In November of 2008, Americans changed history by electing its first African-American president. On that night of jubilation for some, bitterness for others, there was an open acknowledgement that history had indeed changed and it was brought out not by a war, a terrorist attack or by government leaders but by the will of the people. The main criticism launched against, then-candidate Barack Obama, was that he was too inexperienced. A “community organizer” was not fit to lead the world’s most powerful and influential nation.
Now, nearly three years later, the country went from grand celebration and exuberance to facing the worst economic downturn in decades, increased entrenchment in Afghanistan, a new war in Libya and a broken, seemingly circus-like Congress. Yes, Congress was designed to be slow and obtuse, but there is a fine line between careful deliberation and rampant absurdity. Even some veteran journalists are floored at how incompetent the legislative branch has been.
With all of this to contend with, how are President Obama’s approval ratings? According to the most recent Gallup poll, the president has hit an all-time low with only 42% approving his job. Unsurprisingly, the approval rating varied according to political ideology, with conservatives giving the lowest rating and liberals the highest. But the fact that his rating is low even among his own party shows just how dismal a mood the country is in now.
With these kinds of numbers, is it fair to lay all the blame at the president’s feet? With all of the political rancor and hysteria being blasted at us from 24-hour news networks, it’s no wonder that the American people are fed up with the government. What must be remembered, however, is that in only two years, President Obama has a dizzying array of accomplishments under his belt. In his first term, Obama has managed to bail out two major auto industries, engineered a massive economic stimulus plan, bailed out major banks on the verge of collapse, brought the war in Afghanistan back into the public consciousness and, in spite of heated opposition from a largely Republican House, pushed through Universal Health Care. More recently, Obama repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and in a move right out of a 24 episode, had Osama bin Laden killed while amassing vast amounts of al-Qaida intel.
All of these accomplishments (including the death of bin Laden) have been accompanied by plenty of criticism if not outright attacks on the president. But in addition to the usual Sturm und Drang surrounding political discourse, Obama has dealt with the headache of the “birther” movement, despite his readily available birth certificate issued by the state of Hawaii. It seems that no other president in recent memory has had to deal with such ridiculous non-issues such as the birther movement and other right-wing driven conspiracy theories.
Obama certainly has accomplished a lot, but he has also either neglected or seems to have completely forgotten some of his campaign promises (Guantanamo is still open and troop withdrawal deadlines are constantly being pushed forward). He has made an attempt at bipartisanship, but an unusual hostile GOP and an ever weakening Democratic Party makes this virtually impossible. It is then, perhaps, best to not blame Obama for our country’s problems—for they have been issues plaguing our nation for generations that during this presidency, received more media attention—but to understand the circumstances he is in.
I voted for Barack Obama because he was the most articulate, the most clear-headed and the most presidential candidate. Yet as these three years have gone by, I have become slowly disillusioned—even angry—at the president and especially at the GOP, the party that once claimed that to not support the president was “unpatriotic” now turned it’s heels and claimed that Obama may not even be a natural born citizen.
But the president does not lead the country alone; he has three branches of government to work with. Unfortunately, the most vocal branch, the legislative, has not been entirely cooperative, especially since the GOP takeover. There are no easy answers to the challenges this country faces, for now, it seems that the best option is for our political leaders to quit the circus and work to solve our economic, social and military crises. Many Americans believe that we are on the wrong path, but have different notions on how to correct our problems. That is fine as long as we can stop comparing those we disagree with to Hitler and actually seek common ground.
I had hoped that Obama would be able to do this, but it seems that he is unable to given the over-zealous politicians that have managed to take over Congress. So we, the American people, have to step in and vote for candidates that are the most level-headed and not bound by party lines in order to work on these issues. I personally, will cast my vote for Obama’s re-election, not because I am entirely pleased with his actions, but because he seems to be the only sane candidate running.