US Election 2012: Barack Obama


At the Democratic National Convention this week, when Obama will officially accept his party’s nomination to fight Mitt Romney for the presidency, Yvanne Kennedy dissects his best bits from the last 48 months.

This time five years ago, very few knew who Barack Hussein Obama even was. Fast forward twelve months and he was set to take the US political system by storm having captured the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton. Whether they wanted to believe it or accept it, Americans from all corners of the country knew who their President was long before the November polls.

Once the fanfare was over however, the country was left with an ordinary man attempting an extraordinary job and no one, not even Obama himself,. was sure whether or not he was up for the challenge. As he stands for re-election four years later, with the support and expectations of his party firmly on his shoulders, how do you review a presidency like Obama’s?

The Obama administration has made several strides for women’s equality. In January 2009, Obama signed the ‘Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act’, designed, as the name suggests, securing equal chances for employees to equal pay for equal work. Legally, it meant that any discriminatory act of pay at any point brought about a new cause of action for the employee which safeguarded their right to sue to secure what they were entitled to. Practically, it gave a peace of mind that while discrimination may not be brought to a halt, there would ultimately be a way to rectify any wrongdoing.

The president enacted his medical insurance plan, with the passing of the ‘Affordable Health Care for America Act”. Known to many simply as ‘Obamacare’, the main idea of this legislation is that that every man, woman and child in America would have access to insurance and as a consequence, hospital care, medicines and general health services. This was an idea alien to many in Government when it was first announced. It hasn’t been without its problems. It has been targeted by the Romney-Ryan ticket and has even garnered criticism and complaint from the now infamous Notre Dame who sued the administration for being anti-Catholic. However, the belief in the system has never wavered and it has helped thousands of people access the care they need. While its longevity is questionable, its success is undeniable.

Barack Obama was elected during the break of the worst financial crisis in modern history. As far as promises go, all eyes were on the future President, whether it would be McCain or Obama during the 2008 race. America, like the rest of the world, was in dire financial straits and whoever took on the job of Commander in Chief would ultimately have to make tough decisions and huge budget cuts to relieve the deficit. McCain wanted to hit the most vulnerable hardest while Obama promised that only those who could afford to pay would. He stayed true to his word and when elected, the people feeling the brunt of the cuts and the tax increases were exactly who he said they’d be – fat cats on Wall Street and socialites on Capitol Hill.

More than that, while he simultaneously slashed spending on those who could spend for themselves, he brought in tax breaks for small business owners and helped families with the lowest income by increasing aid. This part of the job wasn’t going to be easy for anyone but somehow Obama managed it. Romney has preached that Obama is discriminating against the elite by increasing their input into the economy through taxation, but it does not take an economic expert to understand if one has the ability to contribute a little more, and if people in your country need some help, is it not anti-patriotic to refuse to give a helping hand?

Obama neither made a big deal of, nor swept under the rug, the fact he would be the country’s first African American President. While everyone from Romney to the Senate attempted to question his authentic ‘American-ness’, he stood firm and refused to be brought down by ridiculous rumours. And when it came down to it, due in part to  his own background as the child of a marginalized relationship, he made clear his stance on same-sex marriage. While he may wish to stay on the fence as to whether he would be in favour of legislating for full marriage rights, Obama has been clear that he believes that if two people wish to legalize the bond they share they should be able to do so irrespective of sexual orientation or any other factors.

Upholding America’s national security and combating international terrorism may be the president’s number one achievement so far in office. When Obama announced to international news outlets that Navy SEAL’s had successfully tracked down, killed and buried Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11th attacks on the United States, there was a cry of joy heard around the world. While no one wanted to admit it at the time, capturing Bin Laden seemed impossible, but Obama did it. While the news came with a mix of elation and fear, it was undeniable that something brilliant had been achieved. Tracking down Bin Laden united Democrats, Republicans and all of America and will stand out as for the world as Obama’s single greatest achievement in four years as the most powerful man in the world.