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To start with what Obama did well, he did make his policy preferences clear on many issues, even though he did not commit to many specific policies.  The exceptions are that Obama did state he wanted to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 per year, create 1 million manufacturing jobs in four years, and hire 100,000 new teachers by 2020.   Otherwise, it was rather broad, expressing support for things such as addressing global warming, equality for gays, strengthening Social Security, and investing in renewable energy.  While it would be nice to hear more specific policy proposals on these issues, I can't blame for not doing so.  After all, mainstream Republicans call global warming a hoax, oppose gay rights, want to privatize Social Security, and have never indicated any interest in renewable energy.

There were two specific parts of his speech, though, where I think Obama was sending signals that people wanted to hear, but were very unrealistic.  First, Obama's goal of 1 million manufacturing jobs and doubling exports are nice hopes, but there are so many factors in play here that he can't possibly commit to making that happen.  Massively expanding US exports won't happen unless Europe gets its house in order and that could be a long way off, especially since Germany, the strongest Euro country, is starting to see some worries about future economic decline.  A huge export-led growth based on manufacturing would lead push wages up in this sector,making it hard to keep jobs in the US.  By talking this up Obama did present a good idea, but it was clearly not something he can promise to deliver if reelected.

The second part of his speech that was pure popular appeal was his providing a false sense of empowerment to those who voted for him.  He said the 2008 election was not about him, but about "you."  He then went on to list policy accomplishments with each followed by "You did that."  Really?  The population was responsible for the Affordable Care Act, stopping deportation of the children of illegal immigrants, ending the US war in Iraq?  It was one of those statements that is in some broad way true (they wouldn't have happened if people had not voted for him), but overstates the case completely.  The population was responsible for these accomplishments in the same way they were responsible for Clinton surplus, since he was elected by them too.  This part of the speech presented a false image of Obama as a leader of a social movement, implying that we can be part of a great march of progress if we vote for him.  Obama clearly did have some good accomplishments and maybe there will be progress if he is reelected, but by saying "You did this," he made people feel like participants when they were mostly spectators.

Adam Weiss blogs at politicalcreativity.net

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Comment Preferences

  •  There is nothing false about empowerment. (4+ / 0-)

    If you believe that all President Obama was trying to do was create a false sense of empowerment, then you are missing the whole point of his campaigns in both 2008 and 2012. I believe Obama really is trying to lead a social movement, and that his primary goals are not specific policy proposals (although of course he has achieved a lot of those), but rather reform of the political process itself.

    One type of reform is to empower people, as opposed to lobbyists and special interests. Another type of reform is to encourage those in government who hold opposing views to work together in a more constructive way.

    You can criticize the president for being naive enough to pursue these goals, and you can criticize him for his lack of progress in reaching them, but I don't think it's fair to criticize him for holding out false hopes. President Obama is entirely serious about the kind of reform he is trying to achieve. Those efforts are the whole reason I have been a strong supporter since the beginning.

    hopeandchange

    •  Totally agree, joemarkowitz: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Socratic Method
      I believe Obama really is trying to lead a social movement, and that his primary goals are not specific policy proposals (although of course he has achieved a lot of those), but rather reform of the political process itself.

      One type of reform is to empower people, as opposed to lobbyists and special interests. Another type of reform is to encourage those in government who hold opposing views to work together in a more constructive way.

      •  His 2008 slogan: "You are the change you've been w (3+ / 0-)

        aiting for'.  At its core, it is a response to the cynicism Thugs and the elite have pushed for years, the belieft that nothing voters do matters.  

        But, BO was telling them then that who you vote for does matter.  And his refrain in this years speech reinforced that: we got these policies b/c we believed if we voted for the candidate who promised them we'd get them.

        And we did.

        He could have given up on ACA, as many Ds urged.  He did not.  He cuold have directed EPA to forget about Greenhouse gases and blunted the polluters rage and $ now against him.  He did not.  He could have given up on DADT.  He did not.  Or the Financial Consumer Protection Agency.

        Sure, some promises were broken, usually b/c Congress (and usually Thugs) forced that (like Gitmo which they prohibited closing, or every post 2009 jobs effort).  And lots of what he did deliver was all he promised (again b/c of political reality in most cases).

        But the cynical notion that 'nothing voters do matters' or 'both parties are the' has been exploded.  And that is absolutely essential if US democracy is to be preserved.

  •  As far as exports and manufactoring (0+ / 0-)

    I believe the administration is currently in discussion with nations around the Asian-Pacific region to establish a trade pact. I know Australian and a few South Asian countries are onboard and discussions are in place to bring more nation in the play. The administration probably believes that as far as exports are concerned, they have the best chance in Asia and the Pacific, since their economies are in better shape compared to Europe.

    •  Not to mention what we make decides what we can (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Socratic Method, worldlotus

      export.  If we leapfrog on renewable energy tech, we will export that.  Same with energy storage.  Heck, the same with solar generation.  Sure the Chinese stole markets by dumping cells.  But that's old tech.  

      The lesson on the 90s is that he who pushes the tech envelope wins the export game.

      Why do you think Thugs are so busy trying to kill research?  Thier corporate masters do not want the US to remain a big player.  Far better to their profit margins for low wage, high corruption countries to dominate.

      •  Exactly... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        worldlotus

        and after they've done with central asia and other low wage countries, when India and China are demanding better wages and more benefits (they will, and many are) then they'll start to move to Africa. It's already begun in many areas.

        Breathe. If you can, you ain't dead yet.

        by Socratic Method on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 02:14:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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