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Obama's second term: Message of hope in a new bottle

January 22, 2013 13:13 IST

Barack Obama's maiden election campaign, back in 2008, focused on hope.

The then aspirant promised his countrymen, displeased with the administration of the Republican incumbent (George W Bush), to get the economy -- going through its worst phase since the Great Depression -- back on track, arresting the high rate of unemployment and providing a better alternative at large.

It won him the election no doubt but hope didn't exactly translate into performance.

The United States economy improved, albeit marginally. The unemployment rate got reduced, only negligibly.

Obama's tax policies and the much hyped healthcare didn't find many takers outside his own periphery.

However, his first four years in office did act as a learning curve and made Obama realise that all his positivity somewhere shied away from reality. And that's precisely where he focused on as he attempted to secure a second term.

His re-election campaign last year focused on getting forward. It was the same message of hope, albeit camouflaged in a new, and perhaps more pragmatic, slogan.

Obama's efforts in the first term, though not enough, were adequate to ensure him a second stint. And the man who got elected for a second time was without doubt a more pragmatic, and certainly more confident, President.

In fact, Obama came into the swearing-in ceremony having managed to put the fiscal cliff deal on track -- with the Republicans, in a majority in the House of Representatives, backing down from a possible clash that would have ensured a financial chaos. (House Speaker John Boehner and Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan in fact voted in favour, helping pass the agreement in the Senate)

"An economic recovery has begun.  America's possibilities are limitless," declared the President during his inaugural address.

Obama also had his way as regards taxing the rich more -- without committing to significant budget cuts, something he had promised during the course of his campaign.

He didn't waste much time in reasserting the same.

"We understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it," said Obama, adding, "We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class." 

The above assertion underlined a renewed confidence.

Confidence accrued to the fact that he doesn't have to fear re-election now, confidence stemming from the fact that his government ought to do some constructive work to leave a legacy.

And it is this confidence that made Obama not hesitate from emphasising on something his rival candidate (Mitt Romney) had repeatedly focused on during the course of his campaign.

"America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries -- we must claim its promise," said Obama, adding, "That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests, waterways, croplands and snow-capped peaks."

At the same time, America's 45th President wasn't oblivious to the fact that the transition won't happen overnight. 

"We understand that our programmes are inadequate to the needs of our time. But we must make the hard choices now," announced Obama.

"The commitments we make to each other do not sap our initiative but strengthen us.  They do not make us a nation of takers but free us to take the risks that make this country great," he added.

Obama also made it clear to the rest of the world that American hegemony is far from over and that his country will continue to play a significant role in international affairs.

"America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe," he said, adding, "It will be a source of hope".

"We will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation," he said.

While many agree that the first four years weren't enough time to judge the Obama administration, the same will be liable for evaluation in the next four years.

It is for the President and his team to carry forward the 'realistic positivity' and 'newfound confidence' and translate their policies into performance, thereby determining the legacy of their eight years in charge.

Bikash Mohapatra