Kraham: Four years later, Obama may finally be able to deliver promised leadership

At his Election Night victory rally in 2008, President-elect Barack Obama told the world “a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.”

During the last four years, Americans have witnessed political fault lines grow even wider and their lawmaking body creep deeper into an abyss of dysfunction. In the coming months, President Obama and Congress have to solve a fiscal crisis and make amends for years of stagnation.

With this economic and political crisis looming, the world may finally see that American leadership Obama talked about. In light of the election, we know the players and we know the game. It’s four years later and Washington needs a new leadership strategy.

Many others and I were seniors in high school when Obama was elected president. We are now seniors in college, poised to begin the next chapter of our life. I’ve certainly changed in the last four years; grown intellectually and emotionally as every college student does.

Congress, on the other hand, hasn’t grown more able to address our most critical issues. We first saw complete and authoritarian Democratic control. Partisan legislation shot through Congress at warp speed and minority voices were hushed by the likes of Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

In 2010, voters rejected that style of governance and elected a more divided Congress. The end result, however, was the same no leadership and no compromise.

Obama’s task in his second term will be, as he frequently says, to form “a more perfect union.” There is tangible evidence and hope for a changed Washington, although it doesn’t match the lofty expectations of candidate Obama in 2008.

Obama has drawn a line in the sand, spending some of the “political capital” — as George W. Bush called it — that he earned with his re-election. Obama needs to use this momentum to twist arms and force compromise, even within his own party.

Post-election reflections have brought amiable tones from both parties. Republicans know they must tone down the doomsday rhetoric about Obama, and Democrats have to stop pretending they’ll solve our economic challenges without compromise.

More practically, there are also more female senators than ever before. While women are still grossly underrepresented in Congress, increased diversity will only mean more varied points of view.

Perhaps most importantly, Obama isn’t running for re-election. He doesn’t need to worry about frustrating his progressive base with centrist policies or appearing weak in anticipation of a campaign. Obama can focus on governing over politics. We know he’s an incredible politician, but the jury’s still out on the leadership thing.

Questions remain about what political role Obama will serve for the remainder of his presidency. The 2014 midterm elections aren’t too far off, and he would be wise to develop a more personal relationship with congressional Republicans.

Will Washington mature in the next four years? Can our elected officials transcend politics and morph into statesmen?

All in all, we need defined leadership from President Obama and more pragmatism from lawmakers. Ideology will have to take a backseat.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In four years, let’s hope Washington still doesn’t need a straightjacket.

Jared Kraham is a senior political science and broadcast journalism major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @JaredKraham.


Top Stories