The legacy of Barack Obama hangs into balance with this new government



Jack LeBlanc

With the collapse of the what many thought was a Democratic firewall, the United States has elected Donald Trump to serve as President. We have no idea what kind of leader he will be, but I am rooting hard for him to be successful for our country. It is likely, however, that he ends up governing as a hard right conservative doing the bidding of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. The implications of this are numerous, but something very significant is at stake: the legacy of Barack Obama. I think many would agree the ugliness of this election has cast a light on the greatness of the 44th president both as a campaigner and as Commander-in-Chief. His approval ratings are excellent, and it is nearly impossible to turn your nose up at his resume of accomplishments in office. His dynamic leadership and iconic sense of humor are certainly things that Americans began to take for granted over his two terms. Trump and other Republicans indicate that there will be massive rollbacks and repeals of Obama’s policies. The legacy of Barack Obama hangs in the balance with this new government. His policies are vulnerable to change but there are truths about his legacy that will remain regardless of who his successor is.

A top priority for President Obama from his first day in office was healthcare reform. Operating under the idea that healthcare was a human right, he set out to change the landscape of health insurance in our nation. Despite the issues with the Affordable Care Act, signing it into law was monumental and even life-saving for some. Insurers can no longer deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and 20 million Americans gained access to affordable health care. The Republicans could repeal it simply out of spite for the Obama agenda, ignoring the possibly huge consequences for Americans that rely on it. Climate change went basically unmentioned in the general election. Our current president wholeheartedly took on the responsibility of trying to preserve the planet for future generations. He treated climate change seriously and tried to educate people and enhance the public concern. In keeping with his overarching commitment to the facts, he implored people to believe in the danger and always cited the overwhelming scientific data on the issue.

Obama revitalized the American economy following the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The United States economy was on the verge of collapse at the outset of his presidency but during his time in office, incomes went up while unemployment and poverty went down. He brought back a wavering auto industry and introduced regulations meant to protect consumers and the health of the overall economy. Not only did President Obama save the economy, he also helped prepare it for changing times and the uncertainty of the 21st century.

The last eight years have seen unspeakable tragedies. Responding to senseless gun violence at home and unspeakable terror abroad was an unfortunate necessity of the Obama presidency. He provided a unified and reassuring response when violence and uncertainty gripped the nation and the world. In the wake of mass shootings against civilians and law enforcement, he offered words of strength and unity in the face of such deep hate. When forces of evil sought to divide us, we were reminded what it means to be an American. His graceful leadership guided us through hard times by calling for us to reflect and have respect for our fellow man.

His disdain for special interests and government dysfunction is a big reason people came out in droves to vote him into office twice. His Washington experience was minimal when he defeated John McCain in 2008. Obama has never been a product of Washington D.C. Coming from the south side of Chicago, he set out to change and vigorously oppose the slow moving wheels of bureaucracy. His appeal exists on many levels, but his disconnection from the D.C. political machine made him a great choice for an electorate ripe with anti-Washington sentiment. His opposition to partisanship and gridlock are a testament to his authenticity. For Obama, doing the right thing was always more important than making calculations and playing politics. Whether he was talking about gun violence or the highly partisan Republican leadership, Obama was never afraid of losing an election or popularity points because of something he felt needed to be said.

After two decisive election victories, Obama will be handing the keys of the White House to a man who built his political persona by delegitimizing the President with baseless claims that he was not born in the country. The same country elected two drastically different men with two very different ideas for how to take the country into the future. The biggest impact of the Obama years, though, will not be seen on a single piece of legislation. It is something I understood fully watching him stride out onto the stage in the shadow of Independence Hall on election eve. Obama’s presidency gave the nation renewed hope. The hope Obama holds for our country cannot be quantified and it will not go away. That hope is about fundamentally changing the way politics function. Instead of just an ugly word that people hate, politics could become more about serving the country and doing everything you can to help the nation be better for all it’s citizens. We head into the uncertainty of the next four years with hope for the future and appreciation for who Obama was as a president. Americans can accomplish anything when we work together—committed to building an America that allows as many as possible to share in it’s dream. Thanks in part to this president, it is not idealistic or wrong to think that we can attain Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” picture of America. That is why, for eight years, he always told us “Yes we can!” Repeal and replace whatever you want; but the hope for politics as a force for good is inextricably linked to these last eight years. He gave the country something to believe in and no one can touch what will always be intrinsically true about the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama.