Obama leaves behind a historic legacy

President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump shake hands following their meeting on Nov. 10, 2016 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

By Ian Tancun

In one day, President-elect Donald Trump will take the oath of the office on Inauguration Day, officially ending the eight-year presidency of Barack Obama. With his impending departure from office, analysis of what President Obama’s legacy will be has already begun and will remain subject to debate for years to come.

“I think he’s clearly had some successes, particularly in domestic policy. I think there are areas where he was probably less successful,” said J. Mitchell Pickerill, political science professor at NIU. “In terms of how we’ll look back on it, a lot of it is going to depend on what Republicans and the Trump administration do.”

Regardless of political affiliation, there is no denying Obama had a historic presidency. Running on a campaign slogan of “yes we can” back in 2008, he became the first African-American to be elected president. This was an important barrier to break and an encouraging step in the right direction for the future of our country.

“I think to have the first African-American president when you’ve got the legacy that [the U.S.] has with race relations, Jim Crow laws, all the way back to slavery…is important,” Pickerill said. “I think Obama was right in his farewell speech…it would be way premature, just because of his election, to say that we live in post-racial America. On the other hand, it is a powerful symbol of progress.”

Obama’s healthcare legacy

Passage of the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare, was undoubtedly one of his biggest accomplishments. Although he faced strong Republican opposition throughout his presidency, he successfully got the bill through congress while the Democrats held a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Since the passage of the Obamacare, roughly 20 million people have obtained health coverage, according to Obama’s Jan. 10 farewell speech to the nation. The current uninsured rate of 8.9 percent is the lowest figure in recorded history, according to the White House’s official website.

However, there are deficiencies in the Obamacare. President Obama’s assertions that people would be able to keep the same doctors they had before Obamacare was implemented turned out to be false. Also, Obamacare has proven to be unpopular in many parts of the country where people have seen their health premiums rise exponentially, including as much as 116 percent in Arizona, according to an Oct. 29 New York Times article.

While there are problems with the ACA, an important byproduct of the ACA was that it guaranteed people with pre-existing conditions could not be refused health coverage, as had been the case before the ACA was signed into law. It is almost universally agreed that this was an important provision made possible by the ACA. This popular aspect is one that even President-elect Trump, who has vowed to repeal the ACA, hopes to retain, according to a Nov. 13 interview with 60 Minutes.

With Republicans now in control of congress and President-elect Trump set to be sworn into office tomorrow, repealing the ACA seems to be their top priority. Yet even if it is repealed, it is not likely that President Obama’s legacy will be diminished if the ACA ceases to exist.

“I think 10 or 15 years from now, you’re going to continue to see an increased role of the federal government in healthcare. And if that’s the case, that will all be traced back to [Obama],” Pickerill said.

The partisan divide

As Obama prepares to leave office, the deep divisions between Democrats and Republicans seem to be growing by the day. While both sides have valid arguments as to why that divide exists, this is one problem that Obama was not able to successfully resolve.

“I think there may be some negative assessment of his inability to bridge partisan lines and bring people together since that was the theme of his 2008 campaign,” Pickerill said. “He doesn’t get all the blame for that, obviously, but that’s something that he promised he would do eight years ago and, eight years later, you cannot say that he’s brought the country together and bridged the partisan divide.”

Politics aside, the Obama’s carried themselves in a highly respectable and admirable manner. Perhaps it is only because his successor behaves in stark contrast to what we have taken for granted from the Obama’s these past eight years that I, on the eve of the transition of power, already lament the loss of refinement in the White House.