President Obama’s second term officially began Monday with a grand inauguration, featuring everything from a parade to a lip-synced performance by Beyonce. Arguably, the highlight of the day was Obama’s inauguration speech. In it, President Obama clearly took a strongly progressive stance in acute contrast to the generically bipartisan message he conveyed during his first inauguration.
For example, by mentioning Stonewall, President Obama demonstrated his commitment and sympathy to the LGBT movement, an excellent sign for progressives.
Perhaps most notable, was President Obama’s not-so-subtle shot at former Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, in which Obama confirmed his continued support for the social safety net programs Republicans want to severely cut.
Obama’s speech projected hope for continued social progress and reform. Many Democrats are excited because of their belief that President Obama will be able to utilize the political capital he acquired after defeating Mitt Romney.
Yet to me, the words in his speech were utterly empty.
Although I generally like the President as a person, he has a history of caving to Republican opposition. The examples are almost endless.
The Affordable Care Act was a start for health reform. However, it was a far cry from the Public Option, which he failed to deliver.
The Republicans successfully intimidated President Obama into extending the loathsome and fiscally irresponsible Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. President Obama botched the 2011 Republican-manufactured debt ceiling crisis and cut spending that was vital to both our economy and American families. This action ultimately resulted in the fiscal cliff, which we managed to avert with minimal damage.
Many of Obama’s failures occurred during his first two years, with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid presiding over a 60-seat majority in the Senate. These conditions were almost ideal and much better than those he currently faces, further advancing the notion that no substantial progress will occur.
Let’s face it: Barack Obama is an almost unfathomably bad negotiator with a propensity to sell out his base.
Now, due to Republican gerrymandering (or what I would call cheating), the House is still red (albeit by a smaller margin). This occurred even though Democratic Congressional candidates, as an aggregate, received more votes than Republican congressional candidates. The Republicans have manipulated the congressional districts so masterfully that it remains a distinct possibility that the House of Representatives could have a Republican majority until 2022.
Although House Majority Leader John Boehner isn’t as crazy as members of the Tea Party, it’s nearly impossible that he would be willing to lend support to any progressive legislation, especially given his very tenuous hold of the Speaker’s gavel.
Now let’s focus a bit on the Senate. Barring the success of an ongoing filibuster reform attempt, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a seemingly perpetual sore loser, will continue the procedural abuse for which he is notorious. With the way the Senate currently runs, 60 seats are needed to pass bills instead of the 51 the founders intended.
Senator McConnell has little incentive to stop the constant filibustering, given the Republican Party’s success in the 2010 midterm elections. This success followed two years of pure obstinance and obstruction to the Democratic agenda, along with Senator McConnell’s personal ambition to become Majority Leader McConnell.
Even though the Democratic Caucus holds a healthy 55 seats, it still falls short of the 60 seats needed for cloture. Not to mention that Democratic Senators Baucus (Montana), Begich (Alaska), Carper (Delaware), Hagan (North Carolina), Heitkamp (North Dakota), Manchin, (West Virginia), Nelson (Florida), Pryor (Arkansas) and Tester (Montana) are hardly allies of the liberal movement.
As a liberal, I feel that while the 2012 election’s reflection of our changing demographics and views was promising, we have little to look forward to policy-wise outside of blatantly commonsense reforms. The constraints imposed by the loopholes of gerrymandering and filibustering, along with Obama’s cowardly resolve, will preclude most meaningful change.
But at least Romney isn’t President.