Policy Changed. Did Our Opinions?

Compiled by Alyssa Roberts

Publisher, CMC ‘13

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According to old polling data, 81% of CMCers voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. A year into his presidency, t

he Port Side set out to determine whether 5C students are satisfied with his performance.* The result? We’re not all that different from the rest of the nation. We’re a little more supportive of Obama, more optimistic about our country’s direction, and slightly more liberal overall. As Daniel Fogel, CMC ‘11, notes, “We need to be careful not to interpret results from these polls as confirmation of a conservative backlash against Obama — while that may be the most common reason for the growing discontent with our president, there is a contingent of liberals like myself who view Obama’s term so far as a failure for very different reasons.”

* Editor’s Note: The national data is taken from the ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted on January 15, 2010. A report from that survey, along with the full questions, can be found here.To ga

ther the Claremont data, the Port Side administered the same survey to 103 5C students.



issues“Americans were promised one thing, but the Obama Administration delivered something else entirely. They were promised transparency on health care negotiations–instead the bill was negotiated behind closed doors with not one Republican involved. But this bait-and-switch style of government applies to more than just health care. Whether it be the stimulus bill or cap-and-trade the American people were sold one thing and delivered another. The Obama administration misread their mandate from the 2008 election. The United States did not vote for an expansive left-wing liberal model of government, Americans thought they were getting pragmatic centrist unity, and the President has proved them wrong. From the beginning the Obama Administration has pursued amongst the most liberal policy agendas of any Administration, and the recent elections in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia all demonstrate that the American people do not want to buy what Democrats in Washington are selling. Many conservative Democrats have opted to retire (Brian Baird, John Tanner, Bart Gordon, Dennis Moore, etc…) instead of running for reelection with a ‘D’ next to their name. Even some more liberal members (Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgon) have chosen not to run. The Obama Administration has only itself to blame. The truly sad part is that the President had the opportunity to unite the country when he took office, and, frankly, he blew it.” — Jesse Blumenthal, President of the Claremont College Republicans

“At this point, it would be difficult to believe that the Presidents first year has been a complete success. Obviously, unemployment and healthcare remain a challenge. We must not forget the accomplishments of the first year that are seemingly forgotten amidst the current story of the day. The Lilly Ledbetter equal pay act. A dramatic increase in veterans benefits. A strategic vision for Iraq and afghanistan. Keeping hundreds of thousands of cops, teachers, firefighters, and first responders employed with the Recovery Act. As difficult as some struggles may have been, the President has set this nation on a course that will rewrite the mistakes of the previous eight years.” — Isaac Goldberg, President of the Democrats of the Claremont Colleges

expectationsgraphdirectiongraph“The president’s basic problem is that he set expectations that he could not meet. His transition team predicted that the stimulus bill would hold unemployment to 8 percent. It is now 10 percent. He promised that health-care deliberations would be on C-SPAN. They weren’t. David Axelrod, his chief strategist, merely shrugged when a reporter asked about the congressional dealmaking: “That’s the way it has been. That’s the way it will always be.” Many political observers would agree with Axelrod, but that’s beside the point. If Democrats had wanted a nominee with experience in “the way it has been,” they would have chosen Hillary Clinton.” — Jack Pitney, CMC Government Professor

“We can’t evaluate the congressional bills until we say what the alternative is. If the alternative to the current bills is nothing, then the current bills are clearly better than nothing. They correct many known problems in the health system in fairly sensible ways. My main concern is that the bills are not properly funded and will increase the debt, putting the country at financial risk. But if either party gets serious about fiscal responsibility — a big “if” — then this problem could be prevented.

On the other hand, if the alternative to the congressional bills is a more robust national health system like those used around the world in vast numbers of other countries, then the congressional bills look rather bad. They do not deal with fundamental problems in the efficient ways that national health systems do.

accomplishedRegarding the politics, the Democrats are now saying that things are not all that bad, but that seems to me to be mere cheerleading. In fact, the legislative process went about as badly as it could, and the blame for that is shared by the republicans and democrats alike. Some republicans irresponsibly embraced shallow criticisms like the “death panels” nonsense. Democrats did a poor job of speaking to the concerns of average Americans, and in fact polls show that large numbers of people still don’t understand the content of the bills. Democrats like to blame Republicans for this, saying that the Republicans misled the electorate. But the truth is that the Democrats did a rotten job of listening to the legitimate concerns of average Americans.” — Alex Rajczi, CMC Philosophy Professor

“Looks like Obama has lost some luster since our fall 2008 student survey. In 2008 he was a sensational success, got 81% of the CMC 2-party vote, about the same as Harvard and Princeton, though less than the other Claremont Colleges. He also had something like 80% favorable general-public approval ratings when he started, but those have since diminished to about 50%. Your survey says that 58% of respondents approve or strongly approve of him now, 42% disapprove or strongly disapprove. It looks like a big step down from last year, but it is not surprising because Presidents almost always lose approval points over their terms of office.

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Obama still has more campus approval than disapproval, and your campus respondents seem slightly more approving than the general public. To me the most striking lesson of all this is the honeymoon effect of giving the new administration a fresh dose of public endorsement. Despite all the talk of change, Obama came in with economic and foreign-policy positions quite similar to those of Bush’s second term, but then with phenomenal 80% approval ratings, and even now, still, with 50% approval. Under Bush, with essentially the same policies, it was only 20% at the end of his term. Both Bush and Obama had difficult, sometimes intractable, problems to deal with, and it’s not surprising that they both got more frustration and less approval as time wore on and the problems remained unsolved. In Obama’s case, it’s exaggerated by his troubles with health care, which are different from Bush’s, and whose current unpopularity is reflected both in your student survey (54% disapproved) and in surveys of the general public. How remarkable, with so much disillusionment built into the mix, that the new guy got such a huge initial boost in public approval, just for not being the old guy. It was a brief window of opportunity which seems now to be closing, as it did for most other Presidents in the past. I hope Obama enjoyed it while it lasted.” — Ward Elliott, CMC Government Professor

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“I think it’s important to note that, in general, simple approval/disapproval questions invite criticism. There are a near infinite number of opinions someone could have that could lead them to disagree with Obama, but only one that would elicit an approving response. We need to be careful not to interpret results from these polls as confirmation of a conservative backlash against Obama–while that may be the most common reason for the growing discontent with our president, there is a contingent of liberals like myself who view Obama’s term so far as a failure for very different reasons. I’m disappointed with the president not because I disapprove of his government spending, but because he hasn’t gone far enough to the left on some issues. I’m disappointed because I believed Obama was a strong enough leader to endorse single-payer, or to condemn proposition 8, but please, don’t take my disapproval as an opportunity to distort statistics and propagate the myth that Obama is so much farther to the left than the American public.” Daniel Fogel, CMC ‘11

Alyssa Roberts, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the Claremont Port Side, is a senior Government major at Claremont McKenna. She's from Denver, Colorado and obsessively follows Colorado politics. Her role models include Elle Woods and David Plouffe, and D.C. is her Hollywood. She carries an autographed pocket Constitution (her favorite amendment is the 14th). Other interests include coffee, fro-yo, and Hairspray. Tweet her @alyssaaroberts.


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