President Obama has joined the very exclusive club of Democratic presidents who have won election for a second term in the last century.
Still, not much has changed. The electoral college vote (currently 303-206, with Florida— wouldn’t you know it— still to be determined) is deceptive. Obama had more victories, but the margins were narrow. He doesn’t have a mandate; he will have to use all the arts of persuasion he can muster to win over a divided Congress. Yet with his re-election, the president will have the time needed to see his policies through and complete them. Had Romney won instead and rescinded as he had promised Obama’s historic initiatives, the Affordable Healthcare Act in particular, Obama’s principal claim to fame would have been as the first African-American president, a man who aimed high but ultimately failed.
For some arcane reason, the Obama campaign hardly stressed the president’s extraordinary initiatives and achievements. In the first two years of his presidency, Obama
- signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women
- pulled off consumer protection and credit-card reform
- instituted strong regulation of the tobacco industry
- passed a hate crimes bill
- delivered government health insurance to four million uninsured children
- reformed student loans by ending federal subsidies to banks and private lenders
- stubbornly rescued the auto industry in the face of opposition from both parties
- tripled the size of America’s national service program
- pushed for the Economic Stimulus Plan, which was
- the single largest tax cut ever
- the largest ever investment in clean energy
- the single largest investment in education ever
- the largest investment in infrastructure (roads & bridges) since Eisenhower’s in the 1950s
- developed and passed the first-ever universal health care insurance and reform
- achieved financial regulatory reform
- appointed two women to the Supreme Court, one of them the first Hispanic ever on the Court
- renegotiated the START treaty, thereby reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by one third
- repealed DADT, the ban on gays in the military
- passed the 9/11 health and compensation bill for first responders
Then came the Republican backlash in the mid-term. The “shellacking” by the Tea Party put an end to the president’s initiatives. The Republicans stood unanimously opposed to anything and everything Obama proposed. They had no qualms about creating the debt-ceiling crisis and pushing the nation to the brink of default. Obama resorted to executive action to circumvent congressional obstruction of the (originally bipartisan) immigration reform known as the DREAM Act. Obama publicly supported marriage equality for same-sex couples and extended employment benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.
Obama’s foreign policy achievements were summarized by General Colin Powell: “I saw the president get us out of one war [Iraq], start to get us out of a second war [Afghanistan], and did not get us into any new wars.” He killed Osama Bin Ladin, supported a successful multi-national effort to oust Ghaddafi in Libya and escalated unprecedented economic sanctions against Iran.
Under Pres. Obama‘s watch, the stock market doubled in value from its low a few weeks after his inauguration to just before his re-election; the unemployment rate is below 8 percent, back to what it was at the beginning of his term and there have been 32 months of private-sector job growth.
Those critics who faulted the president for not outlining his plans for a second term can peruse the list of his accomplishments and see that Obama has a good part of his agenda set well before he takes the oath of office for a second time.