President Barack Obama ended the year on a high note as show during his end of the year press conference on Friday. Despite the fact that the Republicans overwhelmingly won the midterm elections and now have complete control of Congress, the president has continued to shine as he is determined not to be the traditional lame duck president. The president is looking to his last two years and determining what he can accomplish. In doing so, he’s thinking of two things: what campaign promises have not yet been fulfilled from 2007/2008 when he was running for president, and ultimately what his legacy of his presidency will be. We have seen the beginnings of addressing both in 2014.
During the press conference, President Obama touted the great economic news we have been seeing over the last year. This includes over 300,000 new jobs created in the month of November in for a total of over 11 million new jobs since taking office. In this news, there have been signs of wages increasing in the economy, something that had been stagnant for many years. If this continues, Americans will finally begin to feel the economy getting better, because their bottomline will be getting better. If you remember, this was predicted by former President Bill Clinton during his 2012 Democratic Convention speech.
In addition to the economic news, the president also has also held true to his promise from this year’s State of the Union speech and has signed many executive orders covering a variety of issues. Just after the midterm elections he signed an executive order halting deportations for 5 million undocumented Americans. And of course, this week we saw the impressive and surprising news that the Obama administration has been in discussions with Cuba on normalizing relations after 50 years of failed US policies towards the communist nation.
Now, the Real Talk…
With the exception of the midterm elections, President Obama had a great 2014. In 2015, he has the potential to get a lot more done. However, the president has to deal with the Republicans, who are likely to be very uncooperative on major issues such as immigration and the Cuban embargo. They will not work with him on those issues, but ultimately that will only hurt them in the long run. At this point, the 2016 elections are on the line. President Obama is going to be the only person with any real power standing up for democratic principles and standing up for issues that tend to be pretty popular with the American people. If Republicans want any chance at the White House in 2016, they will have to prove that they can govern, which will mean cooperating with President Obama and potentially compromising on some policy positions they hold strong for.
President Obama’s approval rating is still low but has the potential to only get higher as he continues to do more and implement more of his policies. On the issue of immigration, most of the American people are for some form of comprehensive immigration reform. Renewing diplomatic relations with Cuba is also extremely popular, including lifting the embargo. This is true especially among younger Cuban Americans. Most Americans believe that something needs to be done about climate change and global warming. The historic climate deal with China earlier this year speaks to that issue. Essentially, while the president’s approval rating is in the low forties, it will likely go up if he continues fighting for the American people on these issues that most Americans want to see.
Once again, President Obama is effectively setting the agenda for the 2016 presidential race, in which many of these issues will be debated. Because he is likely to become more popular in his last two years in office because of these recent and potentially future initiatives, he will be better positioned to have a more active role in the next election for Democrats. Not only will his policies be popular amongst the American people, the Democratic nominee would likely endorse many of them, and ultimately I think Democrats would have learned their lesson from the 2014 midterm elections, that running away from the president was not going to help them win election or reelection.
But 2016 aside, the President will be hanging out in Hawaii on vacation with a huge smile on his face, because even though Republicans dominated the midterm elections (though mostly because Democratic voters stayed home), he still got a lot done on his own and he expects it will pay off in the future. Well done, Mr. President!
Other Headlines, In the News
USA Today – Obama calls 2014 a ‘breakthrough year’