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5 Reasons Barack Obama Doesn’t Get The Credit He Deserves

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5 Reasons Barack Obama Doesn’t Get The Credit He Deserves

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U.S. President Barack Obama toasts with Argentina's President Mauricio Macri during a state dinner in the Centro Cultural Kirchner as part of President Obama's two-day visit to Argentina, in Buenos Aires March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The greatest compliment Barack Obama ever got from the right was their complete unwillingness to accept reality.

The stock market nearing new highs? Bubble! Jobless claims at a 43-year low? The numbers must be fake! Twenty million more Americans with health insurance? Obamacare can’t possibly be helping anyone because I know a guy who knows someone’s doctor who said…

While many on the left have been disappointed by the president’s “incrementalism,” the Obama administration has engineered tremendous change since 2009 — even as a conservative Supreme Court spent much of 2010 tearing up campaign finance law while the president was forced to reduce the massive deficit he’d inherited from George W. Bush, who inherited a surplus.

Though the president’s approval rating has been edging up, he’s not likely to reach the heights Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan did in their final days in office, nor see anything like the depths that George W. Bush or Richard Nixon earned as they prepared for their last helicopter flight of shame out of the White House.

But there is a strong case to be made for President Obama being one of most consequential presidents ever.

And it’s not just because of the symbolic value of his being our first African American president, nor because he avoided a Great Depression, nor even just because every solar panel, Tesla and wind turbine you’ll ever see — and you’ll see a ton — came about much quicker as a result of Obama’s stimulus. These are all achievements that will endure regardless what happens in November.

“He just flew above it all,” Jim Nelson wrote in GQ. “And, luckily, he took most of us with him. He was the Leader not only of our country but of our mood and disposition, which is harder to rule.”

Why is it so hard to see that now?

  1. Negative partisanship.
    Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the six most recent presidential elections. In 2012, Obama became the first president elected twice with more than 51 percent of the popular vote. Yet Republicans handily won the popular vote, and eventually both houses of Congress, in both 2010 and 2014, forging one the largest conservative majorities since the Great Depression. This phenomenon has been described by political scientists Alan I. Abramowitz and Steven Webster as “negative partisanship,” which means that almost every race has become nationalized and 90 percent of voters participate in straight-ticket voting. While Donald Trump’s candidacy has thus far been so polarizing that it could disrupt this trend, “A growing number of Americans have been voting against the opposing party rather than for their own party,” Abramowitz and Webster explain. Republican voters have no interest in seeing anything Obama does as a success, and others, including myself, tend to see what he’s achieved as substantively positive. However, given George W. Bush’s messy last year and the corporate capture of our “Winner-Take-All” political system, even some on the left are dismayed by how much work remains to be done, and how little seems possible in our divided government.
  2. An activated left that recognizes the very real crises of inequality and endless war.
    When the Congressional Budget Office released “Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007” in October of 2011, its recognition of the massive transfer of wealth that had taken place in America helped launch the Occupy movement. But when economist Emmanuel Saez found that most of the economic recovery was going to the richest one percent through 2013, it set off a wave of despondency on the left. We’re yet to see if new taxes on the rich, combined with the greatest anti-inequality measure since the Earned Income Tax — Obamacare — have affected this trend, which began with the anti-tax, anti-regulation, pro-financialization policies that marked the Reagan Revolution. There are encouraging signs that Medicaid expansion is helping to move some the working poor out of debt, but the lack of a public option in the Affordable Care Act is still seen as a massive betrayal of the left and has fed Bernie Sanders’ push for a fully-realized Scandinavian-style safety net. Likewise, Obama’s remarkable victory in 2008 campaigning against the Iraq War sparked hopes for a new era of diplomacy, which has been somewhat realized through the Iran deal and the Paris Climate Change agreement. But the United States’ never-ending involvement in Afghanistan, our return to Iraq, and our abetting of the bombing of Yemen have left what remains of America’s anti-war movement demoralized. Syria is a never-ending humanitarian disaster that some critic say proves Obama over-learned the lessons of Iraq. On the other hand, Libya reveals the challenges that come from interventionism in which the exit strategy is to exit immediately. These are very real, vexing challenges that Obama’s successor must face. And conservatives believe they have the solution — which is to do nearly the same things that got us into these messes.
  3. A conservative electorate insulated from reality by a new media landscape that relies on conflict and derision.
    In conservative media, Obama’s failures as a candidate and human being have been obvious since the moment he took office, and Republican voters took the hint. His disapproval rating among GOP voters has been in the high 70s since the end of his first year of office and it’s now in the high 80s, even as we’re seeing his best numbers from independent voters since he was re-elected. Regular audiences of Fox News and AM radio either don’t know that that deficit has been cut by two-thirds, or that unemployment claims recently hit a 43-year low — or they just refuse to believe it.
  4. Obama’s accomplishments feel like stuff we should have done decades ago.
    On Earth Day, the Department of Transportation announced that all future transportation plans must take into account carbon pollution, a minor but significant achievement that left many Americans thinking, “Why the hell weren’t we doing that already?” When Obama came into office, he did more to fight climate change in a few weeks (with a massive stimulus) than all other presidents had in more than two hundred years. Sure, the Clinton administration took important environmental steps in the 1990s. But they were nearly all abandoned and reversed by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as they ignored the international consensus on climate science that had emerged long before Al Gore’s popularization of it in the mid 2000s. Similarly, the advancement of LGBTQ rights have happened so quickly that it’s hard to remember what a crucial victory the ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was. Now marriage equality, which the administration fought for through litigation,  is already taken for granted. These huge paradigm shifts all seem inevitable now because they should have happened decades ago. But anyone who lived through 2000-2008 can tell you how quickly achievements that seem irreversible can be washed away by a flood of caprice.
  5. His legacy depends so much on who succeeds him.
    The Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reform, making federal income taxes more progressive, a global climate change agreement, and the removal of nearly all of Iran’s uranium rank among Obama’s greatest accomplishments. And they could all disappear, or at least shrink into irrelevancy, with one election and a few pieces of legislation. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has saved Americans billions of dollars by enforcing the fine print on consumer financial regulations, would never see the second year of a Republican administration. Neither would many of the regulatory positions required to make Dodd-Frank’s reforms work. The survival of these crucial victories depends on the next president. The sudden Supreme Court vacancy left by Antonin Scalia, similarly, will be decided in one way or another by the 2016 election. If it becomes clear Republicans have no chance of succeeding him, Obama will get his third appointment and a chance at leaving America with a left-leaning Court for the first time since the early 1970s. If not, a Republican president will have their chance to replace Scalia and then possibly Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, which will leave America with the most conservative Court since before World War II. Then the right’s agenda of reversing the Obama presidency will be expanded to wipe out the historic achievements of Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt. Like the rest of American politics, Obama’s legacy sits at a crossroads, waiting for voters to render their verdict.

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama toasts with Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri during a state dinner in the Centro Cultural Kirchner as part of President Obama’s two-day visit to Argentina, in Buenos Aires March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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50 Comments

  1. Dominick Vila May 2, 2016

    The reason President Obama does not get the credit he deserves for saving the U.S. economy, creating jobs, the ACA, international economic and political agreements, the rise of the DOW Index to all time record highs, and so many other consequential accomplishments, is because as opposed to people like Donald “Narcissus” Trump, Barack Obama is a pragmatist who spends all his time and energies fighting for what is best for the American people, instead of tooting his own horn. He is, by far, one of our best presidents, and historians are likely to recognized that fact after he leaves office, and the current climate of hate and fear are replaced with the optimism produced by his policies and leadership.

    Reply
    1. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

      Obama spent his time and political capital actually doing things, not talking about what he had done or what he was going to do. That’s actually a mistake, now, in this social media world.

      Reply
      1. Dominick Vila May 2, 2016

        Yes, that was a mistake from a political and legacy perspective, but it is exactly what we, and every other country, needs. No claims of a great brain, beauty, and long appendices, just old fashioned work for the benefit of the people. Indeed, a novelty in the peculiar world we live in.

        Reply
        1. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

          Then explain the Drumpf phenomenon. What we need isn’t what we want, most of the time.

          Reply
          1. Dominick Vila May 2, 2016

            …or what we need.

            Reply
          2. darkagesbegin May 2, 2016

            My explanation of the “Drumpf” phenomenon: Republican voters know they have been had, but are not yet ready to face that fact that they are victims of their own party. they are still looking for someone to right the ship, but can’t yet look to the alternative party as a way to do so. Hence, they double down on someone they can call “Republican” who will finally be their savior.

            Reply
    2. 788eddie May 2, 2016

      Thank you, Dominick! You summed it up beautifully!

      Reply
  2. yabbed May 2, 2016

    Racism is the prime #1 reason President Obama does not get the credit he deserves.

    Reply
    1. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

      Also homophobia.

      Reply
      1. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

        Oh, fer Christ’s sake . . . are you trying to imply that Obama is gay, or that his being tolerant towards gays is what has driven the animus against him?

        Reply
  3. 1standlastword May 2, 2016

    Despite the stiff head winds of right wing conservative obstructionism, Mr. Obama was able to employ his wit and executive authority to out maneuver the Freedom Caucus and the pusillanimous GOP establishment to rebuild critically broken and neglected aspects of the People’s government that pertain to the general well being of Americans irrespective of their opinions and attitudes about moderate liberal progressive democratic policy initiatives.

    I think conservatives have awaken to the false nature of their party as evinced by their embrace of the populous revenge candidate (even with his obvious and numerous flaws). The country and the world seems complete in their embrace that since Bush/ Cheney and still to this period in time the republican party is a kakistocracy! (see Flint Michigan for one “most” salient example)

    Obama’s success has be blunted by the republicans and the People’s wounds have been left open after a conservative generated recession, the initial activation of what is now a perpetual war footing against radical Islam and a lack fundamental local and federal essentials and civil injustices all in the states under republican rule: yet the right wing and establishment wing of the Party has had the worst of it and still worse yet to come to them.

    The country and the world deserves an American leadership that will build on what Obama started and I am convinced that this can happen so that his legacy will be complete and his success even fuller. But for this to happen– let’s hope the liberal establishment will take a lesson from what happened to the conservative establishment!!

    Reply
  4. Phil Christensen May 2, 2016

    “…conservative electorate insulated from reality…” The Left continues to think of new ways to express their cognitive dissonance.

    This is not a serious article.

    Reply
    1. Independent1 May 2, 2016

      Oh! I see! So the fact that the go to news source for conservatives, Faux News, lies 60% or more of the time and that Faux News listeners are less informed than people who watch no news at all, doesn’t make the conservative electorate insulated from reality?? Only to a chump like you:

      From Business Insider:

      Researchers asked 1,185 random nationwide respondents what news sources they had consumed in the past week and then asked them questions about events in the U.S. and abroad. On average, people correctly answered 1.6 of 5 questions about domestic affairs.

      But:

      They found that someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer 1.04 domestic questions correctly compared to 1.22 for those who watched no news at all. Those watching only “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” answered 1.42 questions correctly and people who only listened to NPR or only watched Sunday morning political talk shows answered 1.51 questions correctly.

      http://www.businessinsider.com/study-watching-fox-news-makes-you-less-informed-than-watching-no-news-at-all-2012-5

      And that’s not all, from Mintpressnews:

      ‘Pants On Fire’: Analysis Shows 60% Of Fox News ‘Facts’ Are Really Lies

      Criticizing the accuracy of Fox News is not a new pursuit — comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert built substantial portions of their career out of spotlighting the network’s lies and misdirection. Stewart is so well-known as an opponent that he made headlines in March for admitting Fox had actually been correct in one, specific instance. The analysis comes from Punditfact, a partnership between the Tampa Bay Times and Politifact.com, which maintains scorecards on the accuracy of major TV news networks. As of January, about 60 percent of facts reported by Fox News were false.

      http://www.mintpressnews.com/pants-on-fire-analysis-shows-60-of-fox-news-facts-are-really-lies/205563/

      Reply
      1. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

        Those results are hilarious. Despite being more college educated NPR listeners are barely more knowledgeable than FOX viewers.

        Reply
        1. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

          Otto, I just love it when you validate the post you’re commenting on.

          Reply
          1. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

            You think a college degree would get you at least a full question better on a news quiz.

            Reply
          2. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

            Where did Independent’s post have anything to say about college grads? Or do you think that the only people who listen to NPR or watch the Daily Show have degrees?

            And seriously, what a thoroughly lame attempt at deflection.

            Reply
          3. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

            Audience demographics, look them up.

            Reply
          4. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

            Look them up yourself. And you’re still frantically deflecting. You seem to do that a lot.

            Reply
          5. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

            I have, which is why I brought them up.

            Reply
          6. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

            So, in your deflection, you’re saying that the abysmal ignorance of Fox viewers doesn’t matter because while they get an F, other people only get a C. And that people who watch the Daily Show score higher doesn’t matter because they don’t get straight As.

            I suppose that’s your idea of an argument?

            Reply
          7. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

            Even though the typical NPR listener is twice as likely to have a college degree as a FOX viewer, they only scored .47 questions better on a news quiz.

            Reply
          8. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

            . . . . and?

            Reply
          9. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

            You’re really dense.

            Reply
          10. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

            Wow, what devastatingly clever repartee. Golly.

            Reply
          11. Phil Christensen May 2, 2016

            I’m still trying to puzzle out how my innocuous comment with respect to Leftist projection provoked such histrionics from 2-Dependent. That young man can shoe-horn Fox News into a post on how to get your lawn tractor ready for Spring.

            Reply
          12. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

            He gets triggered easily.

            Reply
        2. Independent1 May 2, 2016

          The telling part here isn’t between Faux News listeners and NPR listeners; it’s the fact that Faux News listeners are more ignorant of the news that people who watch no news at all. Which goes to prove that Faux News publishes propaganda – flat out lies because what Faux News publishes is not what’s in the true news – proven by the fact that just through hearsay – non news listeners know more than Faux News lackies.
          The fact that NPR listeners don’t get a lot more right than people who don’t watch any news, only proves that Americans are not very good at really keeping themselves aware of what’s going on in the world and our country.

          Reply
          1. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

            Where do you get your news?

            Reply
          2. Independent1 May 2, 2016

            News I totally believe, nowhere. News I have at least a fair amount of confidence in NPR, CNN, NYTimes, Washington Post.

            Reply
  5. plc97477 May 2, 2016

    I have a problem with one thing in this article. The survival of the gains depend on more than the next president. It also depends on getting a veto proof house and senate.

    Reply
    1. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

      The democrats are likely to get a veto-proof Senate, but a veto-proof House would be impossible. A dem House is possible, but a bit of a reach. It depends on how destructive Drumpf is to the republican party.

      Reply
      1. plc97477 May 2, 2016

        I know, but I can dream can’t I?

        Reply
        1. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

          Dreaming’s nice, but organizing is better.

          Reply
  6. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

    Economic growth has been anemic and Obamacare is imploding.

    Reply
    1. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

      And Viagra’s not working for you any more . . . thanks, Obama!

      Reply
      1. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

        It’s funny how much projection you people engage in.

        Reply
        1. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

          Given the problems you have with women, it’s a fair assessment.

          Reply
    2. 788eddie May 2, 2016

      For Otto T. Goat, reality is only a concept.

      Reply
      1. Otto T. Goat May 2, 2016

        You people are delusional.

        Reply
        1. Siegfried Heydrich May 2, 2016

          Ah, another well thought out and cogent Goat rebuttal.

          Reply
        2. 788eddie May 2, 2016

          “You people?” “You people?”

          Otto, for Gosh sake, look in the mirror when you utter that statement!

          I’m a registered Republican (a proud moderate), and although I’m not one of the 1%, I’m not in a position of worry (other than for aging).

          Get your act together, and wake up!

          Reply
    3. 1standlastword May 3, 2016

      Well my Caprine friend– Obamacare is going to implode because it is designed to implode given it is grafted to the hip bone of the commercial for profit industrial healthcare complex.

      Premium rates are in the stratosphere for those of us who can afford to “pay” our own way…I see that a foretelling sign that end is soon to arrive cause some of us are just going to run out of money!

      Phase II will be Hillary care. Let’s hope she’s a better negotiator.

      Reply
  7. rickd24 May 2, 2016

    First off, great column! But there was one thing that didn’t sound right:

    “In 2012, Obama became the first president elected twice with more than 51 percent of the popular vote.”

    I didn’t have to go too far back to find that FDR and Eisenhower won all of their elections by at least 53 percent. I went further back anyway and saw that McKinley, Grant, Jackson, Monroe, Jefferson, and Washington all won more than 51 percent of the popular vote in all of their elections, at least according to Wikipedia.

    I tried to e-mail the columnist about this but it bounced. So I’ll post it here, in case he reads the comments.

    Reply
    1. Vern Davis May 2, 2016

      You know the liberal columnist will never answer you. And we all know that Obama won with 51 % because he had the freeloaders, and black people that don’t realize what the Democrats are doing to them voting for him. Plus with all the lies he told some white folks thought the first black President would try to bring all Americans back together. But so much for that BS.

      Reply
      1. rickd24 May 3, 2016

        OMG, you’re right, it is BS! I’ve been such a fool! I can see clearly now, liberals are bad and conservatives are good!

        Thank god you posted your well written, insightful comment. You’ve changed me into a tea partier, and no doubt everyone else that read your comment too.

        Reply
        1. 788eddie May 3, 2016

          Great response, rick!

          Reply
  8. Ken G. May 3, 2016

    Wrong. His legacy isn’t that he is the “first African -American president.”

    He’s the first HALF African-Amerian president.

    Reply
  9. Bad Tag 1 May 10, 2016

    sorry this is like calling a turd in a punch bowl a genesis, when in fact this is a ass hat in a room full of fucktards .. and Obama is the turd and the ass hat inm the room. way to report from his bedroom ..

    Reply
  10. Patrick Caraway March 18, 2017

    Hahaha please….He should get credit for destroying the Democratic party, It’s mind boggling how any democrat can support him. Shows how truly ignorant they are to reality.. He raised the national deficit more than any other President. The Economy is terrible even though he brags on how awesome he is. He got rid of jobs. He destroyed race relations. He lied continuously about terrorism. He refused to fight it. He made shady deals with Iran. He lied about his dealings with Russia. He said the same exact thing that Trump said about immigration than lied about it. He was against gay marriage. He was extremely racist as was his wife who made up lies about racism and slavery. He didn’t support the military. He didn’t support law enforcement. He promoted and supported protesting, Violent or not. But the worst thing he did by far was show his genuine hatred for America. He made burning flags ok. He made stepping on flags ok. He did nothing for veterans of this country. Barack Obama will go down as the worst President in American history.

    Reply

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