History is written by the victors. In 2008, Barack Obama campaigned and won on a promise of vast change and hope. Obama’s presidential run coincided with the collapse of the economy. People were scared, broken and confused. Droves of people got slaughtered in the markets and many more lost their homes and their jobs. The future seemed bleak. Most of his presidency was dedicated to solidifying his legacy as one of the presidential greats. The first African-American president, he was determined to restore America to a forward leaning and progressive society. He added regulations to Wall Street, passed his signature health care law, and injected the dilemma of race into the national conversation. Barack Obama was unwavering in his attempts to reinforce his legacy.
Enter Donald Trump, who is currently in the process of dismantling Obama’s legacy piece by piece. Many people were unhappy with the way in which Obama forced his vision onto America. Instead of providing hope, it provided division. Donald Trump seized on the chaos, ran a campaign on making on restoring America from better days. He took the presidency, and with it Obama’s legacy.
So let’s start from the beginning.
In 2008, Barack Obama, a charismatic and quasi-messianic figure promised hope to a scared nation. Hillary Clinton ran around chasing her tail, trying to figure out a message. He demolished her in all three of the debates and his speeches evoked emotion and bled authenticity, whereas Hillary Clinton reeked of fraud. He was elected as the Democratic nominee and cleanly defeated Republican John McCain, who spoke like an establishment company man.
The newly minted President Obama then set off on his grand vision for reform. The House and the Senate were both Democratic and he seemed poised for tremendous change. Unfortunately, this was not the case. He implemented almost exclusively liberal legislation, such as rescinding the Mexico City Policy, which banned federal grants to international groups that provided abortions. He addressed the Great Recession by passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This was a noble piece of legislation that was entirely partisan. It was passed on the backs of Democratic votes with only three Republicans voting in favor. In addition to the ARRA, he signed Dodd-Frank, which sought to curtail risky Wall Street practices.
The most significant and controversial legislation was the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. This fundamentally restructured the way in which Americans received healthcare. He spent most of his political capital of the first term making sure this bill was passed. The fight was bitter and concerning patterns started to emerge in Washington. The Tea Party rose, largely due to Obamacare, and Congressional Republicans attempted to stonewall Obama at every turn.
Despite all of this, in 2012 Republicans still could not dethrone Obama. They nominated a cookie-cutter establishment crony named Mitt Romney. Although many of Romney’s ideas were good and noble, he still couldn’t shake his stiff awkwardness and bourgeois demeanor. He was handily defeated.
Obama’s second term was wrought with division. Democrats lost the midterm elections badly and Republicans took control. They were determined to stop Obama at every turn. He still attempted to invoke his increasingly partisan vision. He implemented the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the dubious Iran Deal. This deal was indicative of his overall approach to foreign policy, which can generously be described as weak. He drew a redline with Syria that he did not enforce, he allowed terrorists to attack a US embassy in Libya, and he let Vladimir Putin run all over him. Though he took credit for killing Osama bin Laden, his foreign policy was by far his greatest weakness.
Nonetheless, relative to many Presidents, he did achieve some success. However, come 2016, his selfishness or lack of political savvy allowed Hillary Clinton to become the Democratic nominee. He had already defeated her and knew she was a terrible candidate, yet he did nothing about it. He allowed for the corrupted Debbie Wasserman Schultz to make a mockery of the Democratic National Convention and he did no campaigning for congressional seats. The Democratic party was fighting with an injured leg and no one seemed to realize it.
All of these factors contributed greatly to the victory of Donald Trump, a man who verbalized his intent to dismantle everything Obama had accomplished.
So far this is what Trump has done to white out Obama’s legacy. He’s nixed both the Paris Climate Accord and Trans- Pacific Partnership. Reinstated restrictions on Cuba, and has attempted to destroy Obamacare all together. He did significant damage to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. He’s even taking aim at the National Monuments that Obama created. Basically anything Obama has touched, Trump is attempting to shatter.
Obama should have seen this coming. He should have reinforced the beaches but instead he sat in the war room twiddling his thumbs. President Trump and the Republican party took significant advantage of the Democrat’s political incompetence and now they are paying the price.
They are now seeing firsthand what happens when you pass exclusively Democratic legislation, play identity politics and alienate large swaths of the nation, and most importantly letting Hillary Clinton become your party nominee.
Obama’s legacy may temporarily be saved by a biased media, but history, currently being re-written by Donald Trump, will see to it that Obama goes down as a terrible president.