Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has called the Obama administration “far and away the most liberal administration that we’ve ever had in the White House.” Other conservatives and Republicans feel the same. In his book Pinheads and Patriots, Conservative commentator Bill O’Riley writes that Obama is “the most liberal president I’ve seen in my lifetime.” Yet ignoring his rhetoric, several policy areas suggest that the president is much less liberal than his critics — and defenders — would have us believe.
Consider the president’s handling of immigration. Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, but his policies are now pushing Latinos away. His favorable rating among Latinos fell to all time lows last month in part because this administration is on pace to deport more undocumented immigrants in one term — over 1.5 million — than Bush did in two. The number of employer immigration audits has quadrupled since 2009, and companies have were fined $6.9 million last year, nearly ten times as much as the Bush administration’s $675,000 in 2008.
The “most liberal administration ever” has been equally unkind to gamblers. In April this year, the Justice Department shut down America’s leading online poker sites, arrested top officials, and seized over $3 billion in assets. It’s not just the companies’ money either. Millions of dollars in winnings owed to online players were among the assets taken by the government leaving players without legal recourse.
“Liberal” used to mean opposition to social engineering, but apparently no longer. The Obama administration through its FDA is currently in a legal fight to place graphic images onto every cigarette pack in America, including photos of dead and diseased smokers. Last year, the FDA banned the popular caffeinated alcoholic beverage Four Loko. More quietly, the Obama administration has worked to ban synthetic cannabis and herbal bath salts.
The president has actually flipped completely on the issue of medical cannabis. Candidate Obama promised not to “use Justice Department resources to circumvent state laws.” After the election, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder repeated the claim, “What the president said during the campaign, you will be surprised to learn, will be consistent with what we will be doing at law enforcement.” However, California, Montana, and other states where medicinal cannabis is legal were surprised to learn that this wasn’t the case. Raids have continued throughout his administration. In March, DEA agents raided dispensaries in West Hollywood and Montana. This fall, the Justice Department issued closure orders to at least 16 dispensaries in California. The orders stated that “under United States law, a dispensary’s operations involving sales and distribution of marijuana are illegal and subject to criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions.”
If it means anything to be an American liberal, it means policies intended to help the poor. But this administration has been as shameless in its support of corporate welfare, bailouts, and other benefits for politically-connected businesses. Immediately after assuming office, President Obama continued the Bush-model bailouts of GM and Chrysler with even more money for failing banks. A major cause for the Occupy Wall Street protestors was the double-standard for individuals, banks and corporations — if you’re big, we bail you out. If you’re small, we let you fail.
Another issue that OWS and liberals alike care about is transparency in government. Then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (and the president) said, “This is the most transparent administration in the history of our country.” Yet this comes from the same administration that asserted the right to lie in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. Similarly, Obama once said of whistleblowers that “such acts of courage and patriotism… should be encouraged rather than stifled.” Yet this administration has indicted more whistleblowers in three years than every other administration in history — including two who the Bush administration refused to indict.
Without even mentioning foreign policy, the president has little in common with traditional liberals. His main supporters — big unions, banks, and corporations — aren’t interested in ideology. They just want special treatment from the administration, which is exactly what they have received over the last three years. Liberals should reassess devotion to an administration who has sold them out and taken their support for granted.