A year ago marked the first time in a decade that we knew the next President of the United States on election night. No unseemly court battles, no examination of 18th-century state election laws, just a straightforward election that allowed us to dance in the streets and then head to bed by midnight. It really is extraordinary that the election producing our first black president occurred without any real hoopla over the results.
The hoopla was clearly just delayed. If you watch the news, you’ll find pundits telling us moderates are unhappy, liberals are abandoning ship, and conservatives are ready to take back control. The New York Times reported last week about Iowa voters’ views a year out, since they were the ones who gave Barack Obama his first test. Far be it from me to disagree with the Times, but I think the voters who gave Obama his first test were not the retired Iowans but us, the youth, who knocked on millions of doors, sacrificed GPA points, and convinced relatives via impassioned debates that yes, actually, we could elect a black president.
So how’s our guy is doing now? Are the Democrats’ hopes and dreams fulfilled? Are the Republicans’ fears warranted? I spoke with Penn students from across the political spectrum to see how they feel.
Many who voted Democrat think Obama should be less conciliatory toward Republicans in order to pass more of his policy goals. Adrienne Benson, College senior and political director of Penn Democrats, and a Hillary supporter in the primaries, said she initially placed “too much emphasis on bipartisanship and compromise with people who do not want to see anything done. He’s placed too much effort on the message and not enough behind the scenes in policymaking, especially in regards to healthcare.”
Jon Kole, a first-year Penn Medical student and former head of Students for Barack Obama, “is unimpressed with President Obama’s lack of fervor in championing healthcare legislation” and has “lost some respect for Obama because he continues to allow prisoners to be held without trial.”
But Nikhil Kumar, a Wharton senior, thinks the frustrating lack of policy results is the fault of Congress. “Barack’s team is doing an excellent job,” he said. “The Republicans, on the other hand, have been extremely disappointing in their lack of cooperation on incredibly important issues.”
College Republicans chairman Peter Devine, a Wharton senior, takes a different view. “[Obama’s] war of words with Fox News says it all. Obama may say he wants bipartisanship, but his Senate history shows no such collaboration across party lines. Any time he nominates a Republican to a position or brings a Republican to the table with liberal Democrats to discuss policy, there is always an underlying political motive,” he said.
Penn Republicans and Democrats alike agree Obama is not Jesus and that people who had unrealistic expectations of him assuming office and changing our purposefully slow political process were in for a disappointment. Emma Ellman-Golan, College sophomore and membership director of Penn Democrats, said, “One reason I’m so supportive of the president is because a lot of people are unfair in assuming he can fix everything … No one should have realistically expected him to solve all the problems right away.”
Of the Penn students I surveyed, most that supported Obama last November are still pretty much happy with his performance, and those who didn’t vote for him are not. This might mean that we have a particularly loyal crop of Democrats here, or that Obama supporters on campus had more realistic expectations for what a president can actually accomplish while in office than Democrats nationally did. Or, it might just be the safe knowledge that dealing with two wars, an economy on the brink of free fall and a healthcare crisis of epic proportions is a pretty tall order for one man, even Barack Obama.
Lauren Burdette is a College senior from Overland Park, Kansas and the former president of PennDems. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.Comments powered by Disqus
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