Flashback to 2008: the nation has just elected a Democratic president and Congress. You’d think that under these circumstances, Barack Obama’s promise of a change would come to fruition as soon as he took the oath of office. Two years later, we see that this wasn’t the case.
In his campaign for president, Barack Obama ran on the promise of a fresh take on politics, a way to change the system for the better. But in the two years he’s been in office, it appears as though he hasn’t been as aggressively progressive as his supporters had hoped for.
This, of course, isn’t to say that he hasn’t done anything. In fact, since Obama took office, a massive health care package, credit card reform and an economic recovery package, all of which he supported fervently, were instituted. But despite all of this, there is still a great deal of criticism coming from both sides of the aisle.
Is this performance an example of campaign rhetoric proven to be no more than empty promises? Are the realities of the presidency just impossible to comprehend as a candidate? Or is there something else at play?
Just because the Democrats had the majority in Congress doesn’t mean that pushing through the president’s agenda was easy. In 2008, the Democrats failed to achieve a supermajority, when the party holds at least 60 seats in the Senate, which would give them the opportunity to end any filibusters. Even if a bill made it through the House, it was unlikely to make it through the Senate, as Republicans would simply filibuster, and little progress was made.
Perhaps, then, it is the system and not the man in the Oval Office that is to blame for the lackluster perception of the Obama administration’s success thus far. Maybe we need to stop pointing fingers at the man who is the political face of our nation and instead look at the infrastructure of Washington itself with a critical eye.
It wasn’t until recent years that the filibuster became a political game of cat and mouse. Previously, the rules were sketchy at best and it was rarely attempted. Today, however, just the threat of a filibuster can be enough to stop legislation or any sort of political action in its tracks.
The Constitution mandates that for a bill to be passed in the Senate, it must obtain a majority, not a supermajority. However, because of the games being played by both parties when it suits their needs, a supermajority is almost always required for a bill to pass without major interference. But should the possibility of a filibuster make a supermajority an inevitable necessity for even benign legislation?
It’s a hotly contested issue, but there has been mention of possible reform to the rules regarding use of the filibuster. Is current usage consistent with the intentions of the founders or is it rather a manipulation of the system to fit in with partisan rancor?
A few things are clear in this political mess. The current abuse of filibuster threats has derailed many Obama initiatives that were promised in his campaign. These threats show no sign of ending soon; they will be used by both parties when they’re in the minority. It’s also likely that reform will never get anywhere because both parties enjoy the power they wield behind the shield of the constitutionally approved filibuster.
So should there be change or should our elected state representatives be able to, on our behalves, stop any legislation put forth by the opposing party? Should the constitutional rule of a majority be essentially trampled on and replaced with a rule demanding a supermajority? I don’t know about you, but I’m with the reformers.