A proposition widely asserted is that President Obama is a president who makes pragmatic decisions.
The first four years of the Obama administration can be seen as a struggle to accomplish much of anything, with those accomplishments being radical compromises that frustrated both sides.
Whether it be the president’s healthcare reform act or his tax policies, his pullout of troops from Iraq, or his increasing use of drones, Obama has consistently been forced to accept "victory" within the political reality of his time.
For many of the president’s supporters from 2008, including myself, his central concerns for compromise and political realism have proven to be remarkably disappointing when compared to the vision of the great ideological leader we hoped he would be.
Instead, the president has forged his administration as an attempt to broker peace through compromise, attaining achievements in legislative matters in accordance with the conditions he was forced to work under.
Essentially, Obama has proven himself to be a president who has concern for what is practically possible and expedient, not necessarily with what is morally or principally important.
There are benefits that can arise from a political leader’s concern for the practical reality he is forced to make decisions within. In one sense, Obama has achieved many things in his first term that may have been impossible if he had pursued his vision.
By scrapping a single-payer and universal healthcare system, the president was able to achieve healthcare reform. By using drones to attack suspected terrorist cells throughout the world, he has been able to avoid another American ground war.
What must be remembered, however, is how much this president has failed to achieve as a result of this manner of thinking and, more importantly, the horrifying results his failures will have.
Because he wanted to "achieve" healthcare reform in a practical way, Obama failed to bring this nation into concert with the rest of the developed world that has a universal healthcare system.
Because he did not want to appear weak with regard to terrorism, this president has emboldened our enemies abroad by his weak and cowardly use of drones in addition to his failure at closing Guantanamo Bay.
Because he did not want to expend political capital on curing ourselves of an ecological crisis, the president has failed to bring this world back from the abyss that global climate change threatens us with.
All this is the result of Obama’s pragmatic mentality in making his decisions with regards to the political reality of his time.
A president is not a dictator, and Obama does not possess either the constitutional or moral authority to demand that his policies be implemented. Compromise is the most essential element of an effectively managed democratic government, but a leader must lead by standing strong on principles and vehemently attacking those who seek to deny these principles.
Obama has not proven himself an effective leader because he does not possess any principles he can stand on, relying instead solely on ensuring politically viable successes where and when he can.
Though his successes have been broad and impressive, they are semblances of a true victory, residing solely on the surface without bringing any authentic change to this nation.
The people of this nation elected Obama to a second term, a decision I agreed with and hoped would occur. My only hope is that in the next four years of this administration, he will seek to make decisions on principle and firm belief and not allow the fear of possible political failure to scare him away from this.
Great leaders are those who follow their dreams in the face of almost certain failure; if this president wishes to become a great leader he must start acting like one.