Every American general election that has taken place in my life time has come down to a choice between the lesser of two evils. Despite the first African American President’s several accomplishments, Barack Obama’s first administration has turned out to be more hype than hope.
Last week during the Democratic National Convention, Democrats made great speeches about Obama’s endeavors of the last four years and managed to belittle the Republican platform at the same time. While some of his accomplishments were significant, his shortcomings were just as important and obviously went without mention at the Convention.
My first major disappointment with Barack Obama came shortly after he was elected when he said he would not pursue criminal charges or turn over the previous administration to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Obama appealed to the American people to leave the past in the past and instead look to the future.
Obama’s inaction has consequences greater than just letting warmongers and advocates of torture roam free, he paved the way for future presidents to do the same and get away with it. Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team is largely made up of the same chicken hawks that pushed for President George W. Bush to go to war with Iraq and supported the use of torture.
Barack Obama promised to close the national embarrassment known as the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, but failed to do so. As many as 775 detainees have had a stay at the military prison base in the last decade.
Most have never been charged with a crime, many have been subjected to torture and there is no telling how much longer the remaining 170 men will have to wait to have their fate decided. The unlawful detention and torture of potentially innocent men should not exist in a land that claims to hold civil rights in such high regard.
Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act might one day prove to be his biggest achievement, but only if it eventually leads to actual Universal Healthcare. Obamacare might protect millions of Americans who previously went without health insurance, but it benefits the middle men (the insurance companies) who will always put money ahead of their client’s wellbeing regardless of the law. Furthermore, the bill still leaves ten to twenty million Americans without any kind of coverage at all.
The failure here comes from the President’s inability to convince some Democrats to support universal health care. Obama enjoyed a majority in the House and Senate during his first two years in office, but could not use it to his advantage. Many of the president’s colleagues argued that they risked losing the next election if the supported national healthcare and Obama failed to convince them otherwise. In the end, many Democrat Representatives lost their seats in 2010 midterms anyway.
Drug War without End
The forty year old war on drugs has continued unabated under the Obama administration, in some ways it has even escalated. Innocent Mexicans continue to die in the thousands at the hands of drug cartels armed with American made weapons, countless Americans rot in prison without committing a real crime while the bankers who launder the money rarely get punished. It has gotten so bad that California now spends more on prisons than higher education.
Obama has done nothing new concerning the war on drugs apart from going after the legal medical marijuana shops. Lately the President has said he would be ready to re-examine the drug war during his second term, but expressed an unwillingness to even legalize or decriminalize pot, leading me to believe he’s all talk.
The Great Divergence
Thirty years of trickle-down economics, deregulation and free trade (among other things) has left the biggest wealth gap between the rich and poor since the 1920’s. Obviously, no president can repair the damage that’s been done to the middle class in only one term, but in this respect Obama is talking the talk more than walking the walk.
Fixing this problem will require years of planning, dialog, ideas and international cooperation, just to name a few. So far all we’ve seen through the President’s office is record corporate profits, continued Wall Street gambling and a stimulus package that contained mainly tax cuts.
Barack embraced the occupy movement of last autumn promising to do what he can to improve the ever increasing wealth gap, but an undertaking such as this is much more complicated than simply raising taxes a couple of percentage points now that we all partake in the global economy.
Assuming he’s re-elected, if Obama wants to be remembered as the man who ended the great recession or the man that ushered in a new age of equality, his second term better not look like his first….