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Three Year Itch: Campaign Promises

Obama takes the heat for a lot of what happens in Washington; while he is anything but sinless, a closer look at the nature of our political system is important to keep the blame game in perspective.

A little over three years in, Obama’s presidency has been a turbulent affair, and that might be the understatement of the new century. While there hasn’t been any single scandal on the same scale as Tea Pot Dome or Watergate, and Mr. Obama presumably hasn’t been getting his winky whacked in the Oval Office by any unpaid interns, Republicans (and some Democrats) would be quick to point out that under his administration the federal deficit has ballooned to its highest level in history due to reckless spending on costly stimulus packages and bailouts and quantitative easing measures; foreign governments now own a higher percentage of our debt than ever; entitlement spending, the third rail which all politicians are loathe to address due to the strong potential for political backlash, has remained untouched in all the proposed budget cuts, which should be considered tantamount to putting a bandaid on a gangrenous, diseased limb; and the worst of both parties’ major tax proposals were enacted into law, allowing the rich and middle class to accumulate more wealth while neglecting the funding for programs that benefit the lower class.

For all its aches and pains, some good has come from Mr. Obama’s time in office. For one, the intensity of political warfare has turned itself down a few notches. Republicans willfully sat next to Democrats in a rare show of bipartisanship at the State of the Union (and while this can be directly attributed to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ attempted assassination, rather than Mr. Obama himself, it certainly bodes well for both parties and can do nothing but help the president attain his goals). Active combat in Iraq is coming to a close, freeing up a large and controversial wedge of the federal budget pie chart for more virtuous endeavors. The framework for a universal healthcare system is now in place, even if it is far from functional or efficient in its current form, and its failure in the short term would be attributed only to the Republican opposition. A new agency has been formed to oversee the complex world of derivatives and other “new” financial instruments in an effort to prevent the unlawful and unethical packaging of toxic assets that ultimately caused the financial crisis.

Yet, despite these positive steps, a large portion of Democrats still are disappointed with their once-beloved candidate due to his failure to follow through on some of his most important campaign promises, most notably the demise of the public option and the closure of Guantanamo Bay. However, disillusioned Democrats need to understand the nature of the political beast in order to understand these failures.

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