Outgoing US President Barack Obama is leaving behind himself a more polarised and acrimonious country. He might be considered a historic President but he could not be deemed as a consequential one, and now he is succeeded by a man who openly rebuffed his agenda. He was a historic president ever since he was elected 8 years ago, as the first African-American to hold office. People then realised his other characteristics and started to love the man, which essentially made him win by a large margin, most of which was supported by racial symbolism and careerism. But whether he succeeded as President is highly ambiguous, because, though statistics suggest the opposite, Obama’s insistence on being a success has been bought by a large number of people. Meanwhile, what the citizens are left with now is a neoliberal economy on steroids, eased by a corporate media; alongside a military ready to go for a war anytime and a ministry which denies global warming.
Obama, before leaving the post, has been showcasing his achievements by talking about how, he took a major step towards national health care, revived the economy after the Great Recession, took steps regarding climate change, and also the Iran nuclear deal. Even if we consider just these efforts, they are fugacious by themselves. While Trump does not care about climate change rules, ObamaCare has been teed up by the Congress and many others. Anyway, the supposed single biggest achievement which ObamaCare, a market-driven policy, is considered to be a provision of healthcare for more than 25 million citizens, but 20 million still remain uncovered.
Obama took power in the year 2009 and received a splendid Democratic majority, the issue was that he went all out to impose progressive agenda which could not be seen in the last few decades. Now, partisan votes which resulted in legislative appeals, now make them open to partisan repeal. Rejecting bipartisanship even after losing to Congress twice and then a budget deal walk away due to tax demands, Obama had shown that he wanted to rule by regulation and had no regard for Congress. Obama’s biggest mistake was that he declined to do the work on building political consensus, as even as if he had the opportunity to elect a Democratic successor, his work could have been erased by Trump and the Congress alike.
On the economic front, his progressive ideas dropped the axe on its basic promise of ‘fairness’, as the policy priority for him was income redistribution which he put over growth which resulted in one of the slowest expansion in a long time. The spending bill of 2009 did not give desired results and the government had to turn to Fed Reserve to avoid another recession. The asset prices raised helped the rich but could not trigger an expansion at a wider level nor could it help new businesses so increase income. Additionally, increased taxes and a bombardment of new rules foiled the investment initiatives. Meanwhile, entitlements and transfer payments wooed citizens out of work. Additionally, none of the Wall Street criminals went to jail after the great recession.
Also, on education policy, he set open more market forces which shut hundreds of public schools which got replaced with charter ones.
Since there was a rise in illegal immigration and trade deficits in the years he was the President, Obama indirectly gave Trump the political campaign agenda which would otherwise have been a dry argument.
When it comes to foreign policy, while Obama leaves office, the achievements of the post-Cold War era are now gone and there is a new disorder in the world. This is also because of his progressive stance, as in his campaign he had talked about US’ involvement in the Middle Eastern countries, but his sudden retreats caused more confusion. In Libya, Obama deposed a tyrant but walked away without seeing through the consequence. His ‘receding’ lead to the rise of ISIS in Iraq, and also Syria where the civil war is at its peak.
His calls for a nuclear weapon the free world has gone unheard as more countries like North Korea have been reportedly showcasing them now. Putin is even more aggressive in his stance against Ukraine. China is now more powerful and dominant in Southeast Asia mainly because of a reduced spending in US military. The Iran deal, which he is known for, is still doubtful whether it can stop the country from becoming a nuclear power; a country which has incubated terrorism in neighbouring Syria, Yemen and others. Additionally, his efforts in Cuba might be historic but there have been no results in any areas for its citizens so far.
Americans have been aware of such a disappointing and failed legacy, but they love the man because of his good intentions, which his approval ratings during elections explain well. But such polarised views will not help his legacy to stay, as they are the sole reason they people elected one of the most polarising leaders ever.