Toward the end of any administration the conversation switches from the potentials to the legacy and that has begun in earnest with Barack Obama. A weak version of healthcare was enacted with Obamacare and its future is at the moment on a precipice. As for politics, there are fewer Democrats today than when Obama took office as Senators, Congresspeople, State Legislators, and Governor totals have all taken a tumble. Several Journalists/Historians discussed Barack Obama for the New Republic recently.
PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN HISTORY, NYU
OBAMA’S GREATEST SINGLE ACCOMPLISHMENT Expanding government health insurance for millions of people. More Americans now are able to access medical care than before his presidency. BIGGEST FAILURE Not addressing more forcefully the country’s economic inequality, and not pushing for laws that would make it easier for unions to organize.
NIKHIL PAL SINGH
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, NYU
OBAMA’S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT The Iran nuclear nonproliferation deal—a difficult and painstaking agreement that dampens the ardor of those advocating for another large-scale, costly, mass-casualty war. BIGGEST FAILURE He disillusioned millions of new entrants into the political process, particularly younger voters, by failing to advance the ambitious and transformational political agenda that he seemed to promise, and that the times demanded. He had a steady hand in a time of significant turmoil, but his eight years in office settled nothing of consequence. WHAT SURPRISED YOU MOST? How disappointing he’s been on questions of racial justice, equity, and education, given his clear understanding of the issues. WHAT HE DESERVES MORE CREDIT FOR Maintaining his composure and avoiding many of the traps laid for him by right-wing brinkmanship.
ATTORNEY AND AUTHOR
OBAMA’S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT Barring the use of pre- existing conditions as a basis for denying health coverage. BIGGEST FAILURE As a Pakistani-American, it pains me to see how often the Obama administration boasts of its capture of Osama bin Laden. Using a public vaccination program as a front to collect DNA via a CIA operative has seriously impacted the credibility of public health programs in Pakistan. This has led to fewer vaccinations and more disease outbreaks all over the country. WHAT SURPRISED YOU MOST? Perhaps it was my naïveté, but I really did think Obama’s intellectual pedigree as a constitutional scholar would mean he would be more passionately opposed to covert wars, extrajudicial killings via drone attacks, and the continued use of indefinite detention. WHAT HE DESERVES MORE CREDIT FOR He is probably one of the best-looking and most charismatic presidents in several decades. (Who says we can’t judge men by their looks?)
WRITER AND EDITOR AT THE WASHINGTON POST
OBAMA’S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT Allowing schools to provide free lunches for everybody if at least 40 percent of students are eligible for subsidized meals. It’s the best kind of politics:
a small but substantial improvement that opens up the imagination to greater possibilities. BIGGEST FAILURE Obamacare has fallen far short of what was promised. WHAT SURPRISED YOU MOST? That his administration was scandal-free. Eight years in, his critics are still complaining about the same things they were the day he took office. The fact that there’s nothing new for them to advance against him—even something fictitious!—is very surprising. WHAT HE DESERVES MORE CREDIT FOR The stimulus package, which likely saved the country from a far more devastating recession. And how conciliatory his statements on race and unity have been.
AUTHOR AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE BAFFLER
OBAMA’S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT The terrific blow he delivered to American racism, and his resounding demonstration that a clean, scandal-free administration is completely possible. BIGGEST FAILURE Obama entered office with an enormous mandate and majorities in both houses of Congress; he leaves it with Republicans in power all over the country and a public so anxious they chose an obvious demagogue as his successor. WHAT SURPRISED YOU MOST? Three things: His many wars. His capitulation to the Clinton faction of the Democratic Party after he beat Hillary in 2008. And the continued turning of the revolving door. WHAT HE DESERVES MORE CREDIT FOR The biggest misperception of Obama is that he is some kind of wild leftist, when in fact he has proven to be an unremarkable exponent of the Washington consensus.” https://newrepublic.com/article/139326/grierson-and-leitch-episode-47-la-la-land-usual-suspects-five-heartbeats
What was sadly not discussed in this roundtable were the punitive failures which could have been used to set a course for the future. Bankers slammed the economy a big one and still head their companies. Help for those afflicted remains too too small. Torturers lay low and now are chirping cheerily with the advent of Trump. Ready to re-install the Middle Ages. We haven’t been forced to consider our misdeeds. And of course we haven’t.