Obama Deals With Gridlock in Facing Key Issues

The President's time in office has existed in a time of great stalemates in Congress, but hope for compromise rises as his second term begins.

Posted on 1/28/2013

President Barack Obama has undergone an evolution since his election in November of 2008. The 51-year-old president has already started to define his second term by invoking some key issues that he failed to tackle in his first four years. He now lays the groundwork for reforms and legislation in gun control, immigration, and taxes, and he hopes that in his second term, he will be able to imprint some lasting, codified laws upon American history to ensure his legacy is left in a positive light.


Michelle and Barack Obama.

The president finds time to keep a smile on with wife, Michelle.


However, Obama has faced criticism from his own proponents and his own party for leaving these issues on the table for so long and refusing to deal with them at all in his first term. The issue of gun control, once a large facet of the Democratic Party, has been overshadowed in recent years. Obama now attempts to bring it to discussion after recent shootings, including that of Newtown, Connecticut.


“That Obama didn't include the substantive case for gun control in his treatise was characteristic. A strain of wisdom ruled a generation of Democratic Party politics: You might pay a price for reticence on the issue in a big city like Chicago, but in the rest of the country, it was a noble loser, bait for backlash in electorally crucial Rust Belt states with not even the remotest hope for legislative victory. In 2010, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence judged Obama's efforts on behalf of its issue worthy of an F.”


The president believes that now is the time to change the course of years past by implementing the legislation that will, as he suggests, curb gun violence in America. The killings of December 14th, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut only amplified the will of Obama to reignite the effort for gun control in the U.S.


“The president had just finished presenting his robust slate of gun control proposals—so robust, in fact, that the next morning's newspaper would declare it almost certainly doomed to failure in Congress. But that was the point. On gun control, the president never expected John Boehner and Mitch McConnell to join him on a surveying expedition in search of the mythic land of Common Ground. Compromise was a conversation for the distant future, one he would entertain only after making a muscular argument and creating the political space for his ideas.”


Such indecision and gridlock has defined the Obama presidency to this point, and with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives until at least January of 2015, it appears to remain that way. But Obama remains optimistic that concrete, meaningful, and durable legislation can be passed, agreed upon by liberals and conservatives alike. The president insists that he does not mean to alienate those that would deem this an infringement on an unalienable right.


“I was very explicit about believing that the Second Amendment was important, that we respect the rights of responsible gun owners. In formulating our plans, Joe Biden met with a wide range of constituencies, including sportsmen and hunters. So much of the challenge that we have in our politics right now is that people feel as if the game here in Washington is completely detached from their day-to-day realities. And that's not an unjustifiable view. So everything we do combines both a legislative strategy with a broad-based communications and outreach strategy to get people engaged and involved, so that it's not Washington over here and the rest of America over there.”


Obama acknowledges persistent division in Washington, but holds fast to the idea that the “change” that he campaigned on in 2008 is still possible and still relevant. The president attempts to bring positivity to his struggles with congress and continues to do so as he enters his second term.

Whether or not he will be able to handle these issues legislatively remains to be seen. Congress has shown some recent flexibility and an intent to work with the president and with their respective opposing party on the issue of immigration, but the issue of gun control hangs in the balance now more than ever. The president maintains:


“You make the decisions you think balance all these equities, and you hope that, at the end of your presidency, you can look back and say, I made more right calls than not and that I saved lives where I could, and that America, as best it could in a difficult, dangerous world, was, net, a force for good.”


The results of these debates and these decisions will undoubtedly define President Obama’s legacy.


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