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The President we needed

| Monday, January 25, 2016

At his final State of the Union address, President Obama harkened back to where he started with a message of hope and change. It was refreshing, and I must admit it was a pretty good speech overall. He spoke to lawmakers and to the American people. It was a message of unity and civic engagement. He stayed away from bringing up divisive issues like firearms restrictions in favor of resolving to find the cure for cancer. Who I saw during that address was a President who I disagreed with, but respected. Who I saw during that address was the President this country needed. The things I heard President Obama mentioned were worth believing in, until I realized one thing:

Talk is cheap; and seven years after taking office, his promises of changing the political atmosphere for the better were left unrealized.

Friends have asked me why I dislike President Obama so much, why I don’t hold Republicans as accountable as I do Democrats when discussing the political rancor of the last few years. For me, it begins with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as the ACA or Obamacare. When President Obama was inaugurated, he had strong majorities in both the House and Senate, with a supermajority in the latter at one point in his first two years. Because of this, he never really needed to meet or negotiate with Republicans. He decided that he would press forward without them, and for the first time in history a landmark piece of healthcare legislation was passed without any bipartisan support. Yes, Democrats credit Mitt Romney’s plan in Massachusetts as the basis for the ACA, but Romney has stated that a one-size-fits-all approach simply wouldn’t work for all 50 states. Without attempting to garner Republican support, he steamrolled them with the ACA. President Obama held Republicans’ heads under water for the first two years of his presidency, allowing them very little say in any of the legislative process.

This showed President Obama’s legislative naiveté. While he was a gifted orator and politician to Democratic voters, he had only spent two years in the Senate and apparently didn’t learn a few elements of the policymaking process. Namely, that major minority parties will more often than not eventually gain a majority and that politicians have very good memories. No wonder that, after two years of being completely stifled, Republicans were unwilling to compromise with their chief antagonist when they gained control of Congress. While I don’t agree that dozens of attempts to repeal the ACA should take place — doing so only wastes time and public funds — I completely understand why House Republicans have done so and believe such attempts lend the ACA all the respect it deserves.

President Obama went to Washington, D.C., to change the way it worked, to foster more open political discourse and bring the country together. It was a hopeful message, but he never delivered. I would have loved to have a President who was interested in compromise and working toward mutually agreeable goals. Even though I didn’t agree with candidate Obama’s political beliefs, I thought he might actually be able to change the way politics works. He threw any hope of compromise out the window when he stonewalled Republicans. Any time he speaks on an issue, he starts by attacking the GOP, whether it’s firearms, healthcare or foreign policy, and later lambasts them for not compromising and working with him. He must’ve skipped negotiation while he was at law school. If you want to make a deal with someone, you first need to be willing to come to the table. He complains about how divided this country has become since he took office, not realizing that it is how he has managed his office that has created the divided environment.

The President that Obama portrayed during his State of the Union and campaign speeches is the President that we needed years ago and even today, but too much talk and not enough action to back up words has left the nation more politically divided than when he took office. As much as I would like to believe he was being sincere in his State of the Union address, I would be a fool to do so. As the old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

Kyle Palmer is a senior from Dillon Hall studying accountancy. He welcomes any challenges to his opinions. He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Kyle Palmer

Kyle Palmer is a senior from Dillon Hall studying accountancy. He welcomes any challenges to his opinions. He can be reached at [email protected]

Contact Kyle