President Barack Obama is now nearing the end of his presidency. Some will be sad to see him go (especially to be replaced by Donald Trump), and some will be ecstatic as he leaves the White House after his eight-year stay. The country has rarely been so politically divided as it has been in the past eight years, but the true judge of any presidency is history; presidents now ranked very highly, such as Woodrow Wilson or Abraham Lincoln, were heavily criticized in their particular times. What will Obama’s legacy be? How will he be remembered?
Hope and Change
Many people were dissatisfied with George W. Bush’s presidency, and the young, energetic and charismatic Barack Obama was a repudiation of President Bush’s tenure. Obama promised to bring hope and change to the country, and we can be sure that these slogans will be remembered as embodying the reasons he triumphed over John McCain in the 2008 election. Many people who voted for him, however, would have more tempered expectations by the time of the 2012 election.
The War in Iraq and ISIS
One of Obama’s most important campaign points was his opposition to intervention in Iraq. He promised to end the War on Terror and close Guantanamo Bay (which he hasn’t done). By the time he was in office, the war was over, but Iraq was still being occupied by US forces. He oversaw the final withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, ending in late 2011. The question is whether or not he is partially responsible for the rise of ISIS, but this is a controversial issue. Donald Trump, for instance, blames him partially but also puts some blame on George W. Bush for ousting Sadaam Hussein’s Baathist regime. The truth is that George W. Bush began the withdrawal of troops, and Obama just followed through. It’s dubious that Obama will be remembered as the “founder of ISIS,” as Donald Trump calls him; rather the emergence of ISIS will be viewed as a complicated issue, which (like almost anything else) it is.
Obama is often criticized for not following through on his “red line in the sand” warning to Bashar al-Assad, brutal president of Syria, and rightly so. He referred to ISIS as a “JV league,” grossly underestimating the threat they posed. On the other hand, he is responsible for the execution of Osama bin Laden by Seal Team 6, so will most likely be remembered well for ending a ten-year-long manhunt. Obama also increased drone strikes by 700 %, an incredibly controversial issue as it has resulted in civilian casualties (more than 100).
The Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as “Obamacare,” will be one of the staples of Barack Obama’s legacy. Obamacare attempted to fix the United States’ broken health care system by ensuring the uninsured get insurance, though it did this through a controversial individual mandate. Whether or not Obamacare is successful depends on who you ask. It will probably be remembered as an honest attempt to fix problems, but one with mixed results.
Interestingly, it turns out that Donald Trump wants to try and keep some provisions of the law after campaigning on the platform of repealing it entirely. These provisions are ones praised by most: not allowing insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and keeping young adults on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.
It’s hard to say whether or not Obama will be viewed as a good president or not. He will at least be viewed as someone who improved America’s image to the rest of the world, and his election as the first African-American president will, of course, be something very significant in the history books. Obama will be remembered as leading a divided country, and at least the face of a more progressive, internationally-esteemed, and level-headed United States. But he will also be remembered for allowing the situation in the Middle East (including the Syrian Civil War) to worsen, and at times being too indecisive perhaps due to that level-headedness. Many historians argue that his presidency will be viewed as “restorative” instead of “transformative” since he continued many past policies. Only time will tell.