A Reflection on Barack Obama's Presidency


A Reflection on Barack Obama's Presidency

Barack Obama: A skinny kid with a funny name.

Back in January of 2008, I was a 17 year old who would turn 18 years old in September, just in time to vote in my first ever United States Presidential Election.

I was excited. I payed attention to the 2004 election(And BARELY engaged in the 2000 election), but this was the first election I engaged in, and researched issues. I truly felt independent from my parents', and friends' thinking. I already had in mind, I was going to vote for Hillary Clinton, since she was bound to win the 2008 Democratic Nomination.

That was, until, this skinny "black kid" with a funny name came along. Barack Osama Bin Laden? Wait, what was it? Oh, Barack OBAMA. Now I know...

The 2008 Nomination, and Election

A Reflection on Barack Obama's Presidency

The 2008 Democratic Nomination was arguably the most contested, grueling, and controversial Democratic nomination of all time. If you thought the Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton nomination in 2016 was bad, you haven't seen anything yet. It was extremely close, there was fighting during the debates, the supporters were split on the candidates, and it was racially divided. Hillary Clinton had a coalition made of the "Limousine Liberals", who were largely Caucasian whites, and she did well among Latinos. Barack Obama did well with downscale Democrats in general, but especially among African-Americans, who were the backbone to his nomination win.

After Obama won the nomination, many Democrats were worried he wouldn't beat John McCain(The Republican nominee), since the Democratic party was split in half. However, Obama ended up beating McCain comfortably. Why? Here are the main reasons. 1. George W. Bush was a Republican, and it was time for a Republican to take over for eight years. 2. Bush Jr.'s approval rating was very low-Even Republicans wanted change. 3. Many people voted for Obama because he was considered the first "African-American" president, even though he is bi-racial, and grew up among white people. 4. Obama was charismatic, and many people vote on emotions, and not issues, or logic.

Obama's first term-January, 2009-January, 2013.

A Reflection on Barack Obama's Presidency

First of all, this should be noted: It is worth remembering that there were just two years out of the eight when the Obama presidency and the Democratic-controlled Congress worked in lockstep; and that those were years dominated at home by the huge and negative impact on the economy of the 2008 financial crisis — on employment and on house ownership in particular — and abroad by the winding down of the Iraq War and the promise of the Arab Spring. During those first two years, the Obama administration’s policies at home and abroad did indeed seem a breath of fresh air — at least to progressives — when set against the domestic and foreign policy stances of the Bush administration with which progressives had been so dissatisfied. To progressives at home and to many observers abroad, the incoming administration seemed to offer the possibility of a new, and a better, American beginning — the opening of a route to a twenty-first century equivalent of FDR’s New Deal.
But, of course, it did not work out that way.

The wars unfortunately did not end, but I won't go into that detail right now. Back in the United States, after a broadly successful long and bruising political battle, administration initiatives on Wall Street reform and on the Affordable Care Act were followed in very quick order by the Republican recapture of the House of Representatives and a turn to the politics of gridlock. From 2010 (when Republicans took the House) and 2014 (when they also took the Senate) any further progressive moves at home became increasingly difficult for the Obama administration to deliver. Mix in a Supreme court willing to strike down part of the ACA and to allow corporations unfettered access to political lobbying, and the Obama administration found itself increasingly isolated and impotent. It found itself blocked on the core of its progressive agenda by Congressional intransigence; and it found any extensive use of executive privilege for progressive purposes blocked by a conservative Supreme Court.
Blocked in this way, the priorities of the president and his administration then shifted. They shifted away from domestic policy to foreign affairs, where presidential autonomy is traditionally greater; and at home the administration became overwhelmingly concerned with protecting as much as it could of the legislative achievements of Obama’s first two years in office. And as his second term lengthened, Barack Obama increasingly turned his eyes forward: exploiting executive orders when the courts allowed him to, but otherwise using the publicity surrounding his office to regularly make the case for progressive change — an advocacy role which implicitly conceded just how much of his own agenda remained to be achieved, and just how much on his watch the progressive cause has been effectively stalled.

Obama's Second Term-January, 2013-January, 2017.

A Reflection on Barack Obama's Presidency

The 2012 Presidential Election was much closer than the 2008 election.

First of all, many of Obama's voters in 2008 were disappointed with him, and turned on him, to third-party candidates(Such as Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein), or decided to vote for Republican Nominee Mitt Romney. Second of all, Mitt Romney was a much more polarizing figure than John McCain. McCain was nice; Romney wasn't. Romney was on attack mode the entire time, and didn't go down without a fight. As a result, Romney lost, but he didn't lose by much(Electoral, or popular vote wise). Mitt Romney had a coalition of white voters, and was able to energize Caucasian Millennials, but Obama's coalition of minorities, and poverty-stricken whites was able to earn him a second term.

So, about this second term of Barack Obama. From gun control to immigration reform, and from Supreme Court nominees to the minimum wage, the Obama administration found itself during the President’s second term increasingly unable to deliver its legislative agenda. And if you doubt that, think only of some of what the President himself laid out as that agenda in his 2013 State of the Union Address, delivered before the entire Washington political class (and via television, the entire nation) - an agenda that the Washington political class then consistently failed to deliver.
Not everything, of course, was negative. As the second Obama term came to a close, real living standards did begin at last to rise again for the bulk of the American middle class, and the deepest recession in U.S. post-World War II history (the one that had cost more than seven million U.S. jobs between 2008 and 2010) had been replaced by more than 73 months of steady if modest job growth (some 12 million new jobs in total). But the deeper structural problems of the U.S. economy remained largely intact: not least the outsourcing of well-paid employment to cheaper labor markets abroad and the associated growth in the U.S. trade deficit, especially with China; the steady failure to invest sufficiently in existing infrastructure and in the new technologies of the digital age; the persistent gap in wealth and income between the privileged few and the numerous poor, with that gap overlaid by visible maps of ethnicity and race; and the continued spending of huge treasure on foreign wars and military deployments in a context of limited welfare and education budgets that nowhere nearly matched the scale of the US’s deficits on educational performance and urban renewal.

Likewise abroad, and for all the success in negotiating a nuclear-arms deal with Iran and a climate change accord in Paris (neither of which is likely to survive a Trump presidency), the Obama administration left its successors much the same legacy it was left by the administration of George W. Bush: an unresolved Palestinian question, an immersion in what now seems to be a state of permanent war in the Middle East, and (actually an extended) covert military machine deploying drone warfare in an expanded number of countries and covert operations in territory formally controlled by more than half of the globe’s sovereign nations. The president had gone to Cairo five months into his presidency seeking, as he put it, “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam...share common principles — of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” But that widely admired speech turned out to be simply another of those early statements of intent that failed later to gather policy traction. Indeed, on foreign policy more than domestic policy, the Obama desire for that new beginning is even further from attainment in 2016 than it had been in 2009.

Where Barack Obama went right: The desperate attempt to stimulate a struggling economy. Where Obama went wrong: Obamacare, and the Affordable Care Act. These were his best, and worst moments.

So, how do I feel about Barack Obama? The same way I felt about him as an 18 year old who voted for Ralph Nader: A lame duck. His lack of experience was a concern for me, and it showed in his presidency. However, he doesn't deserve the extreme criticism from his "haters" either. He had some good moments, and I felt he really did want to help at times. Compared to Bush Jr., he was a godsend. Compared to Bill Clinton, he was an embarrassment. I rank him as mediocre at best, but leaning towards weak. Granted, I don't see much hope for any strong political leaders anymore.

And that's all there is to say. Barring something unseen, Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States next week, and we need to give him a chance. I didn't vote for him, and I'm skeptical of him as well. Regardless of your views on Obama, his personality was likeable, and I enjoyed him being in office.

A Reflection on Barack Obama's Presidency

Farewell, Obama!

A Reflection on Barack Obama's Presidency
15 Opinion