Obama the failure. Obama the warmonger. Obama the tyrant. Obama the Republican lite. These are the go-to bumper sticker slogans that substitute for critical thinking among the delusional far right and the impotent far left. But in reality, Obama has yanked the country just as hard to the left as Reagan did to the right:
He signed into law a comprehensive national health insurance bill, a goal that had eluded progressive presidents for a century. He got surprisingly tough reforms to Wall Street passed as well, not to mention a stimulus package that both blunted the recession and transformed education and energy policy.
He’s put in place the toughest climate rules in American history and signed a major international limate accord. He opened the US to Cuba for the first time in more than half a century, and reached a peaceful settlement to the nuclear standoff with Iran.
Republicans were terrified that Obama would radically transform America and for good reason: He did exactly that. Obama has set in motion a cycle of events that will end in the collapse of Reaganomics and Corporate America’s attempt to take over the country. For every loud and messy victory like Obamacare, there were several small and almost completely unnoticed changes that have altered the trajectory of our lives. The cumulative effect of these changes won’t be felt for years and when we finally notice, we’ll wonder how it happened.
Obamacare alone is a massive course correction for a country that had embraced the “Me Me ME!” mentality of the 80s. In 20 years or so, when an entire generation of Americans has grown up understanding healthcare as a right, not a privilege, the way will have been paved for a proper single payer system. Obamacare is the foundation for socialized healthcare and Republicans knew it in 2009 when they tried to kill the ACA in its crib.
But there was so much more. As Vox points out, Obama invested billions in the green energy sector. So much so that he literally jump-started the green tech revolution that is threatening to topple the fossil fuel industry. Republicans fought him every step of the way because no one owns the Sun so no one can control the profits from exploiting it. Energy democracy is anathema to the party of big corporations but that’s the road Obama the phony liberal put us on.
The passage of Dodd-Frank is derided by liberals as useless but ask them if they know what shadow banking is and, overwhelmingly, you’ll be greeted with a blank stare. Shadow banking was a greedy free-for-all that erupted after the repeal of Glass-Steagall allowed any corporation, like General Electric (GE), to ACT like a bank but not be subjected to any of the laws that govern banks. This unregulated greed led directly to the financial collapse of 2008, but Dodd-Frank poisoned that well and corporations have been fleeing the shadow banking business in droves.
Vox goes on:
He used executive action to enact bold regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and to protect nearly 6 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. He ended the ban on gay and lesbian service in the military, made it easier for women and minorities to fight wage discrimination, cut out wasteful private sector involvement in student loans, and hiked the top income tax rate. He reprofessionalized the Department of Justice and refashioned the National Labor Relations Board and the Wage and Hour Division of the Labor Department into highly effective forces for workers’ rights.
Not to mention the wave of left of center judges he appointed to the lower courts, many of them for life. Once the Supreme Court tilts to the left, Republicans are going to find the Judicial branch a very hostile place to their voter suppression schemes, bigoted culture war laws and anti-labor tactics.
Oh, and Obama the warmonger forged a treaty with Iran, the country that Republicans have been dying to invade since we invaded Iraq. And he opened up diplomatic ties with Cuban, that evil bastion of Cold War Communism that was going to….do something or another with its 50-year-old cars. Thus proving to America that while mindless chest beating aggression is worthless, grown-up diplomacy works quite well, thank you very much.
“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
His right-wing critics will point to all of this as evil but these are the same people who think it’s OK to let the poor die on the streets so, really, who gives a crap what they think? Obama’s left-wing critics will scream about his failures and drone strikes and violations of civil liberties. Yet those same people who still revere FDR seem to forget that FDR also put over 100,000 Japanese-Americans into concentration camps and deliberately firebombed Tokyo and Dresden, both civilian populations centers. Nowadays, we call that a war crime. Clearly, his legacy overcame these mistakes because FDR is the gold standard in progressivism.
By playing a long game instead of grabbing onto short-term victories, Obama has built a legacy that won’t even be truly appreciated for decades. The fact that he so rarely pats himself on the back or shouts it from the rooftops tells you everything you need to know about the man. He didn’t do all this so he could have airports named after him or cover himself in glory. He did it because it was good for the country and it needed to be done. He did it so his grandchildren and yours would live in a better world. And that’s what makes a truly great president.
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