Since his re-election, Obama seems to have changed. The political-tightrope-walking, wise, compromise-seeking politician is gone. During his second term, Obama has become much braver in his support of sensitive topics such as same-sex marriage, climate change, restrictions on gun ownership, equal opportunities and illegal immigrants.
All of these issues were featured in the president’s inaugural speech and in the State of the Union address presented last week. Moreover, he challenged a taboo theory by saying that the country is indeed responsible for boosting the economy and strengthening the middle class. In his opinion, extended budget-cutting is not the only solution.
However, it is not certain that we have a truly new Obama before us. It may be possible that we are seeing the Obama who used to work as a community organizer in Chicago — the idealistic young man whom the reader got to know from “Dreams From my Father,” his autobiographical book, written in his early thirties when he was still a young law professor and politician who was fully committed to left-wing principles, liberal values and equal opportunities.
There are already several theories behind why the old Obama may be back. Some analysts say that Obama was shocked by the Newtown shooting, in which 20 children were killed, and that he feels personally responsible for not doing everything in his power to restrict offensive weapons. More believe that he simply gained courage from his re-election. He no longer needs votes and can now concentrate on his historical legacy. Of course, he still keeps a close eye on public opinion polls, as he did during his campaign. Surveys show that U.S. society is changing: Americans now share Obama’s opinion regarding gun ownership and illegal immigrants. The polls confirm that after his re-election, Obama became significantly more popular than he was in the last few years.
According to The New York Times, Obama remains a centrist, compared to the left wing of the Democratic Party, and he is pro-market, which is one reason for fellow party members' lack of enthusiasm for him. However, also according to the article, the president now tries with a rarely seen effort to move centrists to the left.
The effort is risky. The country is still too politically divided. Obama won the elections in November, but it was a tight race. People living in small towns and cities, miles away from the capitols, still have a strong sense of individualism: They want to be left alone by Washington, they prefer to work for their success on their own, and they are happy as long as they pay the lowest tax possible. They also cling to their guns, which, to them, are real means of self-defense. These people do not want to purchase mandatory health insurance, and they conclude that reducing their companies' carbon dioxide emissions only pointlessly limits their business activities. Moreover, the Republicans who support these ideas maintain their majority in the House of Representatives and without them, no important legislative proposal can pass.
It will soon show whether Obama evaluated his circumstances well or not: The proposal on gun control and illegal immigrants is set to be submitted to Congress. In two years, congressional elections will be held, and the success of the Democrats then will reflect the success of Obama’s work now.