As his second term comes to an end, The Gryphon asks: will the world look back favourably on Obama’s time in office?
Yes – Steven Atkins
The first African American President of the United States had a lot to do in order to deliver the hope that he had promised. The quiet revolution that Obama has led, despite having to work with a Republican Congress whose “top political priority” was to “deny President Obama a second term”, has resulted in a stronger nation and a fairer future for all.
When President Obama took office, more than 16% of Americans were without health insurance. For people that did have coverage, insurance companies could either deny this coverage or charge more, just for being sick. President Obama changed that with the Affordable Care Act: the nation’s uninsured rate is now below 9%. Up to 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions no longer face the risk of being denied coverage or being charged more just because they’ve been ill. 137 million Americans with private insurance are guaranteed preventive care coverage. This has been achieved whilst cutting the budget deficit and keeping health care inflation to its lowest levels in 50 years.
In 2014, President Obama launched “My Brother’s Keeper”, an initiative providing greater opportunities to young men from black and hispanic communities. Partnering with the private sector, it’s created mentoring programmes, apprenticeships and internships, ensuring that all Americans regardless of their background can achieve their potential.
Despite taking office during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, President Obama stabilised the economy, reformed Wall Street, and saved the American auto-industry. Currently, the American economy continues to extend its longest period of private-sector job growth on record and the unemployment rate has halved to under five percent today.
The President has fought for everyone during his time in office. He has ensured equality for LGBT Americans by repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’, fought for a fairer criminal justice system by establishing a grant program to expand the use of effective community based alternatives for youth detention, and extended opportunities for the disabled with a project that helps people with disabilities remain remain in the workforce.
The President has also tried to tackle poverty by expanding economic opportunity and investing in neighbourhoods and communities. Examples include: making college more affordable, expanding tax credits and overseeing the largest two-year drop in child poverty since 2000.
There are hundreds of achievements the Obama Administration has made over the past seven and a half years. From ordering the raid that captured Osama Bin Laden to playing his part in the historic Paris climate change agreement, President Obama has slowly but surely changed his country’s course.
The path of progress may be slow. We may get frustrated at how little visible change is taking place. But if we stop for a second and remember how far America has come and the lives that have been transformed, we should be proud, we should be hopeful and we should say “Thanks Obama – Yes We Can”.
No – Sophie Wheeler
With the Obama era coming to an end this November, it is natural to wonder what his legacy will be. It seems clear to me that his presidency can be best summed up in three words: symbolism over substance. As the first black president in America’s history – elected not just once, but twice – his election alone may be considered one of Obama’s greatest achievements. A culmination of all the struggles of the civil rights movements and leaders that had gone before him.
However, after two terms in office, Obama has failed on many of the policies he had promised during his election campaign. “Yes we can” quickly became “No we can’t”. Proposals made concerning stricter gun controls, reforming America’s financial institutions and shutting down Guantanamo for good soon fell by the wayside. Some of the blame may be attributed to Republican control over Congress. However, what has contributed to the legacy of some of America’s greatest presidents, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, has been their ability to gain cross party support for their great reforms.
No community has suffered as much as a result of Obama’s inaction as America’s black community. Historically the turnout of African American voters has always been low, whether through oppressive state laws or through alienation within a political system which does not represent African Americans or their interests.
Obama had inspired hope in many that through electing him as president he would be able to represent those African American communities which had been ignored for many years by the political establishment. However, coming to the end of his last term as president, we can see that he has failed to deliver on many of his promises. He has been unable to get a handle on gun laws, despite various mass shootings that have turned many of the public in favour of stricter regulations. But he has also failed his own community. Race relations in America are worsening, especially in regards to police brutality with over 100 unarmed black people killed by police in 2015 alone, five times the number of unarmed white people killed.
The failure of Obama’s legacy can be seen in the prevalence of the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping across America in response to violence from those same very people meant to protect and serve. Unemployment may be down, but the rates of unemployment for African Americans is still twice that of whites, and he could be succeeded by a presidential candidate who openly makes racist remarks about black and Hispanic communities. Under the presidency of the self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ candidate, America appears to have regressed.
Looking back on Obama’s legacy, he has promised so much and yet delivered so little, alienating thousands of African American voters in the process.
(Image courtesy of Today)