Sure, President Barack Obama is likable as a person, as evidenced by the recent adorable Twitter phenomenon #ObamaWithKids which made everyone ooh and aww over the frequent number of photos of the POTUS with tots and tykes. But while the president is a wiz at making babies stop crying, he has yet to have the same effect on progressive Democrats who have waited for over seven years for the president to accomplish the promises he made during his campaign.
We all remember the evocative promise for “Hope and Change” and the amazing sense of “this really matters” we felt when we cast our vote for the first black president, but here we all are seven years later, and what are we left with? Not much besides a string of broken promises and middle-of-the-road compromises that somehow ended up far more to the right side of the road than the president would want us to believe.
When you are tempted to view the president’s terms with rose-tinted glasses, refer to this list of let-downs to be brought back to reality.
- Obama’s “Compromising” policies: President Obama ran for president under the guise of working across the aisle to compromise for deals that would satisfy both Republicans and Democrats, but more often than not, his reputation as the Compromise King has not led to much deal-making, instead showing his opponents that he is a pushover and can be taken advantage of. Republicans have spent these past seven years resolutely refusing to work with Obama, possibly because he painted himself as a peacemaker rather than a leader.
- Obama’s Secret TPP Love Affair: Obama kept the details of his “Nafta on Steroids” Trans-Pacific Partnership secret for as long as he could before releasing the full deal in the fall of 2015. Once people looked through the plan, they were horrified as they saw the plan as a full-on assault against the environment, American and foreign workers, intellectual property and patents, and more. American jobs would most certainly suffer as they are unable to compete with a 56 cent minimum wage in Vietnam, for example. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has criticized the deal for not doing anything to raise labor standards in the nations it is involved in, allowing workers to continue making abysmal pay. Others have bemoaned the lack of environmental protections that the trade deal would impose, allowing nations to go about their industry in whatever earth-killing way they wish. The Trade Deal seems destined to fail, but the president’s unwavering support of the deal shows that his politics aren’t so progressive after all.
- Obama Allows the War On Drugs To Wage On: President Obama has done little during his tenure to limit or end the failed policy of a “War on Drugs” which has put millions of low-level offenders in prison, in many cases for longer terms than rapists and murderers. In the latter part of his second term, the president did pardon a few handfuls of non-violent drug offenders, a symbolic step, but that’s about as far as it goes. There are still a massive number of prisoners who are locked up for long terms based on possession of small amounts of drugs – very often, just marijuana. The president has not advocated for the nationwide legalization of marijuana, despite the fact that he said he felt it was no more dangerous than alcohol.
- Obama Keeps Cozy With Corporate Types: Obama’s choice of leaders to work underneath him have not always been the most kosher. When Obama was elected, he was viewed as a bit of an outsider based on his race and relative inexperience, and yet during his time as president he found himself very well-acquainted with corporate interests. In 2015, president Obama selected Robert M. Califf to head the FDA. The problem with that is that Califf has been a consultant to drug companies and ran a research institute at Duke that received a majority of its funding from the pharmaceutical industry. Far too close to the corrupt industry for comfort, many progressives have said. Then, just this week, the president floated the idea of choosing Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. A Republican for the supreme court doesn’t sound like a good idea to any progressive Democrat.
- Obama Bailed Out Wall Street: When the 2008 crash occurred, no one was quite prepared for what the fallout would be. President Obama inherited a gigantic mess that he was not to blame for at all, but his handling of the situation allowed Wall Street and Bankers to get off scot-free, all on the dime of the taxpayers. Nowadays, Obama pays lipservice to important ideas like the growth of the one percent and income inequality, but the truth is that Obama’s bailout policies only set a precedent. What Obama did to save the banks will be done over and over again – not because they were genius policies, but because his actions created a revolving door of a lack of accountability and the belief that the American people will cushion any fall.
This is not an exhaustive list. The president has also continued to allow the government to invade our privacy in almost unprecedented levels. He has also overseen some of the most violent and widespread deportation of undocumented immigrants in decades. He has allowed drone strikes to take out countless innocent people in nations far away. The list goes on and on.
So please, enjoy your image of President Obama as the savior you may believe him to be if you must. History will surely remember him as a hero, but here at Ring of Fire we remember those who remain oppressed under his leadership and the countless people who have been let down by his broken promises.