The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh chapter of the American Democracy Project, in conjunction with the university’s Political Science Student Association, sponsored a panel titled “Obama After One Year.” The event was held on the anniversary of President Obama’s inaugural address, and included professors from a variety of academic disciplines, as well as a student representative from the College Democrats and one from the College Republicans. The panelists offered a wide-ranging analysis of the 44th President’s first year in office, and then took questions from the audience.
Dr. Michael Lizotte (Campus Sustainability Director) commented on the impact recent Cabinet appointments have had on changing the direction of U.S. environmental policy. He stressed that the Obama appointments indicated that the administration is quite serious about enforcing environmental regulations, something a number of prior Presidents have not emphasized. Dr. Chad Cotti (Economics) analyzed health care reform, expressing the view that it is not easy to provide for full access in a system of employer-based coverage. The proposed reform would do so through an individual mandate to get health care insurance and a corporate mandate to provide it.
Dr. Michael Jaszinski (Political Science) noted the surprising lack of change brought by Obama’s foreign policy. Many treaties remain unsigned and the administration’s war strategy is essentially a continuation from the late Bush Administration. He also pointed out the difficulty of enacting a foreign policy in light of the tendency to act as if there is a permanent campaign. Dr. Siemers contrasted the incremental pace of change accomplished through governing, with the tendency of presidential candidates, like Obama, to promise sweeping reforms. This combination, he contended, contributes to cynicism as voters become frustrated with pace of change.
President of the College Republicans, John Nerat, emphasized his worries about excessive taxation and deficit spending. The College Democrats’ representative, Alan Kania, focused on the Obama Administration’s positive record on human rights.
A series of engaging questions and comments were posed by the audience. A particularly intriguing question was “How would other presidents, such as Lincoln or FDR, have looked after their first year and is it fair to judge them so soon?” An answer from the panel captured the essence of the event: “The assessment of presidents and the political system must be done with care and is an ongoing process, but it is something that every citizen should do.”