President Obama was elected on two key words; Hope and Change.
What happened to the great promise outlined during his campaign and election? The lack of fulfillment of his promise rests directly with the Congress and their partisanship.
The president was elected into a situation that required a special kind of leadership. He was given many opportunities to exercise that leadership, but continued to come up short. The three greatest challenges for his first term were to prevent further economic collapse, correct the system that was responsible for the collapse and finally to set in place policy that would begin the economic recovery.
Of the three challenges, the president can only claim full success on one; the stopping of a further collapse. He can also claim a partial success on setting policy that supported the recovery, but he must claim failure at correcting the conditions that led to the collapse. However, it is possible that all three areas could have been successful, except for the dysfunction of the U.S. Congress.
Before going further; President Obama failed to spearhead a structural change of the financial industry and essentially left the perpetrators of the collapse completely off the hook. He ended up following the recommendations of his Treasurer Secretary Timothy Geithner and lost support and direction on correcting the financial industry problems; where in no time the firms that were “too big to fail” were right back doing business as usual. Instead of putting the financial house in order, the president decided to pursue his campaign promise of addressing healthcare accessibility. This is the point that his administration seriously went off the rails.
I have focused this article on Congress and state legislatures who effectively have held the keys to the kingdom. Even when we have been faced with similar crisis in the past, the congress has wisely set aside their partisan differences and cooperated to address the critical problems. This is what has made this crisis different from all others. Congress has not only failed to set aside partisanship, but has become even more entrenched in their partisan ideologies. This is exemplified by Senator Mitch McConnell’s (R, Kentucky) statement that the Republicans were going to assure that Obama was only a one-term president. Therefore, the president started his term with a commitment from the opposition to obstruct the administration at every opportunity and guarantee failure.
I can’t place the blamed solely on the Republicans; the Democrats have shared equally in the failures of the congress. If the Democrats would have used their majority position judiciously, they could have forced the administration into addressing the three critical issues and would probably have gained enough Republican support to get the job done.
It is my opinion that the lack of effort to correct once and for all the financial industry, the general electorate made their message loud and clear. The TEA Party and 99% Movement emerged as forces to signal the displeasure with both congress and the administration. Fortunately for the Republicans, they were able to co-opt the TEA Party movement and incorporate it into the party. The attempts by the Democrats to co-opt the 99% Movement has been met with general failure and has become largely a non factor in American politics. However, the TEA Party has become a horse of a different color.
The Republican’s strategy to be obstructionist until they gained their objectives was something that the members of the TEA Party could easily accept and adopted the same strategy. After the whipping the Republicans took in 2008 and was officially declared dead; they rebounded, with the help of the TEA Party Movement, to take control of the House, a majority of state governorships, and control of many state legislatures.
The success of TEA Party candidates made a bad situation in congress even worse. Since the 2010 elections, the congress can’t get anything done and has been putting things off until 2013, when the new congress is seated. In the state legislatures, TEA Party candidates have had a “field day." Passage of social conservative legislation has never seen such a period. Issues such as Personhood, Voter I.D., liberalization of firearms control, abstinence only sex education, defunding women’s health centers, etc; has dominated state legislative business rather than fiscal solutions to the states’ financial struggles. With the gridlock in congress; any movement, one way or another, has occurred at the state level. Therefore, there have been 50 separate approaches to problem solving, solving none of the big issues.
What I don’t understand is why Congress is not being held accountable for the stalemate. Rationally speaking, it shouldn’t matter who is in the Whitehouse if congress was doing their jobs. Although I am following the presidential election, to me it’s less important than the congressional elections. We need to elect members of congress who are willing to stop being obstructionist and will exercise the political art of compromise.
The nation is waiting!