“Good or Great?”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Marianas Variety
I am mulling over whether or not to write a letter to President Obama who will be sworn in and officially start his second term next week. I am not so naïve to think that my letter would have much of an impact on him or his policies. If reason could reach people in such simple and direct ways, the world would be a very different place.
These sorts of letters have a far greater impact on those who write them and the others they share them with. When you see someone speak to “power” in the same way that you might feel it can fill you with a sense of solidarity. The writing of the letter itself can give you a greater sense of clarity with regards to your ideology and vision for the world. The letter also may help you understand better your own relationship to power. Just because you live in a democracy, it does not mean that every voice gets heard or that every voice matters. People and their pressing problems and concerns are ignored all the time and the feeling of your interests being quietly rejected by those in power, might be what you needed to seek another avenue for initiating change.
In the next three years Obama will be working hard on solidifying his legacy. He has already made history several times over simply by getting elected, but can he do the same in terms of his policies? As Howard Fineman of the Huffington Post wrote this week,
“His electoral victories (winning two terms by more than 50 percent of the popular vote each time) place him in the company of presidents like Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Obama is in the winner's circle, but not yet the "transformational figure" circle. “
A second term is very different than a first term. Without the anxiety of a re-election hanging over your head, you have the chance to be more aggressive and take more political risks. In terms of defining his legacy Obama is in a strange way fortunate. He has several problems before him and the chance to lead the government towards some substantive solutions. These problems are daunting, but any of them can be used to carve out a place for himself in the annals of transformative presidents.
He has a Republican party that is undergoing an identity crisis and could possibly cannibalize itself before the next mid-term election. With Republicans losing their bid for the Presidency and Democrats gaining ground in both the House and Senate, the message from the 2012 election was clear: voters want something different from the Republicans. They want more cooperation with Democrats. They want Republicans to be more diverse in their ideas and in their membership. They really despise their ideas on rape. This could be exactly what Obama needs in order to push through major legislation. On the other hand this could be trouble for Obama. If Republicans remain entrenched or even up undergoing a civil war in the party, any plans Obama has could be lost or stalled due to the conflict.
Obama already pushed through a historic piece of health care reform, it is possible he will attempt to do the same for gun control. He has already made great strides to becoming the President responsible for drawing down US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, even if troops and bases still remain. He is also becoming notorious for his video game style diplomacy. Every President wants the history books to write of their doctrine, a principle that they established that changed things significantly. Obama’s will most likely be related to the increased use of drones in terms of dealing with “enemies.” This may be a very dangerous precedent, especially if other countries decide to start using their own drones as their primary means of diplomacy.
One issue that is on every President’s, but most choose to ignore is the problem of America’s colonies and their rights to self-determination. The United States has millions who continue to live in colonial/neo-colonial relationships. International law promises that they have the right to decide their own destinies, but they are also trapped within legal mazes where the US Federal Government works to limit their rights and what paths they may take. A good President would take up this issue and not ignore it because of the smallness of the territories or their distance and in the case of places like Guam, overall lack of political import. It would be a great President who would not only brandish empty rhetoric about America standing for justice and equality, but actually allow a fair process of self-determination to take place. Namely one in which the interests of the United States do not dominate the colonies. I don’t think Obama is necessarily up to this task, but it is definitely something I would write to him about.