Is it too early to address the Obama legacy? Is it fair to President Barack Obama for the matter of his legacy to be addressed with two more years to go before he leaves the White House?
Obamacare, immigration, race relations, economic stability and, more recently, international protection of the environment in the face of climate change are some of the key aspects of a presidential legacy Obama wants to bequeath to the U.S. and to the world. In the area of international peace and security, the only claim to fame he may be permitted is the elimination of Osama Bin Laden.
It is not surprising that Barack Obama should have to fight for his legacy. He is the president of the only “western” “democracy” in which “progress” and even reality itself are permanently and politically held hostage by the forces that control “the system”.
In addition to the Office of the President, “the system” includes such powerful and often adversarial players as the country’s constitutional framework of checks and balances, Congress, the Supreme Court, the military establishment, the intelligence establishment, the world of business and finance, and the all-pervasive media.
Equally powerful forces that influence the system are the phobias, the fears and the enduring myths surrounding the magical efficiency of capitalism and of its omnipotent market forces; America’s destiny to lead “the free world”; the American people’s right to bear arms; and their desire to be free from “Big Government”, from any taxation that smacks of easing the pain of the have-nots, and from the political stranglehold of the federal structures of “Washington”.
For most of us, Barack Obama is himself the embodiment of at least one American dream come true. Merely by being the first African-American to become president of the U.S.A., he has achieved the unthinkable in a country born of and still torn apart by the sordid realities of racism.
This president has one undisputable achievement to his name and that is Obamacare. He cannot be faulted for the fact that it did not offer coverage to a larger segment of his country’s underserved population.
His other great hope of putting in place a reasonably balanced set of policies and programs in the field of immigration has not materialized. Having been rebuffed by the Republicans in his attempts to find bi-partisan compromise, his only alternative is to use the unilateral mechanisms of presidential orders which can be repealed by the incoming Congress in January.
As is evident in the explosive situation still ongoing in Ferguson, Missouri, his performance in improving race relations with the activist help of former attorney general Eric Holder is somewhat positive, but not significantly so.
While the national economy has made some modest progress since the recession of 2008-09, and national energy production has notably increased, he has got no credit for that.
Those responsible for the mismanagement and wrong-doing that led to the recession have not been punished.
The greening of the economy in terms of reducing emission of pollutants is not showing any major improvement.
On the other hand, his success in getting a framework agreement with China is an important step forward for the international community to move forward in enhancing the protection of the global environment. But he will not agree to the Keystone XL pipeline ferrying heavy crude oil between Canada and the U.S.
Barack Obama is choosing to fight for his legacy. He knows that the Republicans’ control of both Houses will be an insurmountable obstacle. But he refuses to roll over and become a lame-duck president.
The paralysis resulting from the clash between these two warring forces will be bloody.