It may have gone relatively unnoticed, but last Friday, 20 January, marked three years to the day since Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States. You probably have noticed, however, that this year is an election year, and we’re about to hear a lot of different opinions on the President’s performance these last three years. So what will be the verdict?
An increasingly far-right Republican Party paints him as a socialist; a threat to the American way of life.
His own Democrat Party are concerned about his failure to pursue a wholly liberal agenda, seeing him as caving in to a bullish Republican Congress.
But is any of this fair? Frankly, no. Neither complaint is valid, because they both stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of what Barack Obama is about.
He is not a left-winger, nor is he a conservative. He is not the messiah. He is, just as he said he would be in 2008, a moderate.
Much of President Obama’s problem can be attributed to the campaign he ran.
By utilizing an inspiring brand of lofty, optimistic rhetoric he was able to capture the imagination and, subsequently, the votes of millions of people from all corners of the political spectrum.
Yet while the messages of ‘hope and change’ brought him electoral success, they also brought unreasonably high expectations; expectations that he could never hope to match. To analyse his performance fairly it would be reasonable to look at just how many of those major campaign pledges he actually stuck to.
The withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq; the extension of civil rights, particularly gay rights; the introduction of a more extensive and just public health system, and the capture or assassination of key figures in Al Qaeda, including Osama Bin Laden.
His administration has done all of this, and more, and whether or not the President can truly take the responsibility for them he has undoubtedly fulfilled, or is fulfilling, the bulk of his campaign promises.
When one considers the economy he inherited, his record is remarkable. Why then, if so much of what he promised has been done, are President Obama’s approval ratings languishing around 40%?
The simple answer: the economy. Midway through the Presidential race in 2008, the global economy went into meltdown, and it’s still in the fragile process of recovery.
And, as history shows, a poor economy is often blamed on the administration presiding over it. Presidents in this position have often failed to act quickly enough, or with enough force, but Barack Obama came into power and immediately ordered an enormous stimulus plan, feeding nearly $800 billion into the US economy with the intention of creating jobs and providing relief to those worst affected by the downturn.
Initially this plan reaped few rewards, but in the last few months, the effects have begun to show.
The stimulus plan which for so long formed the basis of the criticism towards the Obama administration is now showing just how effective it was, after a string of budget reports showing drops in unemployment and growth higher than expected.
If this continues, the Republican candidate (and we can still assume that this will be Mitt Romney) may find himself in the difficult position of having to choose between continuing to criticize the administration’s economic policy or simply admitting its success, and focusing instead on other areas of policy.
If this is the case, he’s done for. Despite the cries of some of his rather unhinged critics, Barack Obama’s performance in domestic and foreign policy has been more successful than we had any right to expect in this current climate.
Advances in civil rights, healthcare for 30 million more citizens, and the withdrawal of American troops from a major conflict were all broadly popular moves with the electorate, and Mitt Romney knows that opposition to such policies will only really prove popular with that inexplicably influential offshoot of Republicanism, the Tea Party.
I make my prediction now; Barack Obama will win in November, and win convincingly.
This President has had to battle a volatile economy, an unforgiving public and a Republican Party whose only major policy over the last four years has been to see this administration fail completely, and yet he remains the favourite to secure the presidency.
As soon as his campaign begins to outline the genuine successes this administration has had, it will be difficult for his opponent to counter them, particularly if he continues to drift to the right in a desperate attempt to unite his fractured party.
Barack Obama will be president this time next year. For all fans of sanity, this is good news. Just don’t expect the ‘change’ Barack Obama so hopefully promised in 2008. It was never that simple.