A year ago, I examined “The Obama Legacy” from a general point of view. I simply looked at his record after seven years in office:
- Stagnant Economy, growing at an anemic 2.1% annual rate ever since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009.
- Massive Debt, at 74% of GDP (now 76%), the highest since the end of WWII.
- Chaotic Middle East, the rise of ISIS in Syria, Iraq and North Africa and the resulting refugee crisis in Europe is the result of weak U.S. leadership.
- Hyper-partisan Political Atmosphere, especially because of the above failures, leading to the rise of populist political candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
Now, a year later, as he prepares to leave office, all of the above conditions are still true. The only major change is that the conservative, not the liberal, populist, Donald Trump, will succeed him in office. Admittedly, the election outcome was a fluke. Trump’s electoral margin was provided by a slim popular vote victory of 100,000 votes combined in the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Such an outcome was totally unpredicted and represents a miscalculation by the Clinton campaign.
In other words, the election easily could have gone the other way, in which case the Obama legacy would have had a four year period of protection by a Hillary Clinton presidency. Nevertheless, according to the Democratic pollster, Stanley Greenberg, the Obama presidency was deficient in several fundamentally crucial ways:
- More than 1000 state and national Democrats lost their elections during his two terms. Republicans now have total (legislative and governor’s office) control in 25 states.
- The economic recovery from the Great Recession morphed into bailouts – bank bailouts, auto bailouts, insurance bailouts, rather than directly addressing the continuing economic struggles experienced by a majority of Americans.
- Approximately 40% of the Democratic base of minority, unmarried female and millennial voters disapproved of how President Obama was handling his job in 2010 and 2014, and many of these voters stayed home during the 2016 election as well.
Conclusion. The fate of Mr. Obama’s major achievements of the Affordable Care Act, the Iran nuclear agreement and committing the nation to address climate change are all now at risk of being overturned by the new presidential administration.