President Obama has been in the White House for over one year, but we have been promised “change” for longer than this. Should we be upset that it has not been as quick or easy as we had hoped?
We still have a recession, are involved in two wars, and have a deficit problem, among others. These are not exactly the glowing years from the end of the Clinton and Eisenhower administrations. In a political culture that sometimes demands instant gratification, however, we sometimes overlook how far we have come.
The government ended combat operations in Iraq this month, and gone are the days of abusive treatment of terrorist detainees. Obama has finally increased the number of troops in Afghanistan, as he promised during his campaign. Congress passed a health care bill that finally extends coverage to 32 million Americans and eliminates many industry abuses.
Americans recently witnessed the passage of a landmark financial bill that aims to prevent the abuses that contributed to our recession. President Obama signed into law a credit card bill that will become the most sweeping reform in history because of provisions that limit interest rate and fee hikes. He also signed an executive order that eases limits on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and signed a bill that allows the strictest regulation of the tobacco industry ever.
These are remarkable accomplishments for the early stage of a presidency. It is nice that these bills became laws, but their journey thereafter is difficult. Various agencies, public and private, take time in enforcing new laws. Even after they are implemented, their effects do not occur overnight. The goals of economic bills are accomplished over a long time, and military actions are part of a larger scheme whose ultimate outcome will become apparent later. In short, the federal government does not intend to implement such laws overnight.
Many people fret that “change” is not happening quickly enough. Presidents historically regarded as highly successful, however, (e.g. FDR, JFK, Eisenhower, and Reagan) stretched their accomplishments over a number of years. Not many presidents can claim to have done more than Obama during their first few years. Is it realistic to ask Obama to accomplish in two years what other presidents did in eight or more?
For those who paid close attention to his campaign speeches, he himself indicated that change would happen, but not overnight. In Cincinnati, Ohio in 2008, he said that it could take “at least two or three years.” He demonstrated a delicate balance between idealism and realism both then and now.
Some of you reading this will surely disagree fundamentally with everything written, and I cannot convince you otherwise. For those who do not, it is our job this year to elect more progressives and moderates into Congress so that we can make sure the promised “change” comes to fruition. To play your part, you can come to the UM Democrats’ meetings at 7 p.m. in LC 190 each Tuesday.
Gaurav Dhiman is a junior majoring in political science and biology. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.