What are the President’s Top Legacy Items?


President Obama is roughly 25% through his seventh year in office. In other words, two years from now, somebody else will be President. We’ll start writing the history books on him, and deciding what mattered and what didn’t. We will presumably begin the long, long task of judging his Presidency, something that will take decades to fully do. We’ll start to get first person accounts from the President and some of the other key figures in his administration. We will begin to get a full picture.

So what will we write about? I’m going to presume a few things- the ACA holds up in court, his current negotiations with Iran and Cuba produce results, economic growth continues, and no major legislation really passes, besides a trade deal. So what will be our top historical stories about this President?

  1. He was the first African-American President- Kind of self-explanatory, right? It may be now, but go back and watch the videos of the excitement when he was announced as the winner in 2008. It will give you the chills, presuming you have a soul.
  2. The Affordable Care Act- Obamacare as it is called is simply his largest domestic achievement, and one of the largest of our lifetimes. It not only remade the health care sector of our economy, it also gave insurance to millions who previously lacked it.
  3. The end of the Iraq War- This man was largely nominated by the Democratic Party in 2008 to end the War in Iraq, and he did so. Now there is a coda to this- ISIS and the rise of a new menace in this region- but it’s too complicated to put entirely on this, and also could be easily argued as being a byproduct of starting the war in the first place, a mistake.
  4. The Economic Recovery and the Stimulus- Both of these are controversial, and both are largely important. In January of 2009, many of us thought that the economy might entirely melt down. The President’s initial response as President was the passage of the $750 billion plus American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Today, our economy is booming, growing at a fast rate, giving him one of the best recovery records of any President in our history. Of course, many did not, and do not, like the price-tag on the Stimulus. Many others question the nature of the recovery, noting how much of it went to the rich.
  5. The Dodd-Frank Bank Regulation Bill and TARP- We often gloss over why our economy was so bad when this President took over- the meltdown of our banking sector due to bad-behavior on Wall Street. Obviously the President took over the TARP Program from President Bush in 2009, and administered it to a profitable ending. Congress then passed Dodd-Frank to regulate the banks, and it has largely been successful thus far in preventing another meltdown.
  6. Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Janet Yellen- Yes, the ladies are in charge now. President Obama is the first President to appoint two women to the Supreme Court in Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. He also appointed Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve. Women have been appointed to some high places.
  7. The President’s “Green” Record and Failure to Pass Cap-and-Trade- This President will go down as having one of the “greenest” records in American history. The solar and wind industries have grown under his watch, as have most other alternatives and cleaner alternatives to fossil fuel power. His EPA has exercised broad discretion granted from the courts to regulate coal-powered plants and to fight climate change in general. He struck a historic deal with China to regulate green-house gases. His record is nearly sterling, however he did fail to pass Cap-and-Trade into law. While he got it through the House, he did not do so in the Senate, and the legislation died.
  8. The Marriage Equality President- DOMA is dead. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is dead. Many state bans on same-sex marriage have been killed in the courts. Soon, all bans on same-sex marriage could be dead. President Obama became the first U.S. President to support same-sex marriage, and his administration was proactively involved in most of these achievements.
  9. Killing Osama Bin Laden- You might say to yourself, why isn’t this higher? Bin Laden was the driving force of wars and military spending in the previous regime, but killing him in May of 2011 isn’t on top of the list? Great point, but ask yourself this- how many lives has it changed here? Not many. Even those who are loved-ones of victims don’t get their loved-ones back because he’s dead. With that said, the killing of the al-Qaeda leader was a rallying point for Americans, and a point of great joy for us all. It marked a victory in the fight that commenced in 2001. With that said, it didn’t mark the end of terrorism, so it doesn’t go higher.
  10. General Motors Lives- Early in this Presidency, President Obama bailed out General Motors to much debate around the country. Today, GM lives. It ended up being a flashpoint in his re-election, as his opponent actually called for GM’s death. We can see who won that debate.
  11. Drone Wars- Perhaps little is as controversial as the drone wars being fought in our name around the world. The ethics, morality, and effectiveness of them remain in debate, but there is little doubt that we have changed warfare forever. The ability to contest wars without sending troops into battle changes the entire discussion forever. I personally am deeply troubled by our use of drones, but can’t deny the importance of what’s happening.
  12. Normalization of Relations with Cuba- Whether or not it actually is completed in this Presidency is still up for debate, but President Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba and end Kennedy Administration-era policies towards our neighbor is a big deal. His talking to Raul Castro is a huge departure too. If we indeed open an embassy in Havana, it will dramatically change Western Hemisphere foreign policy.
  13. Ending/Not Ending the War in Afghanistan- So the war in Afghanistan has been going on since the Fall of 2001, and today the White House announced they will not pull the last of the troops out of the nation in 2015. This means the President will either do so in the final thirteen months of his Presidency, or he will oversee the war through his Presidency. He will either end our longest war, or extend it.
  14. Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and the Re-Rise of the Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory- Yes, the crazy re-appeared in Congress and the public during this Presidency. Congressional investigations of all sorts of wild-eyed theories has thus far yielded little to nothing for the right to tear down this Presidency with. This hasn’t stopped them from repeating the Vince Foster madness of the 1990s.
  15. The Rise of the Tea Party Republican Party- The reaction to the election of the nation’s first African-American President, and first northern Democrat since JFK has been a lurch rightward in the Republican Party.
  16. Not Passing Sensible Gun Laws- One would have thought that the Newtown Massacre of elementary school kids would have moved Congress to act, but unfortunately this President’s most impassioned pleas for even increasing background checks went unheeded by Congress.
  17. Staring Down a Shut Down and not Blinking- Much like the 1990s, this President faced a government shutdown from a right-wing Congress that did not agree with his budget priorities. Much like that President, he managed to basically get his way in the eventual agreement.
  18. Nuclear agreements with Iran- Since 1979, no President had spoken with an Iranian President, until this President. Now they are working on a nuclear agreement that would begin the process of bringing Iran back into the world community by ending their nuclear program.
  19. Discussing a $15 an hour Minimum Wage- While it might not yet have full public support, raising the minimum wage to a livable $15 an hour is now a mainstream issue. The result is large support for raising the wage at all, and a slew of passages in states and unilateral raises from companies.
  20. Syria and ISIS- The Syrian Civil War is perhaps the hot-spot on the entire globe. I personally agree with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that we should have intervened early on. That situation contributed to the wheels already in motion from the failed Iraq War to create ISIS as a regional power. They now stand as one of the worst group of human beings on the entire planet.

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