Four years ago, Barack Obama entered the White House on a wave of optimism and hope; the US citizens enthusiastically endorsed him, the warmongering Bush-era was over and so the fairytale began. Yet, Obama’s term as president has been nothing like a fairytale; far from it, in fact. Indeed, his term in office can be summed up in one word; incredibly disappointing. Two then.
Perhaps then, expectations were too high. With poetic slogans of “Hope” and “Change”, Obama was seen as the savior – the anti-Bush Jesus to heal eight long years of war and economic bubble – to restore the US to the position of number one economic and political powerhouse that most felt it deserved.
Indeed, it is important the realise that Obama faced the hardest circumstances – war, recession, rising unemployment, industry bankruptcies - of any post-war president; perhaps even since Roosevelt.
Nonetheless, his economic record is undoubtedly hard to asses. The POTUS inherited a big dark economic mess when took power; unemployment was rising by 750,000 a month, banks and the auto-industry were close to bankruptcy and the downward economic spiral was continuing.
Let Detroit go bankruptMitt RomneyOn Automobile Industry
History has shown that Obama’s response to the latter was inarguably correct. He embarked on an aggressive $800 billion stimulus programme of tax cuts, infrastructural projects and society security increase. Additionally, he bailed out General Motors and Chrysler; the US is now back to being the number one automotive industry in the world. Romney, lest we forget, wanted to leave it to rot; “Let Detroit go bankrupt” he declared in November 2008
The banks were also bailed out; Obama confronted them and forced them to raise capital which is why they remain in a far better position than their European counterparts. On the job front, the picture is confusing, but overall, Obama has created five and a half million new jobs since January 2009 and unemployment has dropped below 8% for the last two months.
Yet, the economic recovery of the US remains notoriously weak; and thus Obama’s argument on the issue is thus simultaneously weak. The most convincing argument is that it could have been a lot worse. Some economists have question how also questioned Obama’s plan to deal with the extra billions he added on the deficit.
Indeed, we are not in a depression and Obama’s policies clearly played a part in that. It may not be substantial, but growth is growth. Moreover, it looks like to be ever-increasing with now 13 quarters of growth. And, as weak as it is, it remains favourable than the austerity packages embarked upon all around Europe than have generally failed to start-up a similar recovery.
On foreign policy, Obama was also dealt a bad hand with the US caught up in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only was it a costly, but its unjust nature left a legacy of disdain towards the US as a power with American prestige at a all-time low. Even more troublesome was how to get the US out of war that it has chosen to embroil itself in.
Again, his record here is patchy. The withdrawal of Iraq may be complete, but it hardly became the liberal Middle Eastern democracy wanted by so many. Instead, tensions between political factions are frequent, there has been a rise of sectarian violence and insurgent forces remain active. Afghanistan, where a withdrawal is set, remains a minefield and, by all accounts, looks set for Taliban incursions after the 2014 date.
On other foreign policy, it remains a mixed bag. Chinese and US relations have definitely improve. He may claim to dealing well with “The Arab Spring”, but he was merely a passenger – the events occurred by themselves, with some NATO-prompting in Libya. Indeed, even there, it has not turned out to be the “spring” that the West expected. Iran too has failed to be controlled, edging ever closer to nuclear capabilities.
Guantánamo Bay remaining very much open and a stain on the US’s record.
In fact, there are more bad than good in Obama’s foreign policy. Guantánamo Bay remaining very much open and a stain on the US’s record. The Israel-Palestine conflict is nowhere near any sort of dialogue, with Binyamin Netanyahu continuing his illegal expansion into the West Ban. The growth of the drone programme in the Middle East also questions how liberal Obama truly is – not – being an immoral, unjust and inefficient attempt to stop terrorism. It will not create the growth of trust between the Muslim world and the West that he sought to achieve; in fact, it will create further hostility in the region.
One thing is in his favour though; Romney’s foreign policy would be far worse, returning to the neo-conservatism of the Bush-era. Indeed, internationally, Obama also has great prestige – polls from around the world indicate that all nations, albeit with the exception of Pakistan, would prefer an Obama-led America than a Romney-led one. His influence in improving the global esteem of the US is therefore essential. And then there’s his wild card; the killing of international bogey man, Osama Bin Laden. Of course, how much he had to do with this remains unknown, but, the US, it trumps anything else.
So then, what else of the good? The defining achievement of his first term will be the health reform of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; ‘Obamacare’. To any British person, the idea of a country without healthcare is somewhat scandalous. In America, it was expected with over 40 million people with no health coverage; Obama has put that right. The fact that Romney and Paul Ryan hope to demolish it is despicable.
In fact, many feel that Obama does care about such issues and that his pursuit of equality and social justice continues - only thwarted due to the economic black hole he inherited. Domestically, Obama will keep to his belief in the ‘big state’ – the idea that its governments role to stimulate the economy and to be a moderator of inequality through social welfare and egalitarian acts such as ‘Obamacare’.
It is a far better alternative than the one offered by Romney to be sure, but the US recovery and Obama has failed to deliver a successful solution on how to subside such a large security state whilst continuing to tax so low. Other issues have also been marginalised, such as immigration and climate change reform. This must be confronted if he wins another term of office.
To finish, one of the biggest letdowns of Obama has been conduct during the election. For a man who once brought a new meaning to being a politician, he has ventured downwards into petty politics, using personal attacks on Romney on his wealth and business past. He has allowed the issues to be swallowed up into a slagging-off match between two personalities – one Obama is sure to win due to his likability.
He has fallen short of expectations to be sure, but only due to how high they were in the first. He essentially, over-promised.
The presidency of Obama may have been an underwhelming experience, but its hard not to see him as the better choice from President; both for the US and the world. He has fallen short of expectations to be sure, but only due to how high they were in the first. He essentially, over-promised.
In reality, he has dealt with the situation he was given admirably, saving the US from economic ruin and increasing US prestige after the post-9/11 PR disaster. He is just not the saviour that people expected.
Obama have not has transformed America as much as he – and others hoped – but it is his vision that must triumph this evening