People are funny. In 2008, Americans voted by a clear majority to elect Barack Obama as president of the United States. But during the mid-term elections just two years later, Americans voted overwhelmingly for members of Congress who were directly opposed to everything Obama campaigned on and stood for. Why would we do that? Why would we deliberately elect people who told us they opposed Obama’s agenda? I thought we liked Obama’s agenda.
What was Obama’s agenda? Prior to the 2008 presidential election, Candidate Obama made hundreds of campaign promises. Of the top 10 campaign promises as reported by PolitiFact in January 2009, Obama has kept two, is still working on two, has compromised on two and has broken four. (1, 2)
The two campaign promises that President Obama kept were withdrawing troops from Iraq and implementing legislation to protect consumers from fraudulent bank practices. True to his campaign promise, Obama successfully removed the last of the combat troops from Iraq in August 2011 and declared an end to the Iraq War in October 2011. This was a key issue in the 2008 elections, and according to NBC Nightly News, it was a major reason that Obama was elected president. Also true to his campaign promise, President Obama signed The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in July 2010, which put in place financial regulations designed to protect consumers from unfair corporate financial practices. (3, 4)
As president, Obama continues to work towards accomplishing two other campaign promises: creating “green” jobs and reducing the nation’s oil consumption. Although these promises are not entirely fulfilled, the steps taken by the Obama administration so far are on track with the timeline he set during the 2008 campaign. (5, 6)
Obama’s health reform bill was rated as only partially fulfilled due to the fact that it did not include a public option. However, the Affordable Care Act was a landmark piece of legislation containing important protections for Americans including:
· Increasing insurance accessibility to those with pre-existing conditions
· Preventing lifetime limits and phasing out annual limits on coverage
· Preventing unreasonable insurance premium rate hikes
· Ensuring that insurance companies spend 80% of premium dollars on health care (7)
Another campaign promise rated as only partially fulfilled was Obama’s proposal to give working people a tax credit. The justification for the rating was based on the fact that the current payroll tax cut will expire this month and that it does not benefit lower-income taxpayers. However, a tax credit was given to all workers as part of the 2009 stimulus package and lasted for two years. Also, the current tax cut benefits two-thirds of middle-class taxpayers, and Obama continues to fight for it. (8, 9)
The four promises that Obama made that were rated as broken promises are:
· Closing Guantanamo Bay Detention Center
· Eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy
· Reducing carbon emissions through cap and trade
· Creating a fund for homeowners affected by the mortgage crisis (1)
Of these, three of them have failed due to strong resistance by Republicans in Congress, and one may not turn out to be a broken promise after all.
Regarding Guantanamo, it is important to note that Congress has been strongly opposed to closing the detention center and has passed legislation severely hindering Obama’s ability to remove the prisoners. According to a March 2011 White House Fact Sheet, the Obama Administration continues to advocate closing the facility and promises to be working on ways of doing so. Of the top four Republican presidential candidates (Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul), only Paul is in favor of shutting down Guantanamo. (10, 11)
Opposition in Congress is also stalling the President’s efforts to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. While it is true that the tax cuts are still in effect, the president has openly opposed them and is met with stiff resistance from Republicans in Congress. In fact, today the president released his budget plan for 2013, which includes raising taxes on the wealthy. According to Fox News, Republicans have already rejected the plan. (12)
Obama’s goal to reduce carbon emissions via a cap and trade program is yet another example of a program that failed due to strong resistance by Republicans in Congress. Republicans criticized the program claiming it would result in higher taxes. Obama has stated, however, that he is committed to reducing carbon emissions and will explore other ways to accomplish this goal. (13)
The fourth “broken promise” may turn out to not be broken after all. PolitiFact claimed Obama’s promise to help struggling homeowners was not kept based on the fact that the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) failed to help them. However, Obama announced just last week that mortgage lenders would provide $25 billion to Americans who have been affected by the mortgage crisis. A task force set up by the Obama Administration along with the Attorneys General from 49 states secured the settlement and is currently investigating the banks for illegal practices that caused the mortgage crisis. (14, 15)
Obama’s actions since he has been in the White House are consistent with what he campaigned on. Obama has not changed his vision, nor has he given up on taking steps to get there. And although you may believe that Obama has not done enough to further his agenda, you can count on the fact that his opponents will do even less.
What we really should be asking ourselves this year is, “What do I want?” And then vote accordingly. We should not be asking ourselves, “How can I show Obama how disappointed I am?” Forget what Obama deserves or doesn’t deserve. Decide what you want for America, and then vote for the person who you think will best get us there. We really have to stop voting against people and start voting for people. After all, a vote against one candidate is really a vote for another.
If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition for a chance to win semi-monthly $250 prizes and earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize to be awarded after the November election.
1. Farley, Robert and Holan, Angie Drobnic “Counting Obama's campaign promises” Posted on PolitiFact.com on January 14, 2009. Accessed on February 13, 2012.
2. Holan, Angie Drobnic “Barack Obama's promises: Our Top 10” Published on January 19, 2009 on PolitiFact.com. Accessed on February 13, 2012.
3. “Obama: All US troops out of Iraq by end of year” Updated October 21, 2011 on msnbc.com. Accessed on February 13, 2012.
4. Lee, Jesse “President Obama Signs Wall Street Reform: ‘No Easy Task’” Posted on July 21, 2010 on WhiteHouse.gov. Accessed on February 13, 2012.
5. “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Allots $16.8 Billion for EERE” Posted on February 17, 2009 on apps1.eere.energy.gov. Accessed on February 13, 2012.
6. Richert, Catharine “New initiatives are meant to reduce oil consumption” Updated October 12th, 2009 on PolitiFact.com. Accessed February 13, 2012.
7. “Fact Sheet: The Affordable Care Act’s New Patient’s Bill of Rights” Posted on June 22, 2010 on HealthReform.gov. Accessed on February 13, 2012.
8. Holan, Angie Drobnic “New payroll tax 'holiday' means restructured tax credits, with varied results” Updated January 4, 2011 on PolitiFact.com. Accessed February 13, 2012.
9. Gibson, Kate “Obama urges middle-class tax cut extension: Virginia governor’s bashes White House budget in Republican reply” Posted on February 11, 2012 on MarketWatch.com. Accessed on February 13, 2012.
10. Farley, Robert “Obama announces changes to Guantanamo detention policy” Updated March 9, 2011 on PolitiFact.com. Accessed February 13, 2012.
11. “2012 Republican Candidates: Guantanamo Bay” posted on Republican-Candidates.org. Accessed on February 13, 2012.
12. “Obama defends tax hikes, proposes more job training in new budget” Posted on FoxNews.com on February 13, 2012. Accessed February 13, 2012.
13. Holan, Angie Drobnic “Obama abandons cap and trade as Republicans take over the House” Updated November 8, 2010 on PolitiFact.com. Accessed on February 13, 2012.
14. Kiel, Paul and Pierce, Olga “Govt’s Loan Mod Program Crippled by Lax Oversight and Deference to Banks” Posted January 27, 2011 on ProPublica.com. Accessed February 13, 2012.
15. “The Rachel Maddow Show: Obama leaves room for further prosecution in bank mortgage deal” Posted on February 9, 2012 on bing.com. Accessed February 13, 2012.