Bucknell Institute for Public Policy (BIPP): In 2016, hindsight is 20/20

Zachary Krivine, Contributing Writer

Campaign 2016 is officially in full swing as of Feb. 1. In the months leading up to the Iowa caucus, candidates have been on a sustained road trip in an attempt to sell themselves to the American people. Although some have chosen to do so by basing their campaigns on a lack of substantive ideas and, at times, flat-out bigotry, the majority of candidates hope to become president by promoting their vision of America’s future.

The sitting commander-in-chief became so by leading a campaign in such a fashion: with a sense of optimism and forward thinking about what America can and should become. As a budding news junkie at 12 years old, it was hard to resist being enraptured by President Barack Obama’s message of hope and change. The visions of these candidates are no more than words, and so it can be tough to choose a candidate if you ultimately do not know what a Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump presidential term would look like. But hindsight is 20/20, so when backtracking to 2008 or even 2012, we can ask ourselves this question: would we re-elect the junior senator from Illinois?

Observing how the presidential candidates themselves discuss Obama provides us with a litmus test. Unsurprisingly, Hillary Clinton and Sanders have lauded many of the President’s policies. Meanwhile, Republicans such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio (those who actually discuss issues) have vehemently opposed these policies, often declaring them disastrous and claiming that they will repeal a number of them on their first day in office. This reveals that, and for a centrist like myself, the Obama presidency has truly been a mixed bag.

He was able to realize much of the progressive vision proposed in his campaign. His crowning achievement, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), comes to mind. Before its passage on March 21, 2010, few would argue against the claim that the American health care system was broken. Tales of dropped coverage, statistics revealing the swaths of uninsured Americans, and rapid healthcare inflation was sickening (excuse the irony) for the informed citizen. Many would have said that something needed to be done. But many would also say that we live in a democratic society, and that legislation passed should not only be sensible, but popular. Whether you feel that ACA has been effective is another discussion to have (the number of uninsured has dropped, but healthcare cost inflation has moved in the opposite direction since its implementation). One cannot dispute the fact that of the 219 votes in favor of the bill, not a single one was Republican.

This proved to be a recurring pattern of the Obama administration. Motivated by a societal problem and armed with a progressive conviction, the president would often take the un-democratic approach to his democratic job. He has often blamed congressional Republicans for forcing his hand because of their refusal to work with him no matter the issue. This is a valid criticism, but does it make him right to constantly exercise executive action. Were these Republicans not democratically elected? Do checks and balances serve only the purpose of looking good on parchment? There is little doubt that the past eight years have exacerbated the problem of partisanship in America, and the president acknowledged this in his last State of the Union address. Yet, when the president attempts to sell whatever viewpoint he has on an issue, he does so in a detached manner. Instead of reconciling the many opinions that make up the American public, he attempts to convince Americans that he is correct. Instead of unifying, he divides. Obama has a little less than a year left in office, so this story has not yet been set in stone. If he is to live up to his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech of one United States, the time is now.

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