Opening the Obama 2008 Time Capsule

Email a Friend

Grab your shovel. Four years ago this week, on the day after the 2008 election, we asked you to answer the question "By 2012, what will Obama actually change?" We put your predictions into our online "time capsule," and now, we'll open it up and look at some of what you had to say. Remember, we're doing it again: make your predictions for 2016 here. Now let's revisit some of your 2008 predictions, grouped by category.

How We Are Seen Abroad

Perhaps the most common prediction was that President Obama would change US standing abroad. The word “world” appears in almost a third of the entries. These predictions range from the general:

I expect by 2012 America's standing will be restored in the world to reasonable and thoughtful as opposed to cynical and self-serving.

shoki from Brooklyn, NY
What I hope he will change is the negative image we have abroad and will show that the US foreign policy is not about cultural or economic imperialism but about acceptance and change where humanity is concerned.

to the very specific:

I sincerely hope as Commander in Chief he stops the air raids and bombings in Afghanistan which costs us ridiculous amounts of money and ridiculously more in innocent Afghani lives.

Follow-Up: President Obama’s first term was marked by a marked shift towards the use of unmanned drones, particularly in Pakistan, to target Taliban and Al Qaeda militants. While winding down troop presence, the killings from drone strikes increased more than four-fold from the second Bush administration. The debate over the effectiveness and cost of the program - and the impact on our standing abroad - continues, as evidenced by our drone "sentiment map."

Eileen from Little Neck, NJ
With a lot of luck, we will be close to resolving Iraq and Afghanistan, but I do not believe there will be mass withdrawal of troops. Terrorism will continue.

Follow-Up: On February 27th, 2009, at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, President Barack Obama announced a deadline for the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. The troop withdrawal would begin in the summer of 2010 and be completed by the end of 2011. On 21 October 2011, President Obama announced the full withdrawal of troops from Iraq as scheduled. The U.S. retains an embassy in Baghdad with some 17,000 personnel, and between 4,000 to 5,000 defense contractors remain in Iraq. After initially increasing the presence of troops in Afghanistan, President Obama announced a withdrawal of troops from that country to also begin in Summer 2011. The “wind-down” is ongoing, with plans for full withdrawal by the end of 2014.

How We Power The Nation

Many predictions related to energy and infrastructure. In particular, high-speed rail and auto fuel-efficiency were mentioned several times as particular agenda items.

Stuart Cadenhead from Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
In the largest public works program since the New Deal, a National Energy Grid from will be completed, allowing American business to harness and distribute from coast to coast the abundant wind energy of the central plains.

jason gubbiotti from DC
I hope that president obama will have started to put in place sufficient measures to provide alternative energy to the US. on the lighter side, he will have a head of white hair

Soccer Bob from Flanders, NJ
Within four years will come the beginnings of a public transportation explosion and the creation of alternative energy, although it will take many more years to get these projects to yield all that they can.

Follow-Up: In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the “stimulus,” $48.1 billion was set aside for infrastructure development. $8 billion of that was prioritized for the development of high-speed rail, but many of those projects were scuttled (most notably in Florida) amidst political objections to the stimulus from Republican governors. Critics on the left faulted the Obama administration’s relatively small investment in renewable energy and transportation as part of the stimulus. As for car efficiency, in August 2012, the Obama administration finalized regulations that will force automakers to nearly double the average gas mileage of all new cars and trucks they sell in America by 2025, to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon.

The first Obama term notably did not see the passage of carbon legislation. Obama’s second-term priorities remain to be seen, but many think that climate change legislation is among the highest agenda items.

And, yes, the president has much more white hair.

Gay Rights

Stephen from London
I believe we will see the passage of the Uniting American Families Act, HR 2221, which will allow lesbians and gays to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration purposes, as well as other measures which the federal government has jurisdiction over. I believe this will happen because Obama has already expressed support for the strengthening of rights for lesbians and gays, and also has already expressed his support for the UAFA. I do not expect that great strides will be made in regard to the rights of lesbians and gays. The marriage issue is likely to still be left to the state and not the federal government, but with regard to areas where the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction (immigration rights, federal taxes, hate crime legislation) I would expect the Obama administration to have made some progress.

Follow-Up: The Uniting American Families Act did not pass under the Obama administration, and has failed to be voted out of committee 4 times over the past three years. As for gay and lesbian rights, Stephen is correct that Obama has showed support: he repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, added attacks on gays and lesbians to hate crime legislation, and in May 2012 endorsed gay marriage. In the 2012 election, voters approved same-sex marriage legislation in Maine, Maryland, and Washington. Those states join New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia in recognizing gay marriage.

Gridlock, Continued

Robert from NYC
With Rahm Emanuel and his ilk? Ouch!! Maybe not much. Did I make a mistake by not following my original instinct to write in my own candidate for president on Tuesday? Not much will change with the folks I hear the media dragging out as probably/possible Obama administration members.

Gary from Greenwich Village from Manhattan
He will go so out of his way to be a "unifier" and appease Republicans that most of his "changes" -- like Bill Clinton's -- will be dispensations to the right and almost nothing for the left. His own base will be disappointed, but he will have a landslide victory over Republican candidate Sarah Palin.

Follow-Up: Critics from the left fault Obama for choosing establishment figures - particularly among his economic advisers - leading to a smaller stimulus package and watered down financial reform. As for bipartisanship, Obama has also been criticized for, as Gary puts it, “dispensations to the right and almost nothing for the left.” As you may have noticed, Sarah Palin did not run for reelection in 2012.

How We Elect Presidents

Alex from brooklyn
The monumental increase in voter turnout by the young -- it went from 17% to 18%!!! -- will not be maintained. The youth turnout will drop an astronomical 1%, and return to it's 2004 levels.

Follow-Up: Perhaps Alex was being sarcastic in pointing out that the much-discussed youth surge for Obama’s 2008 campaign was, indeed, just a one-point increase. In 2012, the youth vote increased again, to 19% of the general election. About half of all eligible voters under 30 came to the polls, and Obama won 67% of the age bracket.

Monica P. Falkin from Montville, NJ
Barack Obama will help send the Washington culture of "permanent campaigning" to an undignified death as he changes the landscape from blue and red states into a purple country. As a result the new breed of politicians will put their energy into governing as opposed to running for office.

Follow-Up: This one doesn't merit much of a follow-up. It didn't happen.

John Celardo from Fanwood, NJ
New York Times, January 15, 2012, Washington D.C. - Five days before the inauguration of the reelected president Barack Obama, the country celebrates the end of a ground-breaking summit between the leaders of the major political parties. The summit participants signed an agreement that will govern all future political campaigns. The document sets guidelines for future national and state political contests, and along with many other provisions, including the following: All candidates are required to use government funding in order to run for office; Party organizations and political action committees may not supply funds to any person running for national or state office; Campaign advertisements must contain statements about policies the candidate supports, and may not highlight perceived deficiencies of the opponent; Candidates found supporting advertisements containing false information about their opponent will be fined; Candidates will be required to attend true debates where their policy proposals will be fully discussed and argued; A national primary will be held six months before election day to decide candidates for President of the United States, with the actual campaign for president kicking off on Labor Day. President Obama hailed the agreement, and it will be highlighted in his inaugural speech. Naturally the National Health Care Guarantee Act, which overwhelmingly passed both houses of Congress last spring, will also be a cornerstone of the speech.

Follow-Up: In part as a result of the Citizens United ruling, 2012 was the most expensive election in American history, replete with secret money and significant misinformation spread by outside groups. Despite this spending, the election mostly re-affirmed the status quo electoral divide. Obama has prioritized repealing Citizens United in his second term.

Geoffrey Gifford from New York
President Obama will make sure to bring the voting system into the 21st century.

Follow-Up: Obama did not making voting reform a priority in his first term. Interestingly, on the night of his re-election, Obama made an aside about the reports of long lines around the country, saying “we have to fix that.” It remains to be seen whether that is a campaign promise, or merely a quip.

Quick Hits

Jacqueline from Manhattan
A a new, female, pro-choice, supreme court justice.

Follow-Up: How about two? Obama appointed Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. In his second term, he is expected to have one or two more opportunities to name justices.

Patricia from Brooklyn
There will be a basketball hoop at the White House.

Follow-Up: Yup


E from binghamton
Something better change... according to ancient Myan belief, our world is "due" 12/12/2012...

Follow-Up: TBD!

Presented Without Commentary

Dave Lewis from NYC
His underwear, twice.