Congresswoman Michele Bachman, the Tea Party firebrand from Minnesota, has declared her candidacy for the Republican Party nomination for President. She stole the show at CNN’s first Republican Primary Debate in New Hampshire by emphatically declaring: “President Obama is a one term President.” Unquestionably this has been the goal of the Grand Obstructionist Party (GOP) from the very first day of the Obama presidency. At every turn, the Republican Party, which is now tantamount to the Conservative Party, has blocked, obstructed and otherwise sought to ensure that President Obama would fail. Rabid radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh said as much. And, to galvanize Conservative opposition to the President’s health care reform bill, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint openly urged his colleagues to make this issue Obama’s “Waterloo.”
Frankly, the tea leaves are not forecasting a favorable future for President Obama. After inching downward, unemployment has crept up to over 9%. The housing market is stalled, crippled by millions of foreclosures and the refusal of banks to aggressively work with homeowners to modify mortgages. The Federal Reserve has lowered its projections for GNP to a snail’s pace recovery. While millions of Americans languish in unemployment and joblessness, some for months if not years, the public discourse in Washington is being dominated by the Conservative’s demand for massive cuts in spending to reduce the national deficit and debt. Meanwhile 16 million children now live in poverty in the “richest nation in the world.” Consumer confidence is sagging and polls indicate that a sizeable segment of the electorate believes the country is heading in the wrong direction. After a bump in the polls following the elimination of Osama Bin Laden, President Obama’s approval rating has dipped below 50% again. Having been administered a “shellacking” by the electorate in the 2010 mid-term elections there are ominous signs of an even more disastrous outcome for President Obama and the Democrats in 2012.
The question is can this political catastrophe be averted? If we take the measure of President Obama’s performance thus far, the indicators are not encouraging. A major problem is that Obama, who was an inspirational candidate, has proven to be a timid, largely uninspiring President. The “Audacity of Hope” has not translated into a demonstrated capacity to govern as a bold, visionary leader. To be sure, Obama was dealt a hand of crises unlike any since the Great Depression, a fact that did not deter the GOP from plotting his demise despite the scourge of maladies passed on by Bush-Cheney. But, under circumstances that demanded uplifting, bold/decisive leadership, Obama played into the hands of the Conservatives with his penchant for pragmatism and obsessive yearning for “bi-partisanship.”
As a consequence he prematurely compromised on the Stimulus Package, settling for a dollar amount far short of what leading progressive economists like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich suggested was necessary to really generate a sustained economic recovery. He repeated this mistake with health care reform, not only refusing to stand up for Single Payer but sacrificing the concept of a public option without a fight. In the battle over the Budget, the President caved on his pledge not to renew the Bush tax cuts, giving the Conservative deficit/debt reduction hawks another victory despite the fact that his concession will actually add to the deficit/debt over the next 10 years. The President has drawn a” line in the sand” by pledging to prevent the privatization of Medicare and Social Security but there is concern that if the Conservatives play hard ball (as most assuredly they will), once again President Obama will yield rather than take a principled stand.
Nothing more than Obama’s lackluster performance on jobs illustrates his vulnerability to being defeated in 2012. Creating or fighting for jobs for the millions of unemployed should be the number one priority for the President entering a difficult election year. Indeed, this should long have been the focus for Obama. And, while no reasonable economist or political leader can dispute that the mushrooming national deficit and debt pose a serious long term threat to the health of the nation, the short term imperative is to put people back to work! There are numerous economists who contend that expending additional federal funds to create jobs will actually cut into the deficit and debt. This does not mean the long term deficit and debt can be ignored, it means an additional stimulus package can be funded without doing damage to the economy.
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com.
The is the first in a two-part commentary examining the 2012 presidential election.