What’s Left: The Audacity to Win



It’s now as official as it was unsurprising: President Obama is running for a second term. As for the other side of the aisle, Tim Pawlenty is the only major candidate in the race so far, although many expect GOP mainstreamers Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, Rick Santorum and Mitch Daniels to enter in the coming weeks. Interestingly, some Tea Party favorites (Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Ron Paul), former ambassador Jon Huntsman and TV-star/business mogul Donald Trump have all expressed varying degrees of interest. Democrats and Republicans alike should be scared, uninterested and laughing (respectively) when consider­ing these “contenders.” Pundits are calling 2012 Obama’s election to lose, and some Washington insiders think that the difficulty of beating Obama might be keeping presidential hopefuls out of this race. Why bother losing in 2012 when you can have an easier time in 2016? But with 19 long months between now and Election Day, pretending to predict the elections is a farce.

Instead of going back and forth on whether Barack Obama will win, here is why he should. There are two main (and perhaps equally unfair) criticisms of President Obama. The first essentially says he has done too much and the second says he has done nothing at all. Regarding the first, it was clear that Obama had a big agenda from the moment he announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois four years ago. If the country wasn’t ready to take him seriously, it shouldn’t have given him 365 electoral votes, or seven million more popular votes than any previous candidate. Far more aggravating though, is the sec­ond criticism – that President Obama hasn’t done anything. Anyone with half a brain or functioning eyes and ears should be able tell that President Obama has been busy. Here’s just a narrow sample of what he has done: in the interest of getting the elephant out of the room, let’s tackle health care reform first. Health care reform was the unreachable rung on the progressive ladder for over a century. Despite simultaneous criticisms of both Obama’s supposed lack of leadership and backroom orchestration with key policy-makers, the ability to take on and achieve substantive policy changes bodes well for Obama. Colgate students will get to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they are 26, and those of us with pre-existing conditions can acquire/ change policies without risk. Obama also pushed financial reforms through that prevent predatory lending, proprietary trading and change the way credit card companies do business. “Fine print” is now readable without a magnifying glass, and credit card companies can’t prey on clueless college freshmen by signing them up for credit on the quad. Additionally, his expan­sion of the Pell Grants means more low-income families can send students to college. Obama has prioritized and signed into law bills that protect women’s rights, increased minority access to capital and credit, appointed more openly gay people to federal positions with equal benefits than any president and appointed two of the four women ever to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Additionally, the President has signed a massive nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, end­ed limits on the freedom of press surrounding the Iraq War, supported science programs like stem cell research and private spaceflight and took significant political risk by saving the American auto industry with (in hindsight) remarkable success. The list of President Obama’s accomplishments is long and those presented here are by no means exhaustive.

Obama has accomplished a lot, but even he acknowledges that he has much more to do. We need to give him that chance. America needs reform and progressive change. Don’t be fooled by the game of distraction politics. President Obama is not just a man of beer summits and golf. He has achieved substantial policy goals, and while not everyone will find everything exactly as they want­ed, innovative solutions to our country’s problems are in demand. We cannot afford to conserve the policies that have weakened us and threaten our greatness.The intellectually and substantively bankrupt “Party of No” relies on falsifications, half-truths and rhetoric grounded in an imagined reality. Conservatives look back for answers, even as far as the founding of the republic. But the founding fathers did not “work tirelessly until slavery was no more” and George Washington, after creating the first excise tax on whiskey, crushed a bothersome rebellion with federal forces – not exactly a “Don’t Tread on Me” response. Alas, their grasp on history, like modern day challenges confronting America, is tenuous at best. Going back to the way things were in America’s heyday doesn’t mean that we will suddenly bounce back. We need new solutions for new problems, and the GOP is slow to offer any. Perhaps then, Republicans are late to enter the race because no candidate wants to be on the sinking ship that the Republican 2012 ticket could become.