If you are an alien visiting the United States for the first time and all you had to listen to is the Republican debate, you will be correct to conclude that this is one, if not the poorest and most dysfunctional country in the world. The extreme language employed by these candidates makes it seem that the current President has run the country aground. They speak longingly and glowingly of an era when America was the greatest country in the world and everything was great. Until, according to their narrative, an unworthy person, a questionable “American”, an “Arab”, a Moslem, from Kenya or somewhere in the middle-east was elected, then the country has gone to hell in a hand basket. Less than six months into his administration, a group of disgruntled and disaffected Republican base voters, mainly from the south came together to form the Tea party. They would later spread to most parts of the country and gain following in congress. Their goal was to protest the actions of the new administration and denounce the efforts made to address the biggest depression this country has ever known. They carried signs demeaning the new president, some asking him to go back to Kenya and others asked for their country back.
Even though the president went on to run and win re-election for a second term, the conservative base has not relented in painting him as an “other”, someone who does not know America or what it stands for. In 2011, the current front runner in the Republican race for the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump made it his goal to prove that president Obama was not born in this country. He reportedly employed investigators whom he sent to Hawaii to research and produce documentation showing he was not born in the US. The president was forced to release a long-form version of his birth certificate to assuage the rumors going around within conservative circles. But even with such unprecedented action, they were not satisfied.
If you are indeed a visiting alien and all you’ve heard so far was from the Republican base or their presidential candidates, you will be forgiven to think that America is indeed in decline. What you did not hear however is that unlike the rest of the world, America has largely recovered from the 2008 financial crisis which was occasioned by mismanagement from a Republican administration. You did not hear that all the noise about the president birth and nationality is nonsense. You did not hear that in the last four administrations, the pattern has been that Republican presidents usually govern the country into economic depressions while Democratic presidents govern and lift the country into economic prosperity.
Under this president, America today stands as the only industrialized country with a healthy and growing economy. The economy has created more than 13 million jobs since President Obama took office. Other industrialized nations are still struggling to get out of the 2008 economic depression. During the 2012 presidential election, the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney promised that his business man’s credential which he touted is a lot better than that of Mr. Obama will allow him to reduce the nation’s unemployment to about 6% at the end of his first term. Well, even though some will argue the accuracy of the employment statistic from the labor department, it is the only governmental agency, we rely on for such statistic and as at the end of August 2015, the nation’s unemployment is down to 5.1% with one and half year to go in the current administration.
My goal here is not to provide a running list of Obama’s accomplishments. There are websites dedicated to tracking those. One website currently has as many as 308 on its list. The tragedy however, is that despite such stellar accomplishments, we have major party presidential candidates, openly declaring that America is in decline with no one challenging such obvious falsehood. Unfortunately, the press, whose responsibility it is to provide accurate information to the public and call-out the purveyors of misinformation, has largely abdicated their responsibility in pursuit of sensational news coverage. Oddly enough these Republicans are the same people who have appointed themselves as the guardians of “American Exceptionalism”. They will scream to the high heavens and accuse anyone of being anti American at any suggestion that we take responsibility or change the way we relate or perceive other nations. The chief offender in that category, according to them is, of course president Obama, mainly for not adopting their fear mongering language of “radical Islamic terrorist”.
This president has proven a lot of conservative dogmas wrong. Below are just a few:
- He has proven yet again that the central conservative economic dogma of trickle-down economics is wrong. After the Bush tax cuts that benefited mostly the wealthy ended in 2013, a moderate increase in the tax rate of wealthy taxpayers did not cripple the economy as predicted by republicans. Instead, 2014 produced one of the strongest job creation since the mid 90’s.
- He has made good on his campaign promise to give diplomacy a chance. With the success of the Iran deal, this president has shown that he can lead the international coalition to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He equally backed up his campaign promise to go after America’s most wanted enemy, Osama Ben Laden. His gut-wrenching call to send Navy Seal Team to pursue and kill the murderous head of Al Qaeda showed his commander-in-chief credential is not in question despite the baseless claims of the warmongering crowd in the Republican Party.
- By passing a modest reform to keep Wall Street in check, he has shown that you can reform our financial sector without damaging the economy – a charge made by Republicans whose main goal in politics is to protect the rich at the expense of the poor. Those who benefited most from the economic recovery are the Wall Street tycoons. Even though it did not go as far as it should have in the opinion of progressives, Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act provided the most significant reform to our financial system since the Great Depression.
- And finally, President Obama has proven that we can both chew gum and walk at the same time. With his signature legislative achievement, Obamacare, aka Affordable Care Act, the country is able to insure most of its citizens while lowering the deficit at the same time. The deficit language has almost disappeared from the Republican lexicon because this president, even more than President Clinton, has reduced more deficit as a percentage of GDP. The New York Times on Wednesday, quoting the administrations’ release of recent insurance figures, noted that almost nine million people gained insurance in 2014 thereby lowering the ranks of the uninsured to 10.4% from a high of more than 18% when he took over in 2009.
Of course the president is constitutionally barred from running for a third term. As such, this post is not really a campaign to get him to run for a third term. Rather, it is a call for concerted effort to keep his legacy going. Given the phenomenal work he has done to bring the country back from the brink of economic collapse, we need someone who will continue his legacy. The Republicans certainly will not do that. You can hear almost all of the 17 of them running for the presidency already promising that they would reverse everything Obama has accomplished in his two terms. If they are allowed to do that, it will almost be as certain as the sun will rise tomorrow, that when they do, the country we revert back into economic and diplomatic depression. That’s why it is incumbent on every American, and particularly progressives, to take our civic duties seriously and mount a serious get-out-the-vote campaign for whoever ends up as the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 2016 presidential election. The stakes are very high and we need to protect our gains.