WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Looking Back and Looking Ahead for the President

Jan 20, 2013

A political scientist believes President Barack Obama’s biggest accomplishment during his first term contributed to his greatest failure.

President Barack Obama

Keith Boeckelman, chair of the Political Science Department at Western Illinois University, said the top achievement was clearly passage of the Affordable Care Act, which will create a national healthcare program.

“Democratic presidents have been trying this since at least Harry Truman and none have been successful and a lot have expended a lot of political capital. He (Obama) was able to get this through,” Boeckelman said.

“That’s a big change. I think certainly the biggest change since the 1960s in social policy in the United States.”

Boeckelman said Obama talked often during the 2008 campaign about changing the political culture in Washington DC. However, he made little – if any – headway. Boeckelman considered this the biggest failure of the first term.

“I think the healthcare bill is one example. He needed to cut deals with the pharmaceutical industry and things like that. The things people hate about Washington – you need to do those things to get it passed.”

Boeckelman said Republican governors and congressmen continue to fight the healthcare bill. That could make implementation a challenge in the coming years. Boeckelman believes the administration will take its message straight to the people during Obama’s second term.

“They’re going to need to do that to persuade the governors, to persuade the House members in congress to be able to go along with what he wants.”

Boeckelman is interested to see if Obama can remake the US economy during his second term while coming up with a long-term resolution to the deficit issue. He also believes green-energy companies that were helped by stimulus funding will begin to show some results in the coming years.

Boeckelman believes many of the goals Obama would still like to accomplish need to get done during the first two years of his second term. After that, Obama might be considered a lame duck while attention shifts to the 2016 presidential election.