Obama’s Change Absent after Two Terms

Ben Silverman, Contributing Writer

At the recent Jan. 12 State of the Union, President Obama delivered a signature, uplifting address, returning to his original message of hope after eight years and ultimately asserting that the state of the union is strong. In this address, President Obama attempted to stifle the discontentment and frustration in politics, denouncing popular notions of the U.S.’s shortcomings. “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” he said in response to his critics.

At the New Hampshire primary, however, voters responded with a repudiation of their president’s assessment of the country. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump secured decisive victories for the far left and right, respectively, and inspired anew a strong validation of national frustration in the 2016 election.

The frustration felt in New Hampshire and across the country is a real problem, as the people are not represented by the current government as well as they could be. The root of this problem is exemplified by the juxtaposition of Obama’s State of the Union address to the surrounding political landscape.

The cause of anger today can be traced back to President Obama’s 2008 campaign. It was one of the most successful campaigns in the history of the electoral process, ripe with idealism and high aspirations. Getting out of the recession, creating new jobs, making healthcare affordable, even ending racism — these were the hopes of an Obama administration.

After a slow and steady two terms, Obama has succeeded in delivering on many of his promises. The economy did rebound, Obamacare now covers millions of previously uninsured people and job creation is on a consistent rise. But the common denominator of all these policy decisions is that the average American does not see a significant enough change in quality of life, especially after the suffering experienced during the recession. The economic fixes and universal health care were significant, but they were issues that did not address the root of discontentment in the U.S.

The voters in 2016 now express the grievances they have held inside since the recession and before: income inequality, education, money in politics — these issues are perceived to have more tangible impact on the lives of citizens. The policies instituted under Obama were conceived with high ideals for improving the country in mind, but the benefits have remained out of reach for many Americans.

The endeavor to strengthen the economy in 2008 was viewed as a necessary sacrifice on the part of the people, a country-wide effort to escape the recession. Wall Street and the auto industry were able to bounce back, a sign of hope that Americans may be able to return to the lives they had in the ’90s and early 2000s. So the President prioritized job growth in an attempt to have a tangible impact.

Job growth is frequently cited as one of the greater victories in the economic comeback of the past few years. In terms of the country’s overall happiness, however, it hasn’t been enough to rid people of their qualms. A job isn’t that great if income hasn’t seen any change in the past 30 years; many citizens have already had to settle for less after being uprooted from their old jobs. Voters in New Hampshire have subscribed to the belief that average income may better measure happiness and well-being than employment rate.

Now Bernie and Trump have their openings. Income inequality, a government that doesn’t actually work for the people — the attention on these issues distills the frustration voters have with Obama’s administration.

The fruits of the Obama presidency were subtle, and his policies may find more appreciation under a future president. His stabilization of the economy was an effective response, laying the foundation for wages and quality of life to rise sometime in the future. Obamacare now saves the lives and wallets of millions of Americans.

Racism is alive and well today, but every child of color in future generations will see that a precedent was set for them, an incalculable positive impact on race relations. This election now will decide the direction the U.S. takes to improve the lives of citizens directly.