Now that Donald Trump’s inauguration as 45th President of the United States is less than a week away, what should we make of Barack Obama’s legacy?
Many people will no doubt point to President Obama’s stewarding of the Affordable Care Act through Congress as the crowning – at least, legislative – achievement of his administration. Democrats love to point to the alleged 20 million or so Americans who have now gained healthcare insurance under the law as testament to its success and righteousness.
As it turns out, however, there are plenty of reasons to be speculative of this estimate. First, much of the expanded access is actually riding on the back of Medicaid – not private coverage. Thus, the law’s objective of making healthcare affordable has effectively and demonstrably failed, given that this is just another de facto taxpayer-funded welfare program.
Second, many of those few who have obtained private insurance through the exchanges are unsatisfied with their coverage and/or now find themselves unable to afford the exorbitant deductibles that offset the supposedly “affordable” premiums, thereby still rendering them unable to obtain the ultimate “so what”: the actual healthcare they need. This is further evidence that the bill largely failed on its promises of affordability.
In a final coup de gras, the state exchanges that were intended to facilitate competition and open access to these supposedly affordable plans are disappearing faster than hotcakes. Even if Donald Trump’s promises to repeal Obamacare do not materialize, this law was doomed to implosion from the outset due to basic economics.
In December 2009, then-newly elected President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize. As hindsight now clearly illuminates, the irony of that distinction has forever rendered the prize a meaningless self-aggrandizing trinket. (To fair, its credibility was already highly questionable given its being awarded to Nelson Mandela, Henry Kissinger, Le Duc Tho, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, etc.)
President Obama is the only the president in American history to preside over two full terms of nonstop war – despite his many promises and excoriations. His administration has dropped tens of thousands of bombs, directly contributing to the largest international migrant/refugee crisis in at least a generation. His policies – some adopted/continued and thereby endorsed from George W. Bush’s administration, some of his own doing – have contributed to the thorough destruction of any semblance of stability in the Middle East and have directly antagonized rival superpowers elsewhere.
Worst of all, President Obama’s legacy is one of collateral damage. Who knows how many civilians have been caught in the literal crossfire of the state’s self-serving pursuit of never-ending warfare, but civilians have undeniably died as a direct result of this never-ending foreign policy posture.
- National debt
Barack Obama presided over far and away the largest raw increase to America’s national debt in history. Some of this debt realization is directly attributable to Obama and his party. Quite a bit of it, however, is indirectly his doing. But by refusing to proactively address under- or outright unfunded nondiscretionary liabilities, such as exploding Medicare costs and interest on the debt, he effectively aided and abetted this debt explosion through malfeasance and/or leadership abstinence.
Due to Obama’s fiscal cowardice, ineptitude, or both, multiple future generations are now yoked with a debt burden they did not create, cannot hope to realistically redress, and were afforded no opportunity to reject or endorse democratically, attributing to the concept of “taxation without representation” an entirely new meaning.
- Domestic race relations
Many who voted for Obama, and indeed even many who did not, hoped that his ascension to the highest political office in the land – and arguably, highest individual achievement possible in the land – would usher in a new “post-racial” era for America. Sadly (but predictably), this did not transpire. I am not naïve enough to dispute that many people in America were unhappy to see a black man elected president, and it is feasible that some of this increased racial tension is due to push back from those sectors. But Obama is anything but blameless in this formulation.
From the outset – indeed, before he was even elected president – Barack Obama demonstrated divisive demagoguery and a desire to pander to a seemingly pervasive “us versus them” political ideology. This only worsened as he took the reins of executive government, by publicly jumping to indefensible conclusions and refusing to publicly condemn domestic terrorists when it did not suit his worldview.
A real leader can choose to be part of the solution to any given problem, particularly when it impacts a diverse nation of 300+ million people of whom one is supposed to represent all. Instead, Obama’s legacy in this respect will be one of choosing to be part of the problem.
- Democrat electoral losses
Perhaps owing to some combination of the above (and likely more), a stark legacy of Obama’s presidency is one of staggering, and in fact historic, electoral losses for his political party at the state and federal levels of American government. During his eight years in office, the Democratic Party lost 1042 (!) state legislative, gubernatorial, congressional, and presidential seats. The rundown is as follows: over 900 state legislature seats, 12 governors, 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats, and one presidency lost. Wow. This scope and scale of defeat speaks volumes about the substantive merits of his policies, as the forefront representative of that political party.
- Populist rejection
There simply is no Trump victory without an Obama radical-left swing. Without going all-in for progressive globalism there can be no popular nationalist rebound. Without dissatisfaction with the new status quo there can be no embrace of the change candidate.
So, congratulations to Barack Obama and his supporters: you are the reason America has Donald J. Trump today.
UPDATE (6 February 2017): It seems the above generalized estimate of “tens of thousands of bombs” may have been slightly understated. New reports illuminate statutory shortfalls in how such figures are calculated, and consequently highlight that previous open source tallies are, in fact, undercounted.