Barack Obama will go down in history, but not just for being the first coloured President of the United States, but for his liberal policies which aimed to get justice and equality for all citizens of America
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) made the headlines of American media in June, as Pres. Obama pushed for this partnership, attempting to reinstate a ‘fast-track’ authority—the Trade Promotion Authority. The TPA gives the President power to set up trade deals internationally, receiving only an ‘up-or-down’ vote from Congress. Despite the fact that many Democrats openly challenged the TPA as unconstitutional and maintained that the TPP is pursued purely for the profit of corporations lobbying for such a pact, the President managed to push through with the help of Republican leaders. Only time will tell, whether the TPP will have a negative effect on workers in the US, as NAFTA had in 1994.
There is no doubt that Barack Obama brought change to America. The election of a first black president was a symbolic victory for liberals in America, a victory likely caused by the surge of liberal thought that America experienced after the Bush administration. This change could be seen in the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage in July, or the legalisation of marijuana in Colorado and Washington—two characteristically liberal policies. According to pewresearch.org, ‘53% of Americans say marijuana should be made legal’. Currently, we see more and more US states recognising this and implementing changes accordingly. No US president ever supported legalisation and Obama generally keeps away from this topic, but we all know what the President has been up to during his ‘high’ school years.
During Obama’s first term, criticism started piling up from both the Democrats and the Republicans. Rather than to attempt to lead exclusively through support from the Democrats, the President does not refrain from working with the GOP, which has a majority both in the House and the Senate. Through his bipartisanship, Obama was able to implement policies, such as the infamous TPP and TPA this year, or the Affordable Care Act during his first term in 2010.
Of course, Obama has often been criticised by Democrats as being too bipartisan, while the Republicans criticised him for his healthcare act, support of gay marriage and, lately, his comments on gun control made in light of the Charleston shooting. The TPA proved that Obama was willing to clash with his own party to push through a policy that he believes in; his presidency is probably best characterised as ‘strong and independent’,—two characteristics of any good executive, whether in politics, or in business.
In his foreign policy, Obama promised an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In December 2011, the last American soldier left Iraq. So far, war rages on in Afghanistan and there is no telling when the US will withdraw from there. Under the Obama administration, Osama bin Laden was eliminated. Now, we face the escalating threat of ISIS, a splinter group of al-Qaeda that gained power in Iraq after the US exit in 2011. While the Republicans would like to see American boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria, Obama refuses to consider that option. However, a documentary by FRONTLINE on the rise of ISIS points out that it was Obama’s refusal to interfere in Iraq any further after the 2011 US exit that allowed al-Qaeda splinter groups to reform and create the Islamic State. Whether true or not, Obama very much stays with the Democrats on this issue, most of whom believe that the US should not directly interfere in local conflicts in the Middle East, but instead, provide support for ground troops of neighbouring countries, which in turn should be the ones to send troops to ISIS-controlled areas.
Probably the largest success for Obama was the recovery of the economy after the Bush tax cuts crippled it and contributed to the American budget deficit. Obama focused on supporting and allowing the middle class to thrive, which led to job creation and an economic rise. According to factcheck.org, ‘The economy has now gained nearly five times more jobs under President Barack Obama than it did during the presidency of George W. Bush, and the unemployment rate has dropped to just below the historical average’. Obama proved that the Republican ‘trickle-down’ economics does not work. During Bush’s presidency, the unemployment rate climbed by 3.6 per cent to the 7.8 per cent mark. Bush’s tax cuts (the EGTTRA act of 2001 and the JGTTRA act of 2003) were meant to allow the businessmen and corporations to use the money from the tax cuts to create new jobs and reinvest. The rising unemployment rate during Bush’s presidency clearly showed how the idea of trickle-down economics is simply wrong—something that Obama highlighted extensively during his 2008 presidential campaign.
Great men often attract controversy and whatever your opinion of Obama, he achieved a lot during his two terms. His legacy will revolve around the defence of LGBT rights, recovery of the US economy during the recession and his implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which allowed millions of uninsured Americans access to an affordable and high-quality health insurance.