By PATRICK HUNTER
And so the second term of the first African-American president of the United States is officially underway. Traditionally, this has been considered a lame duck term for most presidents – the inability to get much of anything of significance done. One can only hope that President Barack Obama bucks this tradition and tries to fulfil some of the outstanding promises of his first term.
If the executive actions he has taken so far on the gun control – or the new phrasing, gun safety – is to be an example, he does seem to be prepared to be just that: to be bold.
The Republicans have been rattled and are on the ropes following the elections. The persistence of saying “no” to Obama’s initiatives for what seems like no reason continues to drag them down. Public opinion is very much unsympathetic with Congress and certainly with the Republicans.
Let me just say, up front, that the “bold” that I am looking for in this term has nothing to do with the United States exercising its military might and covert actions in different parts of the world. It bothers me enormously that the president who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize before he was even in place has, reportedly, one of the worst “kill-lists”, using drones to do the damage.
The “bold” that I am looking for has to do more with domestic issues. It is where the greatest opposition will arise. On the President’s “to-do list” is a plan to address immigration. This is of particular interest to the Hispanic community, to which promises were made; promises that helped Obama get re-elected.
The economy is still in trouble. The President was – for argument’s sake – forced to back away from his promise to increase taxes on incomes of $250,000 and instead raised the threshold to $400,000, among other things, to get an agreement on resolving the “fiscal cliff” issue. Now, the Republicans will want to go after him to make further spending cuts to get an agreement on the “debt ceiling” – a way of allowing the U.S. to pay its creditors. The spending cuts that the Republicans are demanding are largely those that will affect the most vulnerable – the unemployed and those on welfare; programs that help to support families in economic distress.
One of the areas of concern is whether the President will act in the specific interest of the African-American community. Frankly, I am not sure what that may be. Obama is not a pro-reparations African-American, so it is hardly likely that he will initiate anything that is widely reparations-specific.
I would have thought that his efforts to provide universal health care and better loans and assistance to students would be seen as facilitating a better, albeit long-term, benefit for all, especially persons of African descent. This would be seen as specific assistance to African-Americans without naming it. To name it would have politicized it in a way that would racialize it.
The African-American intelligentsia apparently is not interpreting these actions in that way.
Of course, there are cautions that the President must take into account. In two years, the mid-term elections will be held and he has to lay the groundwork that will enable Democrats to take control of the House of Representatives and to retain control of the Senate. This not only facilitates his own program, but sets the tone for the election of a Democratic president in 2016.
The fact that Obama was re-elected is some proof that there is considerable goodwill towards his leadership. It suggests that the American voters (in the majority) still believe that his intentions are good and that his path is worth following. Therefore he cannot afford to squander it, although he has to tread carefully. The term “legacy” has a connotation of egocentricity but no one wants to go down in history as being the worst president, a debate that follows George W. Bush and which, I suspect, has caused him to shun the limelight of being a former president.
Additionally, Obama’s presidency will be celebrated or damned in the years to come as part of American history, and who would not prefer the former?
Finally, it is very likely that Obama, given his age, will want to remain a respectable player on the world stage once he steps down from the presidency. I would not be surprised if he is considered for appointment as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
That may be a longshot, given that the U.S. is a permanent member of the Security Council and given his position as a former president. This may represent a conflict of interest.
However, it would raise the profile of the UN as an important player on the world stage, which seems to have receded under Ban Ki-Moon’s administration.