WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – President Barack Obama has made numerous promises to the American people, but hasn’t quite followed through on all of them. Most recently he promised to take action on immigration at the end of the summer, but is now delaying it until the end of the year.
Throughout his years in office, some of Obama’s most notable promises not delivered include allowing imported prescription drugs, requiring employers to provide seven paid sick days per year and doubling funding for after-school programs. Experts explain to CBS DC that it isn’t surprising that Obama hasn’t delivered on some of his policies.
“In campaigns and throughout their term, presidents make statements and declare policies, and then don’t deliver on them,” political science expert Jeffrey S. Hill told CBS DC. “This is not surprising. We live in a system of checks and balances with a legislature and an executive that can cause problems for each other. Presidents do not want to be defeated when they act, so they need to consider the reaction and their ability to succeed before they act.”
Dr. Larry J. Sabato, the Center for Politics Director at the University of Virginia, added that it should be expected that presidents may back track on some policies.
“Most presidents do pirouettes, because circumstances or public opinion change,” Sabato told CBS DC. “That’s to be expected. But the shifts can cause them headaches. We’ll see on November 4 if Hispanics turn out at lower rates or vote more Republican because of their disappointment with President Obama’s delay of his immigration executive order.
“I suppose all presidents develop something of a credibility gap over the course of their tenure,” he said. “All of them are forced to backtrack or switch positions from time to time. It comes with the White House territory.”
Hill, who is the Political Science Department Chair and also a professor at Northeastern Illinois University, added that people do get upset when presidents don’t deliver on a promise in some way.
“Each time a president pauses or loses or does not deliver in some way, a few people get upset,” Hill said. “They may become opponents of the president, but more likely they lose their enthusiasm. Through the course of a term, more and more people feel this way. We see this in falling presidential approval rates. People may not agree why they no longer approve, they agree only in their lack of approval.”
He explained that this may cause some people to lose “enthusiasm” when it comes to elections.
“The other thing they do is stay home in elections,” Hill shared. “They don’t have the enthusiasm to vote to support Obama (or any president) and they stay home. This is why the Democrats are likely to lose seats in the upcoming election.”
Sabato believes that if Obama’s job approval improves substantially by 2016, it could greatly help the Democratic nominee’s campaign.
“If President Obama’s job approval improves substantially by 2016, it will greatly assist the Democratic nominee’s campaign,” Sabato said. “If his job approval remains low, it’ll be a drag on his party’s nominee. And that is literally all one can say two years out.”
But Hill said that Obama’s job approval may not hurt Democrats during the next round of elections citing that midterm elections don’t necessarily carry weight in future voting.
“Midterm elections are not good predictors of presidential elections,” Hill explained. “The people who stay home this November can become excited by the next campaign. The broken or delayed promises do not have to hurt the next Democratic presidential nominee. There are over two years before the next presidential election, and, as everyone says, two years is a long time in politics.”
He suggested that presidents need to manage expectations, especially when campaigning on platforms like “hope and change” as Obama did.
“All presidents need to manage expectations,” Hill stated. “Managing expectations is important for keeping support and for keeping an aura of success. President Obama created huge expectations in people with his campaign of hope and change. These were promises that were broad and general and the expectations they generated could never be met. What he needs to do is to be more careful in the statements he makes and the expectations he creates.”
“Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo once said ‘you campaign in poetry. You govern in prose,’” Hill added. “The problem is that the American people don’t always appreciate the difference. Elected officials, and especially presidents, need to keep in mind that the difference between the two is clearer to them than to the American people.”