Well, that seems like a strong thing to say. Entire eras of American history have been defined by and named for certain administrations, and certainly there have been unique, exceptional actions performed by the individual officeholders. So why might it supposedly not matter? A lot of it has to do with Congress.
One of the main reasons Obama failed to make good on many of his promises was the painfully obstructionist Republican congressional caucus. Every one of his signature pieces of legislation (Affordable Care Act, 2009 stimulus, etc.) was only passed after a ridiculous process of compromise, revision, and argument, and bore little resemblance to the original, and likely more effective, bill. The Republican Party understood that in their minority position, simply making the opposing party look bad by trashing their legislation was enough to win the hearts and minds of the electorate. After gaining a House majority in 2010, the GOP gridlock only increased. However, Obama’s apparent devotion to his spurious idea of bipartisanship has left many Bush-era policies unchanged or even made worse. Defense spending is ludicrously high ($663.84 billion last year), and taxes on high-income citizens and corporations are at a modern all-time low.
By this logic, a Romney-Ryan White House, as terrifying as that prospect sounds, would have trouble implementing many of their extreme social and fiscal policies if any number of Democrats remain in Congress. That looks like it will be the case. As of September 13th, Democratic congressional candidates lead Republicans in the overall polls 49-43. The Senate will likely remain Democratic, and the House may switch back over, meaning if Romney wants a second term, he’ll have no choice but to compromise.
The point trying to be made is that any President’s actions are dictated largely by the will of Congress. But that’s certainly not all. In order to get elected President (or even nominated) in today’s American political arena, one first must have the backing of the corporate machine. Obama loves to brag about how many small individual donations he receives, but the reality is that his campaign (and especially Romney’s) is funded primarily by big-ticket donors. According to the Federal Election Commission, the Obama campaign received $1,013,091 from Goldman Sachs, $808,799 from JP Morgan Chase, and $736,771 from Citi Group, to name just a few. Of the total $347,909,254 in donations, over 61% came from big-ticket donors. Romney, of course, is funded almost exclusively by large donations and Super PACs. 81% of his $192,355,237 haul came from such sources.
All of these ridiculous numbers essentially boil down to a few things:
1) These two men owe a lot more of their political capital to corporations and a few individuals than to most of their electorate.
2) Their actions, once in office, are going to reflect the needs of said donors. Obama, for all his grandiose talk on renewable energy, has personally signed off on Arctic offshore oil drilling plans that even George Bush couldn’t touch.
A Romney presidency is far from ideal, but it could very well end up resembling the Obama presidency in practice. Of course, the danger here is a totally Republican-dominated government, which is still a possibility. If the far-far-right, corporate-controlled GOP has only toothless opposition, the consequences could be nearly dystopian. Hugely repressed reproductive rights for women (look up the Personhood Amendment), a trashed socio-economic safety net courtesy of the Ryan Budget, and CERTAINLY no more Obamacare. Not to mention possible war with Iran, elimination of National Endowment for the Arts funding, slashed education budgets, etc. If this seems unlikely, just look up the platforms of virtually any Republican candidate up for election. Although the Democrat-controlled government hasn’t been great, unfortunately it’s the best option left. Please, if you’re over 18, vote in this election.
This editorial also appeared The Blue Collar, Volume 4, Issue 1, October 2012, Interlochen Arts Academy’s student newspaper.