Does Barack Obama deserve a second term?

In the closing days of this tight election, the candidates are concentrating on the swing states. While this election was meant to be close, it seemed President Obama was heading to a decisive victory less than a month ago.  But Obama’s poor debate performance on Oct. 3 turned the race into a nail-biter.

Morphing Mitt Romney into the “moderate Mitt” of Massachusetts days in the course of one debate shows that the Tea Party and the Republican hard right had essentially blown the race up to that point. The Romney brain trust knew its candidate had to transform the campaign dynamic or face certain defeat.

The Mitt Romney that veered more to the right than any recent Republican nominee in the primary season had to give way to a candidate with greater appeal to the political centre. On such cultural issues as abortion rights, Romney had to stray from his own party platform, the positions of  running-mate Paul Ryan and GOP Senate candidates such as  Todd Akin in Missouri. Keeping a swing state like Florida in mind he also had to water down the medicare voucher program that Ryan proposes. After the first debate, Romney narrowed the gap significantly, thereby giving hope to the Republican declared goal for a one-term Obama presidency.

The case for Obama’s second term has not been without difficulty. His historic victory in 2008, based on “hope and change,” appeared to place America on the road to a transformational presidency.  His obvious oratorical skills inspired new voters, and consequent  high expectations of voters combined to make America dream once again of a better future even in the heart of the Great Recession.  Four years later, the economy may be  better, but it is still in slow recovery. Deficits and debt, ballooned under George W. Bush and increased under Obama, will need to be addressed urgently after November 6. And the political climate is highly polarized.

World political events remain uncertain as we saw recently in Benghazi and Egypt, and the short-term fixes of new policies and program have not been felt throughout the nation.  The midterm election (2010) debacle, which resulted in  the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, only made the dreamy days of November 2008 seem that much more far away.

Yet Obama has a record that is both defendable and promising. Obama’s economic performance has been to transform an economy losing 750,000 to 800,000 jobs a month to one that has had 31 consecutive months of positive private sector job growth.  His economic stimulus program of $840 billion in 2009 is seen  by a consensus of all economists to have avoided an economic depression, and the argument that lingers on the stimulus is really only about its size.

The Dow Jones, which was trading at 6,000 points in 2009, is now over 13,000. GM and Chrysler are now making profits as the domestic auto sector was revived, the financial sector has been saved, and the United States has never had a more promising energy future with renewables and the less polluting fossil fuel, shale national gas, representing hope for more independence in energy sources from less friendly parts of the world.  In addition, private sector corporations today have enormous reserves for job creation in the years ahead.

Other significant achievements  include healthcare reform (Obamacare), financial institutional reform (Dodds-Frank), eliminating DADT policy for gays in the military, appointing two eminent women named to the SCOTUS, bringing in student loan reform, instituting ‘Race to the Top’ in education, and making recent overtures on immigration reform . These advances are important for economic viability, economic security and social progress.

In foreign policy, the U.S. is no longer in a combat role in Iraq, and it is winding down its combat engagement in Afghanistan.  Obama’s approach to changes in Egypt, Libya, and leading the way for  sanctions on Iran regarding  its nuclear program show the right mix of strength, restraint and wisdom.  His record on terrorism including killing Osama bin Laden and decimating the leadership of Al Qaeda remains a significant achievement.  Finally, it is fair to say this President clearly considers  all options before committing “boots on the ground.”

In 2008, America may have thought it was getting a transformational leader.  It did to some extent in terms of health-care reform and energy policy, but it did get a leader who became a problem solver, who displayed a steady hand at the wheel, and a person who has vision and resolve to keep America strong both at home and abroad.  This is why it can be argued that Obama deserves a second term.




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