President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign constantly begs the American people to give Obama another chance to lead the nation, but when deciding who to vote for in November, remember what Obama did (and didn’t do) with his first chance. Progressives expected the Obama administration to give them their shining moment of glory, and indeed he certainly entered office with plenty of support from the mainstream, as well. Obama, backed by large Democratic majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, was to usher in an era of equality and liberalism not seen since FDR and to revive the progressive spirit of the New Left. The rich would finally yield to the government with massive tax increases, and corporations would finally serve the people (as if they haven’t always done so) before themselves. Not only was America to be transformed, but the entire world was expected to enter into a new age of multilateralism and international cooperation; indeed, high hopes for a community organizer-turned-freshman senator.
However, Obama bungled his presidency from the starting line because he took his eyes off the ball. Obama had two years of guaranteed Democratic control of the government – two years where he and his allies could pass nearly any legislation they wished. But instead of focusing on the in-the-toilet economy or passing a jobs bill, Obama spent the first half of his presidency tackling an issue that, considering the dire economic situation, could not have been more irrelevant or unhelpful to the American people: health insurance reform. Democrats saw those two years as the chance to finally change the insurance system, ideally by creating a public insurance option to compete with private insurers. However, as the debate slogged on for months on end, it quickly became apparent that the American people were not pleased. The Obama administration switched their core argument constantly, trying to find a message that would stick. They talked about how essential health care is to the economy; they talked about the dangers of an inflating insurance market. They even trumpeted the “human rights” argument, which was essentially the nail in the coffin since people finally realized that Obama and the Democrats were more interested in promoting egalitarian big-government social policies than actually helping the economy. Sure, the bill passed (eventually), watered-down and seemingly desirable to no one. But it was too late; Obama was only halfway into his first term and his presidency had already been tarnished because he lost focus, not unlike how Bush was tarnished by the Iraq distraction.
Fast-forward to today, and there have certainly been a few bright spots on Obama’s record since the “shellacking” his party received in 2010 in response to the health insurance law. Obama has been occasionally lucky in the world of foreign policy, such as with the killing of bin Laden and the turnaround in the Libyan civil war. But since 2010, Obama has quieted his domestic policy, with his true principles only being apparent on rare occasions. For example, Obama initially offered praise to the Occupy movement before hastily hushing up once its popularity sunk. His recent initial proposal to require religious institutions such as Catholic charities and hospitals to cover the cost of their employees’ reproductive healthcare would have forced such groups to pay for products they see as morally repugnant, such as birth control and abortifacients. Obama backed off this demand after widespread outrage, but this particular controversy clearly highlighted to the American people a trend that Obama has followed throughout his presidency. Obama will propose some far-left policy (such as the plan to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court in Manhattan) but then back off and suggest a more moderate approach. This method serves two purposes: The initial proposal panders to progressives, and the reversal makes the president look bipartisan in the eyes of more moderate voters. However, this scheme is clearly intended to increase his reelection chances; give Obama a second term with no further need to appease voters, and he will no longer need to flip-flop toward moderate policies. He will pursue an aggressively far-left agenda like this country has never seen, allowing his true ideology to show. America stands to lose much should the day come when Barack Obama has nothing to lose.