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The Obama Report Card

The Obama Presidential Rubric Making it Easier to Assess the President Objectively[ish]

In January of 2009, back in the Agitate days before I caught up with the twenty-first century and started blogging, I posted a commentary on the importance of holding the new president accountable for the state of the United States. The reality is that citizens participating in representative government often vote for the person they like rather than make their decisions based on qualifications, platform or accomplishment. When we decide whether or not we wish to re-elect that candidate, we continue to make our choice based on whether we continue to like them.

Yes, perhaps external variables such as the state of the economy, or social stability may factor into the candidate’s “likeability” status, but for many of us, if we like the candidate, we tend to make excuses for their failings. It was the Republican’s fault that the economy hasn’t gotten better, or the deficit grew faster under Reagan than Obama. Okay. These may be true. I’ve made similar claims myself. However, to paraphrase Truman, the buck stops at the Oval Office. Maybe the Republicans did follow an outrageously obstructionist strategy, however, that should not have come as a surprise to Obama, and it was up to him to find ways around such shenanigans.

On the other hand, when we don’t like someone, it’s easy to impute guilt unto them for everything that may go wrong. For instance, President Obama has no control over gas prices. His fiscal policies have done very little to increase the deficit as compared to two unpaid for wars, a recession and unpaid-for tax cuts. It’s also easy to believe negative statements about the candidate that don’t happen to be true, such as Obama ending the work requirement in welfare.

To mitigate some of the subjective nature of assessing the President and his performance, I created a rubric for the top things that I was looking for from the new President. The rubric is broken down into categories such as “The Economy” “Education” “International” etc. Each category is further broken down into benchmarks for which the President could score 0-3. Zero indicates that there was no progress or that his leadership has gone in the wrong direction (I decided against negative points). A score of 1 indicates that he has advocated for progress in that area, but was unsuccessful in implementing policy. To score a 2, Obama had to institute a policy for positive change. A perfect score of 3 indicates successful implementation with measurable progress. Each benchmark is measurable, at least as much as possible.

Of course, this does not completely control for subjectivity. No grading system is purely objective. But it’s beats making our decisions based on how well coifed the candidate is (advantage Romney) or who is more “likeable” (advantage Obama). My idea of what is important and positive may be very different from yours. I would like to have seen a federal jobs program modeled after the WPA. Others might have believed that was too much government intervention. Also, such a program, despite the benefits that I see, is simply politically untenable. How much can I, or should I, blame Obama for not making it happen.

Regardless, I think the Obama Rubric is an adequate tool for assessing his first term. I welcome all readers to use this tool or to create their own. After doing this, please feel free to share by e-mailing your results to The Journal of a Mad Sociologist. I’d like to compile the results by the middle of October.

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