Next week, our country will inaugurate its 45th President. While that event is both sad and terrifying, hopefully the next four years will show us just how good we’ve had it the past eight, so some crazy shit like this doesn’t happen again for a really long time.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to savor the next week. As it turns out, I’ve got plenty of time to do it…but that’s another story for another day.
Today, and for the next several days…and maybe for the next four years I’m going to celebrate the Obama years. They weren’t perfect, but they were better than they could have been under the circumstances.
Even if the Congress does follow through with their repeal and delay/replace/destroy plans, the Affordable Care Act will be a big part of his legacy.
Millions of people who didn’t have coverage before (including me) got coverage. The bill wasn’t perfect. In fact, relying on a purely “market based” solution without a publicly available hedge (“Medicare for all” for instance) allowed for premiums to increase at ridiculous levels for some. It also allowed some states (like Tennessee and Mississippi) to put the health of their citizens and their health systems in danger for simply partisan political reasons.
President Obama also helped steer the economy from the brink in the early days of his Presidency…something he hasn’t gotten enough credit for.
But his biggest policy victories are ones that didn’t involve Congress. In fact, the Congress did everything they could from 2011 on to make sure the President couldn’t get anything done…damn the consequences.
Despite the Congress acting like a petulant child for the past six years, President Obama put policies and Supreme Court Justices in place that opened up marriage equality nationwide, and sought for all people to be treated equally.
He reduced the unemployment rate from over 10% to around 4.6%.
Commuted the sentences of 1200 drug offenders saddled with unfair jail time.
Shepherded the biggest expansion of renewable energy in the history of the nation.
Signed a law to end gender based pay discrimination.
And, he signed a law to reform Wall Street and the big banks, so hopefully, no other President will have to deal with the mess he did in the opening days of his Presidency.
The Missed Opportunities
While President Obama did a lot that was great, his tenure is also marked by a great number of missed opportunities.
None of the people who wrecked the economy were prosecuted for their crimes.
Domestic spying activities increased in the past 8 years.
Smaller cities and rural areas continued to suffer due to lack of resources and economic development.
And there are probably more.
The biggest missed opportunity? The President’s admitted problem with mobilizing public opinion.
Obama suffers from a problem that dogs the political left. Its the mistaken notion that if you do good things, people will recognize it without being told about it.
That’s not how it works. Most people don’t pay attention to policy. They pay attention to narratives…to stories. You can do all the good things you want to do, but if you don’t tell your story, no one will know about it. Or worse, someone else will tell your story for you. Chances are it won’t be the story you want told.
President Obama is a great speaker. But his message never got through the media filters. It wasn’t repeated enough. He didn’t have enough evangelists spreading the good news. Because that didn’t happen, the message never overcame the simple demagoguery of the GOP.
Speechifying is great, but who is going to mobilize your supporters to evangelize your accomplishments? The Obama Administration never understood that to get a point across to regular people speeches won’t do it.
Most Democrats don’t understand this either.
An NPR/Ipsos poll found 51% of Americans didn’t know 20 million more people got insurance under Obamacare.
That’s a HUGE messaging failure!
People heard more about how bad Obamacare is…from the beginning of 2010 to this very day. They never connected the dots. So while people saw their lives were better, they didn’t see the wide-scale benefit. They thought they were the lucky outlier.
In short, they believed the GOP bullshit about ACA enough to believe they somehow weren’t normal. That’s some serious voodoo people.
I’m not going to get all bromancey here, but this is the truth. President Obama has been the most poised, thoughtful, and consistent President in my 44+ years on earth.
Even some of my Republican friends say they’re impressed with the way he kept it together publicly. Lesser mortals would have lost their shit.
He spent 8 years of dealing with the worst bullshit this nation could dish out. 8 years of being lied about. 8 years of being vilified. You’d think he’d break. But no, he didn’t come out to the podium once and tell people to “go fuck themselves”. I’m willing to bet he wanted to more than once.
But I’m no good at all this touchy-feely stuff. Here’s Knoxville’s own Liberal Redneck, Trae Crowder with a tribute.
So with all that said, Thanks Obama! You’ve made the past 8 years better than we probably deserve. And while you may see the election results as a blow to your legacy, don’t. I’m pretty sure even the people who voted for an Orange Cheeto will be missing you really soon.