President Obama Walks a Re-election Tightrope

I suppose it was naive of me to believe that Barack Obama would – make that could – keep his promise of Hope and Change. But I wanted so much for it to be true. My heart said “Yes We Can!”, even though my head should have said, “Really?

I am old enough to know that politics is the art of the possible (as Bismarck observed so long ago).

So I can understand why President Obama has turned out to be different from Candidate Obama.

But how I wish it wasn’t so.

Candidate Obama promised great things – to end the wars, to close Guantanamo, to reverse the devastating trade policies that ship American jobs abroad and enrich global corporations at the expense of the American middle class, to fund college scholarships and preschool education, to protect the social safety net.

He even promised to walk the picket line with striking workers.

President Obama has turned out to be quite different.

The wars rage on. Guantanamo remains open.

And the president is urging Congress to pass free-trade agreements with  Colombia, Panama and South Korea that would escalate the hemorrhaging of American jobs.

Here’s what Laura Carlsen of CIP Americas Program has to say about the president’s trade policies:

In the three years since Obama wooed voters with talk of bold changes in trade policy, the need for reforms has reached crisis proportions. The global economic crisis left the United States with skyrocketing un- and under-employment rates. The government paid billions of dollars in bailout money to the corporations who caused the crisis. These corporations then turned around to post record profits and hand out astronomical executive pay bonuses. The evidence that FTA-fueled outsourcing benefits those corporations while putting Americans out of work has piled up, and polls show that a majority of U.S. citizens oppose NAFTA-style FTAs.

Click here to read Carlsen’s op-ed.

Talk of increased education funding now seems quaint. College students are facing ever-tougher financing challenges and programs like Head Start are on the debt ceiling chopping block.

As for the social safety net, even that is on the negotiating table as Republicans become increasingly rabid and some Democrats bow to the will of campaign contributors.

Time and again, the president has given in to conservative demands, canceling the appointment of progressives (like Elizabeth Warren) and shelving stimulus programs.

As for walking the picket line, forget it. The president’s remarks on union busting by state legislatures have been lukewarm at best.

The progressive base has become completely disenchanted. Labor organizations are threatening to withhold support and liberals are lamenting the direction in which the country is headed.

Click here to read an example.

I don’t intend this blog to be an indictment of the president. I think he is a good man with genuine concern for the people of this country, and I realize he has achieved a lot. But I am saddened by the limitations of his position.

And I wonder how he will fare in next year’s election.

The electorate is divided among progressives, independents and conservatives. I can see independents being won over by his “centrist” posture. But he has lost a lot of support among progressives.

I don’t think for a moment that progressives will vote Republican. But I wonder whether they will vote at all – at least in sufficient numbers to matter.

I will vote for Obama, of course. I shudder at the prospect of a Republican administration.

But how much company will I have at the polls come November 2012?