Sunday, January 22, 2017

Farewell, Barack Obama

I've gotten so tied up in bashing Donald Trump and wringing my hands over him that I forgot to say goodbye to and thank the man he's succeeded as President.  

After eight years as President of the United States, Barack Obama leaves behind a cleanly run government with a strong record of accomplishment - a booming stock market, more jobs, and strides toward environmental protection, as well as a dead bin Laden and a thriving auto industry.  His foreign policy reduced our war footing while tying to avoid another conflict (though he had to send troops back to Iraq to go after the Islamic State), and he re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba.  He did the best job he could and I thank him for that.
However - and there's always a "however" on this blog - he was not the transformative President he sought to be.  Many of his accomplishments were done at the stroke of a pen on executive orders that Trump will reverse with pen strokes of his own.  Some of what he did accomplish through the Democratic Congress of his first two years - especially the Affordable Care Act - will likely be repealed by the Republican Congress, just as much of President Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom program was torn out from the roots ("We have torn Wilsonianism out by the roots" - U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge I [R-MA]) once President Warren Harding and a Republican Congress took over in 1921.  Obama's high-speed rail initiative is dead, and so may be Amtrak.  And despite his best efforts to revitalize the Democratic Party, the Democrats today are on the edge of extinction.  Need I remind you of the up and coming Democrats who, during Obama's two terms, ran for office, lost badly, and then disappeared?  Hmm?  Transformative Presidents don't leave their parties in worse shape than the shape they found them in.
Trump continues the conservative era Reagan began in 1981, and he may be the Republican President who ends it.  We thought one of the two Bushes would bring the Republican era to an end, but in each case they left Republican rank-and-file wanting more of a move to the right and the Democratic establishment, especially the Clinton cadre, tried to counter Reaganism by going to the center.  Obama could never have ended a dominant era of Republicanism like Franklin Roosevelt did, if only because the times are different and the circumstances prevented him from offering a second New Deal or even a second Fair Deal (Harry Truman's domestic policy).  Trump will be a catalyst for a progressive comeback in 2020 if only because he'll make Tea Party reactionary policy so unpalatable it will doom the Republicans to oblivion.
Just like the Democrats have been so doomed.  Time to form a new progressive party.   

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