HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
It has been one year since Obama’s campaign concluded with a historic victory.
His rise to presidency, many would agree, was rather messianic, since his campaign owed its magical journey to his dominant personal appeal, beautiful speeches and promises. Millions believed in Obama-power, and not much logic or experience behind his persona was sought. Bipartisanship, engagement with friends and foes alike, and the campaign's buoyant prophetic “change” mantra mesmerized masses.
A year later, three American states held elections Tuesday. Virginia and New Jersey voted for their new governors, New York City for its mayor, and also its representative of the 23rd district. While just a year ago Obama crushed McCain, the GOP presidential candidate, in Virginia and New Jersey with landslide victories, this time, despite Obama's intense involvement, especially in the New Jersey elections, the GOP has reverberated well with the voters taking these states back.
Was this a wake up call to the Democratic Party, pointing out the poor performance of Obama the president, or just a couple of meaningless elections, based on local issues or politics and were decided mostly by the candidates' personal appeals?
Whatever the case may be, Obama's magical journey took a heavy hit when the two governors lost. According to the exit polls on Tuesday, Obama's 10-month performance was not a big factor in votes and voters cast their votes mostly due to their economic fears, looking for a candidate to lower taxes in their districts, create more jobs and go after corruption charges more decisively.
Still, one cannot dismiss the role of Obama's presidency and his first-year performance while analyzing the results of these elections. Obama's top agenda for Democratic Party's domestic "change" policy is the health care overhaul, and after more than half a year of talking and fighting, finally the full House vote on the health care initiative can be held this weekend. Anything can happen both in the House and the Senate, and apparently there are weeks and maybe months before such reform pass the both chambers, if it will.
The Obama administration has already spent much of 2009 making this overhaul possible, while the economy has been bleeding badly and jobs are being lost. On the other hand, there are still many more monumental reforms which need discussion and decisions in Congress, such as the pending climate bill or immigration reform. Especially after last Tuesday's elections in three states, with the energized GOP and withdrawn progressive Blue Dog Democrats, who are representing a pretty conservative democratic constituency, and who have always been open to the influence of the GOP, the future episodes of the Democratic 'change' agenda looks more vulnerable. It is because the appreciable fraction of this conservative constituency has not been happy with many episodes of this reform agenda, disgusted with the government in Washington, DC, which has shown its careless policies over the colossal budget deficit and expanding central government. Therefore, this disappointed populace could be up in the air to grab for the GOP in the midterm elections of 2010.
Obama had answers for those who asked him where the change is that was promised to them. In New Orleans, only a couple of weeks ago, he said the following: ‘Well, why haven’t you solved world hunger yet?’ Why — it’s been nine months. Why?’ You know? I never said it was going to be easy. What did I say during the campaign? I said change is hard. And big change is harder. And after the last nine months, you know I wasn’t kidding.”
This was a sobering message coming from a man, who was riding the very magical wave of extraordinary promises and the atmosphere he helped create, who was now inviting listeners to be realistic and down to earth.
It is definitely true that we should not expect Obama to solve all of America's problems in merely 10 months. But still, when one looks at what he has achieved since he came to office, one does not find many comforting results.
The biggest credit his supporters tend to give Obama is the massive bailout packages said to have saved the economy from catastrophe. According to this school of thought, if the American government had not made those trillions available to the financial institutions, the American economy would have come to a complete halt. On the other hand, many others argued that the fund packages had already been designed and even released initially by the previous administration.
According to one piece of information, Obama's spending has already reached what the Clinton administration spent in two terms in office. This spending spree, by itself, is enough to show what kind of a power the Obama administration gathered, comparing to a decade ago.
On the other hand, the opposition has already started to sing victory songs that were forgotten since the 2004 elections with the latest victories. From now on, we should expect American conservatives to mobilize better and organize more enthusiastically.
This excitement though, doesn't mean the Republican Party is all ready to deliver. On the contrary, today's Republican Party looks like someone on the wrong side of history on almost every issue. Many within the GOP either don't believe that climate change is manmade or urgent enough. The previous Republican president was also careless about the budget deficit and eager to expand executive power. The GOP also has its internal problems between the conservatives and centrists, and which side will win the fight or how much damage the internal fight will cause, remains to be seen.
As argued above, the exit polls last Tuesday clearly declared that the main concern of today's American voters is the economy, not social issues, as the case was during the late 90s and the 2000s up to now. Accordingly, we can bank it on the economic numbers or worries that will shape the mid-term elections of November 2010 dominantly. Therefore, if the stimulus funds start to work more effectively in coming months, and especially before and during the next summer, Obama can be seen as the saviour once again by placing the wrecked economy he inherited from the previous administration on the right tract.
In brief, wars, the Middle East peace process or America's image in the world are all important issues to tackle. However, what the American people care most about is their economic well-being, having secure jobs and safe and sound financial sectors these days and coming months, maybe years. "It's economy, stupid" proverb, once more comes alive this week. This is a very important message that came to light during an off-election year. The young president will take it very seriously, and we will see if he can implement the change.
Guest - Doyle (2009-11-08 13:58:25) :
Nobel Peace Prize is a joke. Yes, the House passed the health reform bill. To me it was the first step in taking away the freedom of the people of the USA. Obama is a talker. He loves to hear himself talk and the way it looks many others like it also. His path is the way to our distruction.
Guest - Kiwi (2009-11-08 07:32:34) :
FYI: the health care bill just passed the house. You cannot expect miracles after what the previous administration left behind. You made no mention of his ability to reach out to other nations, nor his Nobel Peace Prize. Obama is a man of intellect, and strength, and vision: all qualities that the US needs at this juncture.
Guest - kwell (2009-11-07 00:15:10) :
I think Obama still is a very strong president and he has yet to start his journey!