When Barack Obama was elected as our 44th President in 2008, it was, indeed, historic. And rightly so. As our nation’s first black president, he was a bright shining example of just how far the USA had come since slavery was abolished in the 1860s, and black males gained the right to vote in 1870. The latter was achieved with women, black and white, in the forefront of the suffrage movement. Ironically, it would take 50 more years for women to achieve nationwide voting rights.
Even after the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, blacks remained shackled by segregation until the Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and '60s improved their situation. Slowly, but surely, the nation attempted to integrate blacks into the larger society. That effort remains a work in progress.
So, when President Obama took the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2009, America’s hopes were high, fueled by his promises to be “the President of all the people of the United States,” and to lead our nation forward to a “post-racial society.”
It will take time and reflection for historians to judge the legacy of Obama. For now, it seems clear one of his signature domestic policy achievements, the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is facing wholesale repeal in Congress. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to undo “every executive action Obama undertook on climate change, immigration, and the environment.”
As for leading America to the zenith of a “post-racial society,” Obama left office with the nation more racially divided than when he entered the White House. The man who was supposed to be our “Healer-in-chief” turned out to be our “Divider-in-chief” on racial issues.
Obama’s foreign policy legacy, so far, is in question as well. He entered office blaming his predecessor George W. Bush for failing to fix what Obama viewed as a “tragically intractable” world. However, his own inaction in the Middle East created more crises than he inherited from Bush. His premature withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq contributed to the rise of ISIS, which he dismissed as a “junior varsity.” Worse, his failure to follow through on his “red line” threat to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad regarding the use of chemical weapons resulted in the slaughter some “450,000 civilians, a massive refugee crisis, and a cynical intervention by Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
In my view, Obama’s legacy in both domestic and foreign policy is, at best, a mixed bag. Sure, he tried to “transform America” in many ways-just like he promised. However, he failed to gain consensus from Congress and the American people on many matters of policy, foreign and domestic.
Still, Obama left office “with an impressive 55 percent approval rating: 12 points ahead of his successor, Trump, and 22 points ahead of his predecessor, Bush. That’s good news for him. However, his Democratic Party is now in denial and disarray. And that’s bad news for them.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.