Two Years in, Disappointment Mounts

It’s been almost exactly two years since we elected Barack Obama atop a liberal tide of anti-Bush consensus. But what has actually changed? Has there been any progress? Half a term through, it’s time to evaluate Obama across the board.

LGBT RIGHTS

LGBT equality is the civil rights issue of our time. Current legislation continues to discriminate against millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Americans.

Recent tragedy has drawn more attention to the consequences discrimination has on our country’s youth, but this concern has yet to permeate our legislation on the federal level. We anticipated Bill Clinton’s homophobic Defense of Marriage Act and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – both policies he no longer supports – would be overturned with our newly empowered rock star president and 60 Dems in the Senate.

But the LGBT community has seen almost no progressive action from the Obama administration.

The bigoted ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy has been repealed, stayed, and appealed back and forth all in the last month. A Federal judge’s ruling of DADT as unconstitutional was heartening, but the bureaucratic debacle that ensued was a frustrating reminder that Obama did not have the authority or moving charisma, either to order or inspire its removal when he first took office. Its success would likely set precedent for an expanded and potentially more dangerous executive role, but there is a moral obligation from the state to ensure full marital and social equality for all people, LGBT included.

CIVIL LIBERTIES

Perhaps Obama’s most devastating actions regard civil liberties. He has failed to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, invoked Bush’s “State Secrets” defense of lawless practices, and introduced a bill that would enable wiretapping of smartphones, social networking sites, and video communication. Furthermore, Obama authorized assassinations of a select few American citizens accused (i.e. not tried, not convicted) of terrorism, such as Anwar Al-Awlaki, away from the battlefield with no oversight. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero is “disgusted” with Obama, who has continued Bush’s civil liberties policies, and in some cases, replaced them with policies more harsh, authoritarian, and destructive.

FOREIGN POLICY

America’s wars in the Middle East, primarily in Afghanistan, still in Iraq, and increasingly so in Pakistan and Yemen, cost too many innocent lives and too many American dollars.

The most conservative estimates find more than 100,000 casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. Many sources, including The Washington Post, Reuters, and the Associated Press, report America has spent more than one trillion dollars on the wars in those two nations.

Meanwhile, anti-American sentiment within the Muslim world continues to grow as a direct result of U.S. occupation and bombing in the Middle East.

Western military presence in the region is not a stabilizing force, but a catalyst for further violence and further bloodshed. We advocate full withdrawal of combat troops in the Middle East and the termination of all drone strikes — the world cannot afford an unwinnable ‘War on Terror.’

IMMIGRATION

The Obama administration and Democratically controlled Congress have yet to enact any legislation creating a sensible path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in America or hopeful emigrants around the world.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act – proposed legislation that would provide a passageway to naturalization for certain immigrants living in the United States – was deviously attached to a war-spending bill, where it was filibustered and dismissed. And though the DREAM Act would provide a helpful route for those who qualified, it could compel young people who couldn’t afford the necessary four-year, higher-education degree to an eight-year commitment and two years of service in the military.

Concurrently, Arizona’s bill encouraging racial discrimination and anti-immigrant campaign ads heighten dangerously nationalist sentiments across the country.

HEALTH CARE

We believe health care should be a right, not a privilege. We advocate a single-payer system, providing care for all Americans.

It was disappointing to see Obama, who expressed support for universal health care during his campaign and alleged to fight for a public option while in office, enact neither. Instead, Congress spent a year debating and ultimately passing legislation via backroom agreement with insurance companies that leave millions still uninsured. This was especially disheartening since this legislation will likely preclude more substantial reform in the future.

There are, however, some positive aspects to the the bill, namely the elimination of pre-existing condition policies and the extension of insurance for children until the age of 26.

BY NATHAN FULLER AND RON SEIDEL

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