Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 22, 2016--Obama's Legacy

Nary a day goes by when there isn't talk about Obama's legacy.

In this weekend's New York Times Sunday Review section for example, in addition to a number of passing references, there is Julian Zelizer's article, "Wrecking Obama's Legacy."


Obama himself is so involved with polishing his historical reputation--not wanting his legacy to be only about his being the first African-American president--that the rest of us should leave it at that.  Leave it to him rather than feel that we progressives have a responsibility to protect his reputation and to resist soon-to-be-seen efforts to chip away at his accomplishments. Obamacare, for example which is slated by Donald Trump to be "repealed and replaced."

Good luck with that.

We can see how well this legacy protection is working. During the recent race for the White House Obama spent a lot of time appearing before black audiences in the Carolinas in an effort to explicitly encourage them to vote for Hillary Clinton in order to protect his legacy.

African-American turnout, as it turned out, was much less than projected. Perhaps because his self-serving appeal turned off even black voters.

When campaigning, he didn't just say that Clinton had many programs that would benefit people of color or that she would do a better job than Trump of keeping America safe. What he in effect said was think of a vote for Hillary as a vote for his legacy. His legacy as an African-American president, as if it were disconnected from concerns about America's future.

Imagine the understandable firestorm if a white president toward the end of his term beseeched supporters to vote for his successor because she is white.

Additionally,  it is not up to the liberal media or the rest of us to focus on what Obama accomplished and to feel compelled to promote it. We should be thinking about what's good for America going forward. Especially how to keep Trump from making things worse. Potentially much worse.

If Obama was so concerned about his legacy perhaps when he had majorities in both houses of Congress he would not have traded away the single-payer health care option without a fight or without getting anything in exchange. Now, because of its inherent flaws (not just because of Trump and Paul Ryan) it is collapsing of its own weight.

If he was so concerned about his legacy perhaps Obama would not have contributed to messes with Russia and in Libya, Egypt, and Syria among other places in the Middle East. Maybe we wouldn't have helped catalyze the rise of ISIS.

These among other things will be at the heart of how history will regard him. Thus I understand why he would be concerned.

This is not to say that there are not real accomplishments to be tallied--Obamacare is in fact a step toward wider coverage; we didn't get suckered into further entanglements in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, or in various direct and surrogate ways with China. Then, he made some significant gains in climate and environment policy as well as with energy diversification and self-sufficiency. And, of course, he did many good things to help stabilize and rebuild the nearly collapsed economy he inherited.

But again, none of us should spend one more minute thinking about much less defending Obama's legacy. He has two months to go and we are facing at least four years of Trump and that deserves his and our full attention.

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