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Inside Story: US 2012
Obama: Progressive or pragmatist?
We discuss why some of Barack Obama's strongest supporters have become his fiercest critics.
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2012 11:28

Change was his mantra in 2008. Now, Barack Obama, the US president, has revived his populist rhetoric attacking trickle down economics, deregulation and lower taxes for the rich.

"We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma."

- Barack Obama, the US president, in his 2008 democratic convention speech

However, he has given few details about what he actually hopes to accomplish if he is re-elected. Instead, as incumbent presidents often do, he is reminding voters of what are seen as his victories: the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the end of US combat in Iraq and the overhaul of the US healthcare system.

But some of his key supporters from 2008 say Obama has been a major disappointment - just another pragmatic politician and not the populist he portrays himself to be.

Should Obama's progressive supporters back him again in the 2012 election? How have perceptions changed since the last election.

To discuss this, we are joined by Princeton University professor Cornel West, the co-author of a new book called The Rich and the Rest of Us; Simon Rosenberg, the president of the New Democrat Network and an adviser to Democratic leaders and the Obama administration; and Anne Kornblut, the deputy national political editor for the Washington Post.  

"He is certainly preferable to any conservative Republican alternative, but he's actually done a very poor job in regard to the issues that concerned me. I'm talking about poverty, levels of unemployment and underemployment, I'm talking about the Natinal Defense Authorization Act where I have a deep commitment to precious rights and liberties - to detain persons without judicial ordeal process is to me quite frightening. And he's too friendly with Wall Street and the big banks. You say pragmatic, I'd say for the most part, like Bill Clinton, opportunistic in terms of seizing opportunity but not really following through on progressive ideals committed to poor and working people... We just have to be honest and admit that Barack Obama is neither a progressive nor a populist, he is a neo-liberal, he is a centrist..."

Cornel West, a Princeton University professor


FACTS: OBAMA'S PROGRESSIVE PRAGMATISM::

  • According to a poll, 42% have a favourable view of Obama, 45% are unfavourable towards him
  • Progressives argue that Obama has failed to deliver on promises of 2008
  • Obama supported a large scale bailout of the US auto industry
  • Obama has not closed Guantanamo Bay prison as he promised in 2008
  • Progressives criticise Obama for maintaining Bush tax cuts
  • Obama has withdrawn US combat troops from Iraq, and has begun withdrawing troops for Afghanistan
  • Republican Mitt Romney said that Obama's vision leads to jobs, lost homes, lost dreams
  • The US unemployment rate stands at 8,2%
  • The US poverty rate stands at 15,1%, an increase of 2,6% since 2007
  • 22% of US children are estimated to live in poverty
  • Obama is yet to lay out a clear economic plan for a second term
Source:
Al Jazeera
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