What Obama Must Do to Retain the Key to the White House in 2012
With the 2012 presidential election barely 14 months away, the US economy still inexplicably wobbly and the Republican primaries heating up, ideas are percolating regarding what President Obama must do to escape the specter of the one-term presidency.
Some have proffered, and rightfully so perhaps, that the election will unavoidably be an intensely contested verdict over two diametrically opposed approaches to governance.
With the GOP’s traditional dominance over foreign policy and national defense matters effectively neutralized by President Obama’s stellar showing abroad thus far, Republicans have understandably pivoted to the domestic arena hopeful that if they could successfully hang the sluggish economy on Obama, it could in fact be the albatross that would sink Democrats and guarantee control of the White House.
On domestic economic policy, the GOP’s position seems abundantly clear. But for the occasional forays into the idiotic and penchant for hype, the current line-up of would be Republican nominees have the same core ideological bent.
Broadly speaking, they are firmly in support of the shrinking of public expenditures (smaller government); hence the plethora of cost-cutting initiatives against a wide range of federal programs including Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. They have a shared aversion for the Health Care Reform Act (the so-called “Obamacare”) and are fitfully sworn to defunding or totally rolling it back!
Republicans for a while presented as if they were equally unyielding in their commitment to cutting taxes and dampening revenues. But we are now finding out with their new position on the payroll tax holiday proposal for working class Americans currently before Congress that they believe tax cuts should be the preserve of the rich.
Despite the foregoing instance of, shall we say, mindless flip-flopping, an uncompromising posture on taxes has become a rapidly calcifying staple of modern day conservative politics. Having signed the anti-tax pledge promulgated by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, most Republican politicians today seem invariably bound by that pledge’s requirement that any increase in revenue must be offset with a corresponding tax cut somewhere.
Beyond the fact that one would be truly hard-pressed to find reputable economists that can demonstrate how the foregoing cocktail actually translates into the sort of rapid, sustained economic growth that everyone is clamoring for, one obvious problem with the GOP’s line of reasoning is that far from being novel, some of what they are prescribing did in actuality create or exacerbate the catastrophe once underway.
But I think the American people are slowly catching on to the Republican rope-a-dope! We remember that before the 2010 mid-term, they all hitched their trucks and traversed every cranny of the land, hosting town hall meetings after town hall meetings and chanting the old mantra: jobs, jobs, jobs!
We, of course, bought it wholesale and voted them into office en bloc. They took over the House of Representatives but we never witnessed the job windfall they promised. In fact, they are yet to pass a single job-generating legislation.
Today, thanks to their clever switcheroo, it’s all about deficit control. The new mantra? Cuts, cuts, cuts; but certainly of the wrong hue. And interestingly, there seems to be a town hall meeting drought this season; if anything, GOP lawmakers are doing their damndest to escape the wrath of angry constituents besieging their district offices demanding some answers.
This is why I do believe that the biggest challenge to President Obama’s re-election isn’t the GOP. They have absolutely nothing to run on this go around; it’s all a mirage that, many now realize, rings hollow!
Obama will ultimately win or lose the 2012 presidential election to the degree he’s successful trumpeting and contrasting his accomplishments against the GOP’s ever-shifting mirror of promises. Exposing the Republican con game is inescapably critical to retaining the key to the White House.
Regarding his administration’s accomplishments, there’s little doubt that, even amidst daunting opposition, they have been quite impressive.
On foreign policy, the following demand unquestioning mention: the spectacular capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, restoration of a multilateral approach to global problem-solving and the elimination of blustering jingoism and unilateralism, and the withdrawal of American troops and termination of US combat mission in Iraq.
President Obama also deserves some credit for the tumultuous events presently playing out in the Middle East; the so-called “Arab Spring.” GOP Leaders derided him when at the beginning of his term, in a speech from Cairo, Egypt, targeting the Muslim World, he appealed for increasing democratization in the entire region. Much as this could not be cited as an immediate cause for this revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests, it unarguably demonstrates matchless foresight and leadership.
And on the conflict in Libya and demise of Muammar Gaddafi, which ordinarily, given the US’ long-running enmity with Gaddafi, should be a celebrated foreign policy achievement, it ought be highlighted that when Obama committed US military resources last March to protect innocent civilian protesters Republicans dismissed it as plainly being “too little, too late.” Some even ridiculed his support for the NATO effort that would follow as an indication of weakness on his part; reportedly accusing him of “leading from behind!”
On national affairs, we again recall many programmatic initiatives that continue to impact the lives of millions of ordinary Americans in real, direct and immediate ways---the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (which expanded the rights of workers to sue employers over wage discrimination claims); the SCHIP--- State Children's Health Insurance Program---expansion Bill of 2009 (which extended coverage to 4 million more lower-income children); the Credit Card Reform Bill of 2009 (which instituted the most sweeping changes the industry had seen in 40 years by adding restrictions on interest rate increases and fees and restricting the marketing of credit cards to college students); the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Act of 2009 (which, for the first time, gave the U.S. Food & Drug Administration the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco); the Health Care and Educational Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 (which among other things, prevents insurance companies from cutting someone off when he or she gets sick or denying coverage to a person because of pre-existing conditions, extends the cut-off age for young adults to continue to be covered by their parents' health insurance to age 27, eliminated lifetime caps on the amount of insurance an individual can have, grants seniors a rebate to fill the so-called "donut hole" in Medicare drug coverage and allows tax credits of up to 50% of employee premiums to businesses with fewer than 50 employees); the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 (that sought to infuse accountability and transparency into the financial system, to end "too big to fail," protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, and protect consumers from abusive financial services practices).
Granted that stocks are currently suffering the fallouts from the protracted debt-ceiling increase debacle, it must be remembered that the Dow Jones had dropped to a little more than 6,000 points at the height of the economic meltdown; compared to nearly 12,000 points today.
Regarding job-creation, although the progress of the last several months have slowed considerably, it is important to remember that the bailout program which Obama pushed through Congress despite stiff Republican opposition, did in fact save both the automotive industry and the entire financial sector of the economy and, consequently, anywhere between three to five million jobs. Today, not only have the companies that benefited from this program returned all borrowed monies with interest, most successfully emerged from insolvency and even posted record profits!
Nonetheless, it still would simply not be enough for Obama to outline these victories. He has to find a way to speak to them in a context that enables him to explain why he negotiated away core Democratic values in his dealings with GOP Congressional Leaders. Failing to do so could seriously undercut crucial support from both his base and independent voters.