Wrestling with the Obama Legacy

In the 2+ years since Trump took office, liberals have pined for the leadership of President Obama. Generally speaking, those on the left view the Obama era as Halcyon days, where fear of the country regressing was at the back of their minds. Such a view betrays key facts about the Obama record.

In the defense of Obama’s allies, much of the Obama legacy will be restored. The Paris Climate Accords will simply be rejoined by the next Democratic President. Likewise, the next Democratic President will also re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. No President will increase troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to the levels Obama inherited in 2009. Every health care debate will focus on covering as many people as possible, with most accepting some sort of government role-however limited. Given the fact that the Iran deal is still signed on to by six US allies, renegotiation of the deal seems likely. The “Gag rule” that bans foreign money going to abortion providers will be repealed by the next Democratic President. In these ways, the next Democratic President’s first steps will be a restoration of parts of the Obama legacy.

Hidden under those real achievements is a dark underbelly. Many of Trump’s actions that have been decried by liberals have their roots and legal justifications in the Obama administration. Like Obama, Trump has filled his Cabinet with Wall Street insiders, specifically those with ties to the Investment Bank Goldman Sachs. The current killing of civilians overseas in war zones at an 80 percent rate is similar to the statistics kept under the Obama administration. Like Obama, Trump has authorized bombings of seven different countries in the war on terror without congressional approval, and has used drone strikes prodigiously. Deportations have increased under Trump, but the deportations are built on Obama setting records for the sheer number of deportations that happened under his watch. Trump, like Obama has sent thousands of National Guard Troops and drones to the border. More troublingly, Trump has begun to subpoena the records of journalists using the Espionage Act in order to punish leakers-a precedent set by the Obama administration.

Democrats will have to come to terms with the fact that their entire agenda post-2018 is predicated on repealing or revamping policies mostly put in place by Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Democrats now overwhelmingly favor a Single Payer health care system similar to Medicare for all Americans. This would dismantle most of the Affordable Care Act in favor of an expansion of 1965’s Medicare. Leading 2020 Democratic contenders have also campaigned on expanding Social Security benefits-the same benefits Obama offered to cut as part of a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans in 2011. Democrats also have abandoned the TPP trade deal, Obama’s biggest second term goal. The $15 minimum wage goal espoused by most progressives is 50 percent higher than the number proposed by Obama. Increasingly, the Democratic base has turned on Israel with some even arguing for divestment, similar to the tactic used against South Africa in the 1980’s-a stark contrast with the Obama administration. In a contrast with Obama, a bare majority of Democrats now consider themselves economic protectionists with young Democrats self identifying a socialists.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton stated continually “Obama doesn’t get the credit he deserves”. Sen. Bernie Sanders, with eyes toward 2020 is quick to praise Obama whenever he is perceived to be critiquing the 44th President’s policies. When Sanders rather mildly criticized the legislative seat losses during the Obama era, CNN political analyst Bakari Sellers stated, “Bernie 2020 died 4/4/2018”. Obama’s retrospective approval rating as of February 2018 was found to be 63 percent. Among Democrats, Obama has a staggering 93 percent favorability rating. For Democrats at least, there is no bigger taboo than criticizing former President Obama, even if his policies paved the way for Trump policies liberals now oppose.

In order to correct the shortcomings of the 44th President, Democrats will have to take off their rose colored Presidents before the next Democratic President takes office.