President Obama could have issued plenty of change, if the Constitution did not expressly forbid it


2008 was meant to usher in a sea of change in US politics, thanks to one young senator from Illinois. Fresh-faced Democratic leader Barack Obama gained a majority in the electoral college and thus gave hope to the impoverished across America, even the world. All this, in the face of the worst global recession since the Great Depression. His victory shook American politics and national identity, as a country which had grappled with the recognition of civil rights finally gained its first African-American President. However, firmly in his second term, President Obama isn’t holding up. Why? Because the very fabric and nature of American government, deriving from the Constitution, does not favour change. 


Obama’s landslide victory against Republican nominee John McCain in 2008 was phenomenal; his iconic rhetoric for ‘change we can believe in’ won him 52.86% of the popular vote with 365 seats. Yet now, his hair is greying. His relatively narrow, five-million-difference, victory over conservative Mitt Romney was comparatively unimpressive. Though retaining his family-man image, playing well against Romney’s businessman-like approach, his oration and persona is now considered less approachable. Within government, the Republicans have maintained their majority in the House of Representatives since 2010 and the midterms this year look equally as bleak. This has damaged the Democrats, seemingly beyond immediate repair. On the world stage, his over-cautious use of drones in the middle-east is widely abhorred. Despite enjoying a general popularity with the middle-class, liberals have deemed him ineffective whilst right-wingers have branded him a fire-breathing communist for any remotely radical legislature he tries to introduce. His Affordable Care Act, aka ‘Obamacare’, has steadily grown in popularity, yet despite appearing top on Obama’s main reformatory agenda for a while, people remain dissatisfied. Obama never introduced change we can believe in, because America believes in the Constitution instead.


Poised to be the first liberal hero of the 21st century, President Obama has proved that powerful rhetoric can insatiably whet the appetites of millions of voters. Unfortunately, reality differs from his idealism. The Constitution created a governmental system which disables radical change to preserve a stable, federal system – deriving from archaic dogmas of isolation and fear of monarchical dictatorships. Congress must grant permission for Executive (or Presidential) change, to preserve political order. People have become increasingly aware that the Constitution does not mention the word ‘democracy’, yet few realise the extent to which change or political progression is buffered by the document. A tangible example of change we can’t believe in is Obama’s pledge to close Guantanamo Bay in 2008, which remains unfulfilled. Some change has been made, yet Obama needs Congressional permission to fully follow through with the policy which has been haunting him since the start of his administration. One of Obama’s key promises has thus effectively been broken, making him appear weak. As a result of the President’s renegade behaviour, the right have attacked him – including the Republicans who hold a majority in Congress. In this respect, Obama has done his party no favours as potential voters feel alienated or disillusioned.


As Obama is a single, executive leader as opposed to a group of lesser-known congressmen, he has become the face of failure. When a president wants rapid and effective change, buffers will be in place. Arguably, Obama is a rebel president; subsequently, his relationship with other branches of government are poor whilst his image and reputation are renowned. Yet things mostly remain the same in America. Change we can believe in? If only that were the case.