The Obama Legacy

Alexandre Demoly, Co-Editor

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“I will never forget that the only reason that I’m standing here today is because somebody, somewhere stood up for me when it was risky. Stood up when it was hard. Stood up when it wasn’t popular. And because that somebody stood up, a few more stood up. And then a few thousand stood up. And then a few million stood up. And standing up, with courage and clear purpose, they somehow managed to change the world.”

These words, spoken by Barack Obama in front of the Democratic National Committee on November 30, 2007, resonated around the United States and indeed the world as he approached the beginning of his first term as our first black president. Yet here we are, over nine years later, and for better or for worse, the revolution that Obama envisioned in his speech has manifested itself in the stunning triumph of Donald Trump in the 2016 election over his enemy, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Though America had the choice to elect its first ever female president, the people spoke with a bludgeoning voice, arguably one laced with misogyny and xenophobia, and elected the crude businessman from New York City.

In the past, Trump has questioned Obama’s citizenship and repeatedly criticized his policies, focusing primarily on topics such as the Affordable Care Act, and has vowed to abolish them. Despite Trump’s outlandish proposals for what he wants to create, much of his campaign instead focused on condemning and destroying the work that Obama has done. Now that he has a Republican Congress and Supreme Court at his side, Trump can act on the promises he has made to his supporters. But will he be able to? It is time to take a look back at the past eight years and examine the accomplishments of Obama’s message of hope, which created a nation that, despite its jagged divides, may yet reconcile with itself. However, its ability to do so hinges on the resilience of Obama’s policies and ethics in the world of Trump.

One of Obama’s greatest achievements was his revitalization of the American economy. His decision to vastly increase government spending in the form of a $787 billion stimulus package helped recover jobs and gave people a platform on which to improve their financial situations. He saved the American automotive industry by bailing out brands such as Chrysler and General Motors. At the same time, he reversed the downward trend of GDP growth to a healthy, if somewhat slow, rate of increase. Finally, he imposed more regulations on banks since their clumsiness in giving out loans was a major factor in causing the ‘08 recession (for a more indepth discussion, do yourself a favor and watch The Big Short; you’ll thank me later.). While these may sound like remarkable achievements, many of Trump’s attacks on Obama have been related to the economic state of the country, saying that Obama’s figures on decreased unemployment are “total fiction”. Additionally, Trump wants to increase tariffs and cancel the Trans-Pacific Partnership in order to create a more isolationist economy. However, this could potentially be catastrophic for domestic companies, many of which would actually suffer due to higher prices on goods that they use to make their own products. Furthermore, Trump’s belief that he can bring back American manufacturing companies could be misguided, as many of the jobs he wants to bring back are impossible to fill given the higher skill level that many unemployed people do not possess. In fact, “There were 322,000 manufacturing job openings in October but employers filled only 271,000 of them. . . suggesting a mismatch between openings and skills.”

Many of Obama’s greatest achievements have been social, as opposed to strictly policy-based. For example, under his administration, gay marriage was made legal and millions of Americans received healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. Most importantly, his election as a young and admittedly inexperienced African American politician demonstrated a major shift in the minds of Americans, who were willing to diverge from the past trend of primarily WASP presidents to someone who brings a more diverse viewpoint to politics. Trump, thankfully, will not reverse the decision on gay marriage: all but the most hardline Conservatives have supported it, and Trump himself has been in favor of it for the longest time. As for the Affordable Care Act, it is unclear as to what he will do; days after he won the election, he said that he would be open to keeping many of its main tenets. As a result, I would struggle to outline for you what his decision will be since only time will tell.

What is most important is what Trump’s election signifies. His win on November 8 was a direct refutation of Obama’s two terms. In contrast to Obama’s urge to be inclusive of all people, Trump has singled out Mexicans, Muslims, and women in an attempt to energize the alt-right whites of America; the sad thing is, it worked.

So, what does that leave of Obama’s legacy? Not very much. However, while his policies may not be left intact, it does not mean that we can forget the country that he stood for: the United States of America. Whether you are a Trump supporter or not, it is your duty as a citizen of this nation to stand up and create an America for all people. We were founded on the proposition that all men are created equal, and if we do not adhere to the very principles that formed us, we will have failed. Please, I urge you to speak your mind, but not in a way that undermines our basic Americanness, because by standing up, we will manage to change the world.

Note: All quotes in the third body paragraph are from the source below:

White, Ben. “Trump’s new economic math.” POLITICO. Accessed December 27, 2016. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/donald-trump-economy-measures-232970.

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