Midterms: Immigration, Salaries, Environment: All of Obama’s ‘Broken Promises’

Obama appeared submissive and discouraged during his first public statement after the Democratic defeat in the midterm elections. “I hear you,” Obama told millions of Americans that voted against him. “We can surely find ways to work together,” he added in reference to the Republicans, “we can move together.” In reality, his appeasing manner aside, the president reaffirmed his intention to veto the laws that Congress will present him when he said, “Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign.” Above all, Obama reaffirmed his willingness to use his executive powers to address the most pressing problem, immigration.

Obama is trying not to spend his last two years in office as a “lame duck.” In view of the 2016 presidential elections, the president is specifically hoping to regain the approval of a number of demographic and social groups that abandoned him and the Democrats, because of his numerous broken promises during the recent elections. The following is a list of Obama’s most significant broken promises that he must, in one way or another, try to repair, especially if he wishes to leave the White House to another Democratic president.

Immigration — This is the worst of his broken promises, and the one that may cost the most in terms of votes to the Democrats. During the 2008 presidential elections, Obama already said that he wished to pass immigration reform and to create a “path to citizenship” for at least 11 million illegal immigrants that have lived, worked and studied in the United States for many years. The president also promised to stop deportations that would separate children from their parents. Six years later, nothing has changed on this front. Obama pushed to reintroduce the Dream Act, which prevents the youngest illegal immigrants, who arrived as minors to the United States and who have lived and worked there, from being deported. As for the rest, however, he has only repeated his promises and accused Republicans of having blocked the reform. During the summer, the White House announced the implementation of an executive order on immigration for September (in all likelihood, this was to stop some of the deportations). This promise was also abandoned, probably to protect the Democrats’ reputation during the election campaign. Now Obama is promising to intervene again and move forward with his plans even without the support of Congress. He absolutely must do this if he wishes to see the Hispanics return and vote en masse for the Democrats in 2016.

Guantanamo — During the 2008 presidential campaign and also during a number of speeches, Obama, who has claimed to be a constitutional law professor, promised that he would close Guantanamo and that the United States would return to upholding human rights after George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” On his first day as president, Obama signed an executive order calling for the closure of the CIA’s “black sites” worldwide, where alleged suspects were tortured. Six years later, Guantanamo has still not been closed and remains a symbol of the United States’ ongoing war on terrorism. Admittedly, Obama has tried to close the prison many times, but the Republicans — and many Democrats for that matter — have blocked the necessary funding required to transfer the prisoners. A Kuwaiti prisoner, Fawzi al-Odah, was sent home immediately after the midterm results, but 148 prisoners remain at Guantanamo and the prison is frequently marked by hunger and protest strikes. Even Obama’s promise to restore a greater respect for human rights has been disregarded to a large extent. Although the CIA’s “black sites” have been closed, there are still detention centers operating in places which have no political or judicial authority, such as the Bagram center in Afghanistan. In addition, the U.S. continues to use drones, even killing American citizens such as Anwar al-Awlaki, who was not given a trial. Lastly, the White House now meets regularly on Tuesdays to bring up a “kill list” of alleged suspects to annihilate without fair trial. This isn’t exactly in line with Obama’s promise to greater respect human rights, this broken promise having stirred up the scathing protests of his progressive groups and supporters.

Politics and money — While he was a senator and candidate for the presidential elections in 2008, Barack Obama promised that voting for him meant voting for a candidate that wasn’t influenced by personal interests. At a rally in Denver, Obama told voters that if they voted for him they would vote for change, voting for a president that would not take any money from Washington’s lobbyists and from super PACs (political action committees that can collect unlimited sums of money to be used for or against candidates). The reality has been very different. In 2012, only four years after he was first elected president, Obama extensively used Priorities USA and other progressive committees that collect unlimited funds. In fact, in 2014 the Democrats became the party that profited the most from super PAC funding. According to data provided by the Federal Election Commission, the 24 Democratic super PACS collected $37.9 million, while the 23 Republican super PACS collected $15.6 million.

Cap and Trade — “As president, I will set a hard cap on all carbon emissions at a level that scientists say is necessary to curb global warming — an 80 percent reduction by 2050,” stated Obama during a speech he gave at the Real Leadership for a Clean Energy Future event in 2007. Even this promise was not kept. After having been approved by the House, the “cap and trade” reform, officially the American Clean Energy and Security Act, was defeated in the Senate after the Democrats’ electoral defeat in 2010. The issue, however, remains current. Many progressive groups and supporters, like Katrina Vanden Heuvel, asked Barack Obama to use his executive power to override Congress and intervene on matters pertaining to global warming in her magazine the Nation on the Tuesday after the Democrats’ defeat.

Minimum wage — In 2008 Barack Obama promised to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011. Today the federal minimum wage remains at its 2009 level, $7.25, despite the fact that the majority of Americans support a raise. Obama’s failure to raise the federal minimum wage damaged his reputation because he gave the impression that the economy was recovering, but a raise would cause negative shock waves. The Democrats must resolve this issue if they wish to strengthen their electoral base. This upcoming challenge has been summed up by the Democrat and progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, “As productivity goes up, as workers are producing more, then the minimum wage is going to go up the same and if that were the case, then the minimum wage today would be about $22 per hour.”

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