March 26, 2023
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Commentary: Obama needs bolder self-image to make viable change

While Barack Obama won by a majority in both the electoral and the popular vote in 2008, many have speculated his re-election campaign will lack the same strong support base this time around. His approval ratings have steadily decreased since mid-term elections, and the economic downgrades aren’t helping. Obama launched his re-election campaign months ago. But with all of the media attention on the Republican presidential candidates, the public has hardly noticed.

Chloe Wilson

Obama’s campaign has noticeable changes from his strategy in 2008. The “Yes We Can” chant that brought Obama to the White House is completely absent. In fact, anything that purports Obama himself to be the change we need is missing, a sign that his former, personal idealism has been replaced with a need for real-world solutions.

The most interesting addition to Obama’s official merchandise is a T-shirt that deviates from most of his 2012 merchandise. The shirt displays a picture of the president, but with the caption “Made in the USA” and an image of Obama’s birth certificate.

So what exactly is Obama trying to remind voters of with this tactic? Not much. Obama is downplaying the idea of change and trying to make the public forget his spotty record. While he had successes with the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” — a key 2008 campaign promise — and with the killings of Osama Bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi, Obama has faced an increasingly stubborn tea party and a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating.

Luckily, Obama is smart enough to adapt his 2012 campaign to new developments. In response to the Occupy Wall Street movement, he publicly stated his understanding of the American people’s frustration. In a recent Huffington Post op-ed, Obama promoted his new “Know Before You Owe” plan to halt increasing interest rates of student loans. This move would be a significant effort to support the end of abusive financial practices.

Obama’s new “We Can’t Wait” campaign is trying to instill political change through White House action — he’s opting not to seek input from a divided Congress. Despite his attempts, Obama isn’t solving problems fast enough, which hurts him more than his Republican opposition.

However, Obama isn’t solely responsible for failing to make the change he promised. Rather, the stubbornness of a divided government has caused unwillingness to compromise or put personal ideologies aside for the good of the country. Unfortunately for Obama, his re-election relies on the government’s progress as a whole, not solely on his individual performance as president.

This puts Obama in a lose-lose situation: If he allows Republicans to pass bills, the public views him as weak. If he fights staunchly for one solution, then he is seen as strong, but unproductive. If Obama is re-elected, he must continue with the proactive strategies he has been using in the recent months in order to please the public. He must present himself as a rational thinker in a time when irrationality is ubiquitous.

Obama still has steadfast supporters who are donating to his campaign, but money alone won’t win an election. Obama can raise all the funds he wants, but rebranding himself as independent from traditional government politics will earn him the votes he needs for re-election and will hopefully shift the focus from the government’s faults to Obama’s ideas and goals for the U.S. He has a good vision for the future of America, and that’s change we can believe in.

Chloe Wilson is a sophomore television-radio major and a staff writer. Email her at