A look at the legacy of Barack Obama
David L. Horne, PH.D. | 1/20/2017, midnight
In a lot of ways, it is too early to properly evaluate the presidency of Barack Obama.
Such a process regularly needs to marinate for a while, and let more facts of a particular presidency come out. That truism has not stopped the mad rush to get evaluations and comparisons done, however.
In 2010, a Siena College Research Institute survey ranked Mr. Obama number 15 of 43 previous U.S. presidents. A 2012 NewsWeek survey ranked Mr. Obama as number 10 among the 43 previous presidents. Nate Silver’s 2013 survey, based on an amalgamation of various rankings, put Mr. Obama at number 17 among previous presidents. A very recent survey of 391 presidential scholars and experts in politics, as members of the American Political Science Association, ranked Mr. Obama as the 18th most successful U.S. president. In February, 2015, the Brookings Institute, a Washington think tank, also ranked Mr. Obama 18th. Coincidentally, George W. Bush, currently ranked the worst U.S. President of all, thinks that Donald Trump, will replace him as the worst.
In one of his final interviews aired this week, President Obama said that being president was akin to being a relay runner; you get elected, take the baton and run your part of the race as best you can, and hopefully gain or hold a lead, then pass the baton off to the president next in line. The presidency is about successfully handling your part of the race, then moving on.
Did President Obama run his segment successfully?
He had all the elements thrown at him to thwart him: rain, sleet, mud, ice, and a unified, obdurate Republican Party willing to trip him, push him, and otherwise block his way. He was jostled more than once by other runners. But was he successful, still? While sympathy may go to the fallen, so will disappointment and disdain.
When he first took office in January,
2009, the Great Recession was in full effect. Unemployment was more than 10 percent and rising, the country’s financial system was tipping on the brink of collapse, the global financial system was imploding, the USA had more than 183,000 combat troops fighting in two very costly wars without end, a majority of Americans, especially children, had no healthcare insurance, the American auto industry was speeding its way toward death, and the country’s budget deficit was more than $1 trillion dollars and rising, among other challenges.
The lone advantages he had against this phalanx were Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress (at least until January 2011), a large electoral mandate, and world-wide popularity that wanted him to succeed. He also had, he said, a dogged determination to get the job done. While he had preached hope and faith, he was a pragmatist when it came to dealing with the problems at hand.
With him at the helm, the auto industry was saved; a federal stimulus package was legislated, disseminated, and worked; universal healthcare was instituted; unemployment was cut in half; employment hit a sustained growth stride; and ground troops in at least the Iraq war were substantially reduced and Iraqis were trained to fight their own battles.