an average president or failing to acknowledge he technically didn’t do as bad a job with the economy as some European leaders, misses the real point. First, you don’t want to go down the international comparison route because that makes Obama’s signature health care law look like an even bigger corporate-friendly turd than the American people think it is. More importantly, that metric is immaterial, because that is not the standard Obama set for himself. Obama didn’t campaign on being an average president. He promised HOPE and CHANGE. He promised to be a transformational president who would bring sweeping change. That is the metric by which the people judge Obama, and that is why he seems like such a failure.

Changing the tone in Washington

One of the biggest campaign themes for Obama was that he would change the tone in Washington. He claimed he would be a post-partisan uniter. While a big reason Obama failed to achieve this promise was Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) strategy of pure obstructionism, it wasn’t McConnell who made the promise. If you’re an actor who hires a new agent because he promised he could get you cast in Sony’s new Spiderman movie and you don’t get the part, you don’t blame Sony — you blame the agent that lied to you. By making it such a big campaign promise, Obama probably made partisanship worse since it gave Republicans major political incentive to oppose him. From the GOP perspective, Obama was in effect preemptively taking all the credit for any future bipartisan bills.

Immigration

Obama helped rally unprecedented support from Hispanics by promising immigration reform, and in this area he has completely failed. His biggest legacy on the issue so far is increasing the rate of deportations.

This failure is even worse than his post-partisan promises because he actually had all the power he needed to achieve this goal but chose not to. He didn’t try to force the issue in his first two years when Democrats had a clear majority in Congress. A big reason it didn’t happen in 2009 is that Senate Democrats and Obama didn’t want to eliminate the filibuster, a rule that effectively only exists because Southern senators wanted a way to stop anti-lynching laws and civil rights legislation.

To the people who cared so much about immigration reform that they rallied to vote for Democrats in historic numbers, it should seem like a slap in the face that Democrats chose to preserve one of Congress’ most racist traditions over passing an immigration bill.

To make matters worse, Obama continued to string immigration activists along with a series of lies and broken promises. He promised executive action by the summer of 2014 but broke that promise for purely political reasons, letting Hispanics know how little the party values them.

Health Care

While the Affordable Care Act is the president’s signature domestic achievement, the way he got it passed illustrates what little value he has put in keeping his promises.

Candidate Obama promised a health care bill that would be written without backroom deals and make health care truly affordable for everyone. It would have no individual mandate, include a national exchange, include a public option, and it would save Americans an average of $2,500. It would contain a real employer mandate, would allow drug re-importation, allow everyone to keep their current policy if they liked it, it wouldn’t tax employer-provided insurance, it would rein in the insurers, and it would be easy to use.

While it might have been difficult to write a bill that met all those promises, Obama didn’t even try. In one of the most cynical moves possible, Obama immediately set up secret backroom negotiations with the industry where he privately told the industries he would actively work for an individual mandate and against his other promises like drug re-importation and a public option.

Instead of openly admitting that Obama was planning to go back on many of his main health care promises in exchange for industry support, his team engaged in an elaborate shell game of trying to blame the concessions on individual senators as it was necessary to get 60 votes. This ended up being terrible politics on multiple levels.

It led people angry with the bill to believe they could use the special election in Massachusetts as a referendum to stop it. Yet even after Scott Brown’s (R) victory, Democrats just used reconciliation to pass much of the law anyway without 60 votes. It made opponents of the law even angrier because they felt cheated, and it proved to liberals that Obama’s excuses for all the corporate giveaways were an elaborate con.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com