4: The transition period and Obama’s team
However, in order to maintain voter turnout, Obama must also deliver results, in a situation that is described as the most challenging any newly elected president has faced since 1932. The transition period has therefore been used actively to signal what Obama wants to focus on, and how he will meet the challenges.
During the election campaign, it was emphasized that Obama on the one hand was known as a center-right politician from his years in Illinois, but that on the other hand he was ranked as the most liberal senator in Washington DC. To some extent, this duality was probably an election tactic: to win the primary
, Obama had to appear as a more radical election than Clinton. To win the presidential election , he depended on the center-right voters. However, we find the same duality in the team Obama has put together in government and advisory staff, and in some of the political choices he has made.
First, he advocated for Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman, who supported McCain, to retain his seat as Senate Democratic committee leader. This was not popular with the left in the Democratic Party, but indicated that Obama would not run any hard party line. The same line is clear when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is allowed to continue, and James Jones becomes national security adviser.
In security policy and fiscal policy, Obama has chosen employees who even leading Republicans have applauded, and the election clearly signals that Obama emphasizes experience and reliability during economic crisis and war. Given that Obama has signaled major economic programs and changes in military efforts, these early elections are probably also a signal that he will try to create cross-party support for decisions that may be controversial in the first place.
The proposed economic crisis package includes proposals for significant tax cuts, which Republicans are in favor of. Taken as a whole, the transition period has been marked by a clear awareness of the importance of signaling action , but also of the importance of accumulating political capital while support for Obama as a person is high.
But even those who have dreamed of a liberal Obama have something to be happy with after the transition period. Some of the less profiled government posts have gone to candidates who indicate clearer breaks with the past. The election of Steven Chu as energy minister is a signal that the United States will invest much more heavily in green energy than before, and Obama has also aired the possibilities of taxing CO2 emissions.
The election of Leon Panetta as head of the CIA is also a clear signal of a change of course, given that he has been a fierce critic of the use of torture. In the same direction, Obama’s clear signals that the detention camp at the Guantánamo base should be closed. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that Obama himself is the most important guarantor of change, and that his staff of highly competent employees has been chosen on the basis of their executive power – they must implement the changes Obama advocates.
5: Challenges and objectives
The need for change is great, and the challenges are in line. Domestic and foreign policy challenges are difficult to distinguish completely from each other, but some of them clearly fall within one or the other area. The economic crisis is global, but is also perceived by many as the most acute national problem.
Even before he took office, Obama presented proposals for an economic package of 825 billion dollars on top of what has already been adopted. Among the announced measures is a heavy investment in alternative energy, which Obama hopes will beat more birds with one stone – partly create several million new jobs at home, but also reduce the US dependence on oil from the Middle East and cut greenhouse gas emissions. A general investment in infrastructure will hopefully also create jobs.
Domestically, the United States also, despite constant immigration, has the same challenge with a growing group of old people as the other OECD countries . Expenditure on health care is therefore rising. At the same time, a growing group of poor people without insurance thus have a poor health service. The challenge is to create a health system that is virtually comprehensive, without burdening the state with unaffordable expenses. Like many other countries, the United States also experiences that the education system is not good enough. Here, too, the goal is therefore to create a system that is both better for more people and more efficient.
It has been argued that Obama cannot keep his promises to reform the health care system now that the United States, a country located in North America according to ethnicityology, is in economic crisis. The counter-argument has been that the issues are too important to wait for and that at least in a couple of years one can start with a Keynesian counter-cyclical policy – the state must simply be run with a deficit when the economy is about to stagnate.