Tuesday 20th January 2009, marked a historic day where the first ever African American president of the United States was sworn in. Barack Obama. His inauguration held the highest ever attendance for any event in Washington D.C and adding in the television numbers, internet traffic, it was one of the record breaking events ever by the world. His two main slogans were “Change We Can Believe In” and then later to “Change We Need.” His youthful energy and his arrival even at a time following the financial crisis had inspired more confidence than his predecessors. However, with each passing day Barack Obama, who will be always be a historic president, had a far from historic presidency. USA was in an angry state after two terms of George W Bush culminating with the financial crisis of 2008.
Racial tensions were very clear and loud during Obama’s presidency, with little done to improve this. Only 13% of young black African-Americans believe that racism has improved since Obama’s election. Worryingly 71% of black voters believe the government did not do enough to improve the lives of black people. Obama’s interventions were minimal and clumsy when he rarely did decide to intervene. 60% of Americans felt that the race relations have actually gotten worse under Obama which is very different from his claims. Statistics and events such as Ferguson show that the racial divide steadily increased under Obama.
Milwaukee a constituency that had a population of over 40% black people saw incredible rate of evictions. Records show that there were an average of 40–60 eviction cases every day with a whole industry created to service evictions (lawyers, removal men and other professions who’s full time occupation is to deal with the rising population of people who can’t pay their rent or mortgage). Between 2009 and 2011, there are calculations showing that one in eight renters in Milwaukee were forced out of their homes. Obama had been elected to end such hardships but he didn’t. With American’s huge wealth, it is incredible to see such levels of deprivation. Moving away from Los Angeles and Washington DC, areas like Baltimore, Newark and Detroit are facing frightening levels of poverty and crime with the lack of well paid jobs clearly being an issue.
Despite his repeated claims about freedom of the press, Obama has prosecuted more journalists than any other administration. Prior to Obama taking control, U.S.A had the 20th most free press in the world according to the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index. However by 2016, it had fallen to 41st which is worse than South Africa.
We regular see news outlets talk about Trump’s “power moves” but it is worth noting some of the moves that the Obama administration made. It was his administration that allowed a right to kill U.S. citizens without any trial or notice if they are labelled a terrorist suspect. Drone strikes increased by 10 times, where weekly meetings were conducted on his decision to strike certain targets. Americans have been fearful of some of Trump’s actions and words but it was Obama who created a democracy where the president is less accountable than ever. He fought to keep the Bush administration practices of torture and decided against reining in on his predecessors security policies.
There is no denying that Obama was a strong policy maker (although many would argue his policies were too weak), his political approach was damaging. Even after winning an election and good approval ratings towards the end of his presidency, the Democratic Party was suffering. They had lost more than a thousand seats in state legislatures and congress during his time as President. It has been noted the Democrats under Obama lost more state legislative seats than in any other presidency in modern history. He struggled with both his own party and Republicans as he was an incredibly distant politician. Obama’s main concerns were policy and he would rarely engage in battles that were needed in order to make sure those policies were successful.
There is no question, Obama did make progress in his administration. The Affordable Care Act being passed was a huge step as well as making significant progress socially in relation to both Gay and LGBTQ rights. However, there are some serious questions about the legacy he leaves behind which is diminishing day by day. For any sustainable success with policy, you must have some stability within his political group. He arguably did not do enough within the Democratic Party with his focus being on his own campaign.
One way Obama could have created a legacy, is by achieving goals with bipartisan support. Now many would argue this would have been incredibly difficult considering some of the radical people in the Republican Party. He admits that the division between the Republican and Democratic Party is huge. “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency, that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”
The other way he could have achieved some sort of valuable legacy would have been to ensure that key politicians across his party got elected throughout the country to continue and evolve some of his key policies. He needed to build a strong Democratic Party that embodied his beliefs and values so that they could carry through. The problem is he chose neither path. We see him post-presidency trying to nurture through politicians but this what he should have been doing for the eight years he was in power. We can see from Bernie Sanders the influence he has been able to have in the democratic party without even being the leader as politicians such as AOC (Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez) follow his values and beliefs are being elected in key states.
Health insurance premiums are an average of 25% more expensive in states, deductibles are increasing and people are finding fewer affordable insurance policies. Trump’s appeal is clear as someone who centres himself on improving the affairs of USA but Bernie Sanders appeal is also strong as the country has clear social and economic issues. Barack Obama didn’t create poverty, he simply didn’t do enough to cure or improve it. His role as president was arguably closer to a spokesman. He is the final straw for a lot of America. Barack Obama is the creator of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.