If Obama Needs Bill Clinton in 2012, He Is In Trouble

With the Obama campaign slogan of “Forward” solidly placed on the paper, the Democratic Party has joined the Republican Party rank-and-file in asking the electorate to look back on the good old days of Bill Clinton. The announcement that former President Bill Clinton will have the honor of presenting Barack Obama for the top job on behalf of all Democrats at the Democratic National Convention, a number of pundits have weighed in on what this will mean for the national race. While there are some benefits to having a popular former president endorse you, there are certain setbacks. 

Here are three of the biggest benefits and setbacks:

1. Democratic Party as Fiscally Responsible With the looming budget debates and the ugly debates before, it is extremely beneficial to remind the people of a president who was anything but the traditional tax-and-spend Democrat. By associating himself with Clinton, Obama is suggesting to voters that he will follow similar policies and trajectories.

One problem: The current president still has two wars to fund, so "Hoping" to "Change" the course of deficit spending will be no way "Forward"! However, it will bolster the image of the National Democratic Party and may swing several key states

2. The Party of Change President Clinton was the change president. He spoke candidly to voters in dying industries and promised not to get them their old jobs back, but rather to give them the opportunity to reinvent themselves and to be prepared for sustainable jobs of the future. Additional investment in Pell Grants and support for state-by-state tuition assistance programs created greater access for transitional education and higher education. 

One Problem: The current president, at best, will get a lower rate on student loans and cannot hope to secure additional funding for scholarships as every dime of the Federal Budget is under great review. Additionally, with the debt ceiling debate in the air as well as the Bush Tax Cuts, additional spending programs are dead in the water.

3. It’s the Economy Stupid President Clinton inherited an American economy surging out of a slump. Reagan, GHW Bush, and Clinton mastered deregulation of the banking sector that gave them an economic boom. The successes of those days were amplified by the growth and development of the internet as an economic engine. 

One Problem: That same engine and deregulation of banks handed GW Bush and Obama an economic catastrophe of global proportions. By embracing Bill Clinton, Obama will have a hard time explaining as to how he will return our nation to fiscal responsibility without new income streams and the once profitable income streams not looking too good right about now.

Obama needs to look and sound different. Hoping to get the registered voters, most of whom are Independents, to look forward to his new policies is the way of securing them. Looking for a popular surrogate will hurt the president more than help his candidacy. When combined with Obama’s now almost secret trips to New York for fundraisers at the homes of New York’s business elites, the current president will have a very tough time of setting apart his vision and identity. After all, Americans vote with “guy like me” gut feeling and Obama is losing ground on that front as we don't know what and whom he represents and have less of an idea as to his policies or agenda. With Clinton you knew what you were getting and where we were going, and that is a very damaging element to the Obama candidacy.

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Lev Sviridov

Lev is an Acting Director of the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College and a Senior Research Associate of the CUNY Energy Institute at The City College of New York, specializing in the chemistry of Manganese Dioxide for grid scale energy storage applications. Additionally, Lev serves on the board of Concord Consortium, Human Rights First, and the 21st Century Foundation.

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