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Obama remains a polarizing figure

August 3, 2013
By Dr. David Turner , Davis & Elkins College

For Barack Obama, his fifth year must seem a dull repeat.

Once more a tour around the country to drum up support for initiatives seemingly permanently stalled in Congress.

To his critics he appears as relevant as Woodrow Wilson when he campaigned for the League of Nations in 1919 or as feckless as Andrew Johnson during his ill-fated "Tour Around the Circle" in 1866.

However, Obama does have reason to repitch his economic ideas. After his victory in 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt had a losing streak on the Supreme Court. Moreover, he was saddled with a recession, largely fueled by Congressional calls to cut the budget.

John Kennedy in 1962 passed only 26 percent of his major initiatives, bottled up by a coalition of Conservatives, both Democratic and Republican.

Yet in the end, both FDR and JFK, if not in their lifetimes, saw America go their way.

Obama is a tribune, or better still a herald, of a new America to come. Even though his health care bill is besieged by his opponents - the problems of an uneven medical system remains, and if it is not addressed by him someone else, perhaps a Republican, will have to see it through. His call for technological innovation and infrastructure repair no doubt will become reality, and over time even the judiciary will reflect his priorities.

It was his misfortune to come to power while Republicans were facing an identity crisis. Under George W. Bush, they passed drug legislation, extended the Voting Rights Act, and education legislation.

But with Obama's victory in 2008, Republicans suddenly opposed everything they supported under Bush.

Filibusters became the norm and suddenly Republicans lurched so far to the Right that they seemed to be in uncharted territory.

Then, incomprehensively to them, Obama won re-election. For a moment they seemed willing to give way on everything from guns to immigration. The latter is pending but the other is sealed - doomed to defeat. Although some Republicans such as John McCain and Marco Rubio have tried to meet Obama part of the way, the old stubbornness persists. When they have gotten together they defeated a good law reducing the power of the national security state.

So Obama is stuck but he is not out. If anything Republicans have managed to keep Democrats on board. So unfair this partisanship appears that it gives incentive to Democrats to close ranks.

Poll numbers are about at 50 percent apiece and the stalemate continues. But some Republicans are worried that being the party of "no" will leave them little to advance in 2016.

Despite some doubts about Hillary Clinton, especially by some Democrats on foreign policy, the GOP will probably ensure her nomination and election. Spite is met with spite, partisanship with partisanship and so it goes.

The president has shaped the agenda, although he will probably not see it through to fruition. But the ideas are implemented and he will continue to advance other policies, if only via executive orders and the microphone.

Obama remains a significant force whose ideas and dreams will out of necessity be realized.

 
 

 

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