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A Sobering Reminder

I can’t pretend I’m unhappy with the results from this year’s presidential election. Of the two candidates who were mostly likely to win, Barack Obama was the one I most wanted in the White House. His opinion on gay marriage alone, as late changing as it was, was nearly enough to sway me to his side. Obamacare, the auto industry bailout, and his tax proposals also won my sympathies.

But there’s plenty about his first four years I’m unhappy with, and William Saletan at Slate has written an excellent article explaining why. In his address to republicans bemoaning the election results, Saletan offers this consolation: “Dear Republicans… Cheer up. The guy we just re-elected is a moderate Republican.”

Find that hard to believe? Keep reading:

Yes, Obama began his presidency with bailouts, stimulus, and borrowing. You know who started the bailouts? George W. Bush. Bush knew that under these exceptionally dire circumstances, bailouts had to be done. Stimulus had to be done, too, since the economy had frozen up. A third of the stimulus was tax cuts. Once the economy began to revive, Obama offered a $4-trillion debt reduction framework that would have cut $3 to $6 of spending for every $1 in tax hikes. That’s a higher ratio of cuts to hikes than Republican voters, in a Gallup poll, said they preferred. It’s way more conservative than the ratio George H. W. Bush accepted in 1990. In last year’s debt-ceiling talks, Obama offered cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in exchange for revenue that didn’t even come from higher tax rates. Now he’s proposing to lower corporate tax rates, and Republicans are whining that he hacked $716 billion out of Medicare. Some socialist.

There’s much more to Obama’s republican streak than that. Saletan mentions a few, but what he doesn’t mention counts equally as much to this voter: his policies on whistleblowing.

This is a time to celebrate. But we re-elected the president because he represents an alternative to the republican path. We should expect him to fulfill the promise of that image. I’m excited for the next four years, but I will be watching them with a critical (and fair) eye.