The Obama Presidency and America’s Future

Sean Para, Staff Writer

Barack Obama’s legislative agenda for his second term is nothing less than ambitious. He aims to reform immigration, gun control, taxes and environmental policy during his new administration. These goals seem ever more threatened by the conservative opposition, which seeks nothing short of the total ruin of Obama and his presidency, no matter the cost to the country. Most pressing and difficult of these goals are immigration and gun control overhauls. Both are sensitive issues that have strong support on both sides of the aisle. Both have been debated time and time again in recent U.S. history. Yet, it is possible for the administration to achieve its goals with successful maneuvering and a pragmatic approach to what can be achieved.

Gun control reform, brought to the center of the national stage by the tragic massacre of children in Newtown, CT on Dec. 14, 2012, is perhaps the most serious battle the president will face in the coming months. Despite the atrocious deaths in Newtown, many still support limited gun control and oppose serious reforms of gun control laws, assault rifle bans or even limits on magazine sizes for automatic guns. While these views may seem ludicrous in light of the thousands of deaths a year that could be prevented by more stringent laws on guns, the pro-gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, is one of the strongest

lobbies in Washington. President Obama’s legislation and the bills currently being worked on in the Senate and House of Representatives all try to enforce more thorough background checks on those trying to buy guns and limit or end the sale of assault rifles. These laws are not strict enough. Handguns cause most gun fatalities in the United States, not the assault rifles used in larger shootings such as the Aurora, CO shootings that occurred in July. To prevent more shootings, the sale of all guns must be more strictly limited and longer waiting periods must be enforced. Yet the opposition to even the inchoate laws being written in Congress is strong, and they may need to be further watered down to be signed into law. The gun industry exerts a huge amount of power in politics, and must be fought tooth and nail for meaningful legislation to be passed.

Immigration reform is the other high-priority legislative battle shaping up for the beginning of Barack Obama’s second term as president. The White House aims to pass a series of laws dealing with specific parts of the larger issue, such as bills on young illegal immigrants, migrant farm workers and highly skilled professionals. The administration wishes to open up a path for all illegal immigrants to eventually become citizens. There is also a strong desire for any bill passed to be bipartisan. Some Republicans are open to liberal goals for reform, but the Democratic Party will have to form the center of support for the bill. Conservative opposition defeated George W. Bush’s immigration reform efforts, and one hopes Obama’s are not destroyed in a similar manner. There is significant support among the public for reform, and Hispanics are one of the largest groups to support President Obama. Yet, many past politicians have failed to enact comprehensive immigration reform, and Obama’s name might still be added to that list.

President Obama has the opportunity to enact meaningful change across a wide range of issues affecting the American people. Much of his first term was eaten up in vicious legislative battles over healthcare and financial regulation overhaul, and in the end, bills were passed that were much weaker than they could have been. Conservative opposition has so far been effective in delaying reform through various parliamentary tactics such as the filibuster and by misrepresenting the issues at the core of the reform.

This term, the administration must be bolder in pushing through legislation in line with its goals and agenda. This is a very possible outcome, but courage and obstinacy are necessary for victory.