The End of the Obama Years

I was asked in e-mail if I had any particular thoughts about the end of Obama years. I have quite a few, some of them complicated, but the short version is that I’ll be sad to see Barack Obama go. He was arguably the smartest president of the nine whose administrations I’ve lived through, and one of the most decent in his personal life. These two qualities don’t guarantee one is a great president — Jimmy Carter was both smart and decent, and it didn’t do him a great deal of good in his four years — but in this case it didn’t hurt and probably helped. He wasn’t perfect, but I don’t grade on perfect. Given what he had to work with, namely, the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression and GOP opposition and obstructionism that was historically cynical, Obama did very well indeed.

The Trump administration is already historically unpopular and it’s not even in power yet, and when it is in power we are likely to find out what incompetent authoritarianism looks and acts like. So I strongly suspect that in very short order that the Obama years are going to be looked on fondly and wistfully, and not just by liberals. I’m sure there will be a mountain of Twitter sockpuppets that will work overtime to deny this, but Twitter is not the real world — a thing which I believe Trump is on the verge of discovering — and at the end of the day what will matter is how people feel their lives are going. I don’t believe Trump, his administration, or the GOP majorities in Congress are going to do a good job making most people’s lives better. But we will see.

On a personal note, the Obama years were certainly good for me — I started them with a book deal going south in part because of the economic collapse, and ended them in a very different state indeed. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that my current good fortune is in no small part due to the Obama administration’s handling of the economy, since massive economic recessions that threaten entire sectors of industry are no good for selling books or making long, secure writing contracts. Given what I expect out of the Trump economy, I am delighted that I have said long-term, secure writing contract to get me through the next few years. I do hope people will still be able to afford books.

I suspect I and others will miss many things about the Obama years, but what I imagine I will miss the most is the idea that my president, for whatever flaws he might have, is ultimately a good and honorable person, someone with dignity, gravity and thoughtfulness. We as a country did well first to imagine him our president, and then to make him so. I liked him being my president. I am glad I voted for him. It is hard to imagine him ever not having my respect. I think he made the world better. Whether that lasts or not, it still existed, and I won’t forget it that it did.

(P.S.: Today, I’ve also written about the beginning of the Trump years, here.)

62 Comments on “The End of the Obama Years”

  1. Even as a Canadian, I too will miss Obama. He’s a class act. If economic collapse is foisted upon me, I plan on collected pop bottles to buy your books. ;)

  2. “but Twitter is not the real world — a thing which I believe Trump is on the verge of discovering — and at the end of the day what will matter is how people feel their lives are going. I don’t believe Trump, his administration, or the GOP majorities in Congress are going to do a good job making most people’s lives better. But we will see.”
    I agree!!

    ” I will miss the most is the idea that my president, for whatever flaws he might have, is ultimately a good and honorable person, someone with dignity, gravity and thoughtfulness. ”

    Mostly this and how “presidential” he always is.

  3. I will miss lots of things about Obama, not the least of which his warm interactions with people, especially children. I love that he isn’t afraid to laugh in public and to joke around. He clearly can be serious and hard line when needed. It takes a special kind of person to take on authority and still let the world see you having fun.

    I don’t feel like I’m expressing myself well. But perhaps people will know what I mean anyway.

  4. I too voted for Obama and I don’t regret it. I feel he is an honorable, thoughtful and intelligent man. His approval rate is among the highest of outgoing presidents. Despite the unprecedented resistance he received from the republican Senate he worked tirelessly to make this a better land for all people. I regret that his last act as president is to commute the sentence of a traitor. I think he has made a bad decision and I hope that does not leave a dark mark on his legacy.

  5. Thanks for posting, John. As usual, your thoughts closely mirror my own, and I always appreciate your clear-eyed take on the good and the bad of any particular leader.

    I wonder if you could expand on one point: “but Twitter is not the real world — a thing which I believe Trump is on the verge of discovering.”

    My sense of Trump and his most ardent supporters is that they lack the conviction that objective facts provide a foundation for decision making. Does your statement assert that Trump is going to realize that his claiming something is so doesn’t actually make it so; or that he’s always known this, but his efforts to manufacture reality via Tweet will now be stymied by forces outside his control?

  6. Your assessment is much the same as my own: we’re going to miss having him at the helm, both individually and as a nation, in that he brought back to the US much of the international respect that his predecessor squandered. (His successor has, of course, already squandered it again, but there ya go.)

    If Heartafire is referring to Chelsea Manning as the “traitor,” I’d kinda disagree.

  7. I think Obama has been a class act throughout, though there have been some catastrophic missteps along the way – the most serious being Syria, where the idea of regime change was idiotic from the beginning – Assad is among the lowest of the low, but we’d already seen what happens when a strong, murderous secular leader is defenstrated in the Middle East (Iraq, Libya) and repeating the pattern was beyond comprehension – collapse of society and the ascendancy of murderous nutjobs is the inevitable result. Trying to force Assad out made the conflict worse and massively increased the death toll and refugee crisis, which directly led to the Brexit vote and the shift to the nationalistic right in the whole of Europe. How much of that was Clinton/Kerry and how much Obama himself we’ll leave to history – personally I think it was mainly Clinton.

    I also think he believes in the best in people, which is a huge issue when dealing with the Republican “fuck you, I’ve got mine” mind set, as seen by the current rush to remove healthcare from 20M people with no plan to replace it. Obamacare is far from perfect but reform was the way to go, not trying to reinstate a proven completely broken system.

    Now we have a tantrum throwing small fingered toddler in charge – FML as the kids say.

  8. I am in the same boat. I was embarrassed to have Bush Jr. representing me to the rest of the world. Then Obama came along and I was no longer embarrassed by my president. Now comes Trump. Back to being embarrassed. Actually, embarrassed doesn’t quite encompass it.

    I damn near cried watching a brief clip of his farewell address.

  9. I’ve had major policy disagreements with Pres. Obama (our done-based murder program, etc.) but always respected him.

    With the incoming regime, I see no point in pretending they might not be horrible.

  10. Prediction time.

    If Trump is better than John expects, Obama will be remembered as a nice guy who could never quite get it together in terms of restoring robust economic growth or maintaining respect for American power.

    If Trump is as bad as John predicts, Obama will be remembered as the feckless man who enabled Trump’s victory in the first place.

    As for Republican obstructionism, Obama never did hit on an effective strategy to overcome it. Under Obama’s stewardship, the Democratic Party–that hot-mess of transactional social justice–has been smashed up almost beyond recognition. (Obama was the first president since U.S. Grant to suffer repeat mid-term blowouts.)

  11. I mostly agree. I work in higher education, and am not thrilled about the Republican inclination to fail to support education in general, but I’ll survive four years, and (perhaps) see things improve thereafter. I feel for many people (my various LGBT friends, among others) who aren’t sure they can survive four years of DJT.

  12. I never voted for Obama. As a political figure, he’s very likable. He appears to be smart too. I’d say he was a good president but I am disappointed that he did nothing to dismantle the domestic spying apparatus that was expanded after 9/11.

    Carter was a smart guy too.

  13. I’ll remember Obama’s treating all people with dignity and respect, something I will greatly miss.

  14. My plan for the Trump years is to mostly ignore any sensationalist news about who he’s feuding with, and focus on policy decisions made by the office of POTUS. It’s kind of like ignoring a toddler who’s having a tantrum, if you give them the attention they crave they’ll just keep going.

    I’m also remembering this fact: you don’t have to have a government telling you to do the right thing, you just have to do the right thing yourself – including standing up to those who want to do the wrong thing. Everyone else will sort themselves out.

  15. Pedro, neither of those viewpoints have much to do with the reality of the politics as they actually happened, more because of the current Republican party cranking the spin machine up to Hurricane Katrina levels to cover their own okoles.

    When one of the first things that happens after a President-Elect is announced is a small but notable wave of suicides among people who feel that life will not be worth living under the incoming president, the thing that should happen is an examination of why. Unfortunately, the likely reaction from the incoming administration is ennui, coupled with ‘Good.’

  16. @Pedro:

    If Trump is as bad as John predicts, Obama will be remembered as the feckless man who enabled Trump’s victory in the first place.

    And to stop Trump, Obama should have done… what, exactly?

    Obama might bear some minor responsibility for the rise of Trump, but he’s a long way down the list behind actual Trump voters, the useless Republican party, the ineptitude of the Clinton campaign, the FBI, Russian hacking, and so on and so forth.

  17. not that Greg, the other one: That’s great advice for the easily triggered. If Trump tweets six impossible things before breakfast: Don’t. Take. The. Bait! Instead focus on what he does or does not do. Praise when appropriate. Oppose when necessary. Send clear signals always.

  18. As an outsider, Obama brought a lot of prestige back to the presidency after the Bush years. However, he’s not been perfect; he was both more hawkish and more business-oriented than I’d hoped. The bailouts of banks and corporations, coupled with close on a million foreclosures, made it clear that Wall St was favoured over the struggling middle classes, and I have to say that’s not done the Democrats any favours – I suspect that’s when the rust-belt was lost.

    The fact that he almost certainly did better than someone like Bush would have done is some consolation – but it was no New Deal,

  19. President Obama is a hard-thinking man, honorable, honest – zero scandals of any kind – and he managed to save the country from a second great depression in the face of almost treasonous hostility and obstruction from 100% of elected Republican legislators.

    A pretty good start, was seven straight years of steady recovery right now!

    Imagine how good things would be if Republicans had cooperated on things like stimulus and reform for the economy, building a new health care program for everyone, etc. I agree that both Libya and Syria could have been handled better, but don’t forget that Obama had to deal with a Middle East that was like an anthill kicked over by a giant child named Bush. From Morocco to India the politics and culture are upset, the old ways will not survive, and the new ways are still undefined.

    And Obama has pardoned at least hundreds, if not thousands of non-violent offenders whose crimes are no longer as serious as when they were convicted, which is compassionate and kind. I wish he had removed marijuana from the schedule of drugs, it obviously is the least damaging herbal drug popular in the world today, compared to beer, tobacco, and cola; not in the least like cocaine or opium, all six of the plant derived recreational substances. Maybe tomorrow?

    I retired just 3 weeks before Barack Obama took office, and it has been good for us. We have traveled safely abroad a little, and all over America, I even built a little cabin with friends in the AZ mountains to visit in winter. We have to guard against mountain lions, for example! So very different from the green rolling hills of WV.

    I will really miss President Obama. People in Spain, and France and The Turks and Caicos were glad to see us. I hope the Italians are still welcoming Americans in the Spring ahead!

    I keep having daydreams about arrests for treason late at night – before inauguration can happen, the Supremes having made a ruling before the teams spread out. But we are all fiction fans, now! Maybe Asylum in Tuscany?

  20. TheMadLIbrarian: “When one of the first things that happens after a President-Elect is announced is a small but notable wave of suicides among people who feel that life will not be worth living under the incoming president, the thing that should happen is an examination of why.

    Links. Please.

    Iain Roberts: “Obama might bear some minor responsibility for the rise of Trump . . . “

    Minor responsibility? We come through the Obama years more divided as a nation than when Obama entered office. Race relations have deteriorated. The economy just ain’t what it used to be. And so on.

    All Obama did was make Trump’s MAGA pitch more believable and attractive than it would have been otherwise.

    Obama set the stage. Trump merely shoved Hillary off it. With a little help from his friends, which may or may not include the Russian, depending on who you read.

  21. Nice victim blaming there, Pedro. Obama is hardly responsible for the worsening of relations–it’s the bigots who couldn’t stand a black man in the White House that worsened the relations.

    Also, the ignorance of the MAGA crowd (who didn’t realize how good things actually are) is not Obama’s fault. Anyone who voted for Trump is either evil or an idiot (or both!)

  22. znepj
    Obama didn’t bail out the banks
    Bush sign TARP into law in 2008 before Obama was even elected (it was signed Oct 3 2008)
    Obama got stuck administering much of it but he didn’t originate it

    This sort of mis remembering of history is sadly what I suspect Obama will be remembered for
    Which is too bad as I think he was a pretty darned good President
    Certainly more thoughtful than Bush

  23. Yes, Obama was a smart and compassionate President from all accounts but let us not forget that he reinforced all of the mass surveillance that started with the Patriot Act, NSA, etc and still has no resolution in sight. Which now Trump has access to with the power to use as he chooses with little to no oversight.

  24. Actually I suspect a lot of people who voted for Trump were just desperate, afraid, and angry, looking for someone to blame and someone to save them. Not the ideal state in which to make rational decisions… I too will miss Obama, and his fabulous First Lady!

  25. @Pedro: “Minor responsibility? We come through the Obama years more divided as a nation than when Obama entered office. Race relations have deteriorated. The economy just ain’t what it used to be. And so on.”

    Correlation is still not causation. Explain to me why any of this is Obama’s fault.

  26. Pedro, re: suicides after the announcement of Trump’s election
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/11/10/at-suicide-hotlines-the-first-24-hours-of-trumps-america-have-been-full-of-fear/?utm_term=.c0157c56c950

    It was a very easy Google search, and this was just at the top of the list. If you would like more, just search ‘suicides after Trump election’. It’s not pretty.

    I will now leave this alone, because it’s not germane to the current discussion.

  27. I will also miss Barack Obama as the US President. Speaking as a meddling Canadian, I won’t be surprising people who already know me by saying so. It hurts to see him step down. Emotionally now. And in other ways later on, I’m certain.

    As for what Barack Obama the once-more semi-private citizen of the USA might do with his days beyond his responsibilities to himself and his family and friends? I hope he gets to productively kick ass and take names and enjoy doing it for the rest of his days and that those days should be great in number. As in multiple decades’ worth.

    (Yes, I’m being a little rude as Canadians supposedly go. Not apologizing. I find I am running out of the wherewithal for such traditions or stereotypes – depending on how you see them – as I get older.)

  28. I will also miss Obama and the rest of the First Family. The US has so much sway in the way the UK conducts itself politically that it was reassuring to believe we had a president who wouldn’t move our country significantly to the right.

    I would like to dispute the claim made above that Obama somehow caused Brexit by causing the refugee crisis. As a British citizen, I can assure you that a lot of British people have been angry at the EU for longer than Obama’s been in power, largely due to a narrative from the far right that Eastern Europeans, especially Poles, are taking our jobs. I don’t think Obama can be blamed for any of that!

  29. As someone who stayed American long enough to vote against Trump in November, and who is now on her way to becoming full-time Canadian, I am impressed with how well regarded Obama is up here. Apparently foreign countries prefer dealing with a guy who speaks in clear, grammatical sentences and isn’t a hothead making chestbeating declarations about bombing other countries.

    Personally, I think he was a lot better than we deserved. Anyone who’s opposed to his foreign policy excursions – and I am not a fan of any of them – should remember that both John McCain and Mitt Romney would have got us into even more of them. I fault Obama for one thing: trying too hard too long to get the Republicans on board with any policy initiatives. The GOP were too dishonest to ever put the nation first in anything, and it shows.

    Pedro’s a fool – just ignore him. He’s probably getting paid by the word. No one would say that stuff and expect to be taken seriously.

  30. Obama was not a perfect president. There were some missteps along the way. However, when governing a nation “perfect” isn’t an option. I truly believe that Obama is a person of great integrity and had respect for the Office of President as well as the institutions that form the backbone of our country. I also think he had respect for the American people. I think he genuinely tried to make this country (and the world) a better place while he was in office.

    As I look forward to the next four years, I think the most troubling factor is that Trump doesn’t appear to respect the Office of the President or even understand the institutions that form the underpinnings of our society. His attacks on free speech, free press and other basic civil liberties are an attack on the things that make this country what it is.

  31. The Obamas’ intelligence, poise, and class (not to mention Barack Obama’s many accomplishments as President) would insure him a favorable legacy in any case, but comparisons to Trump will certainly give him an added boost.

    I’m going to miss them in the White House. I doubt we’ve seen the last of them in public life. I don’t expect Michelle Obama to have a political career in her own right. She certainly has the intelligence and the oratory skills, but I’ve always had the impression that she’d have been happy to put her family first without the demands of being “First Lady”. But the Obamas are still young and not too many years away from having an empty nest. It’s hard to predict what will happen in years to come.

  32. Magda said, “Pedro’s a fool – just ignore him. He’s probably getting paid by the word. . .”

    Magda, Pedro is just a simple pixelated entity directed remotely and optokinetically. Nothing more.

    The guy behind Pedro? Yes, he writes for a living. For small, select audiences. For people under pressure. For people who need to wrap their minds around complex, dynamic situations that defy easy explanation.

    His excursions into Whatever Land are the functional equivalent of tweeting. A pleasant excursion from the work at hand.

    Have fun in Canada, Magda. Do send us a postcard if you get the chance. . .

  33. No President has been perfect, because no human can be. But I believe Barack Obama did his best to serve the country. I voted for McCain/Palin in in 2008, but was happy to see Obama/Biden win. Either way, it would have been an historic presidency. I voted for Obama in 2012, because I thought he was doing a good job, and I’d come to the realization that my own values more closely aligned with the Democrats than the GOP. But Romney would have made a decent POTUS. Sadly, I can’t say the same for the incoming administration.

    So I am sad to see the Obamas go. They had so much class, even though there are those who will never confess it to be true. And I agree with John, that there are many who don’t see it now, who will look back wistfully at the Obama Era.

  34. Why rag on Carter?

    Obama was great as a person. And he was pretty decent as an administrator especially given the obstructionism he faced. However, he never offered much in the way of substantive vision. If the country was great already, then it’s OK to say “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But the country wasn’t and isn’t. Obama did not initiate much in the way of progressive change. You could argue that it would have come to nothing ’cause Republicans. I would say he needed to put forward an agenda and push it anyway. If there is a failure of Obama’s Presidency, it was that he left many Americans thinking Democrats had no policy but the status quo. And there are enough people, with many different ideological bents, who are suffering under the status quo, that this was a long term losing strategy. (It was also a losing strategy for mainstream Republicans to be fair.) We need leaders whose policies will give people a reason to vote and to vote in every election. Most of the current crop, on both sides, don’t have that quality.

  35. Regardless of what Carter might have done in office, his post-presidential years have been ridiculously awesome. I expect Obama to follow in those footsteps, and look forward to what both he and the soon-to-be-former FLLOTUS do with their remaining decades.

    And just for the heck of it, here is a post about a time Jimmy Carter was a badass long before he became president: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2015/08/27/that-time-jimmy-carter-walked-into-a-nuclear-reactor/

  36. I must admit I was hoping Obama would end the drug war. I do commend him on commuting roughly 1000 drug war prisoners. I am not happy about the number of families destroyed by deportation, and the lack of bankers being thrown in jail. He also had to put up with 6 years of the republican’s passive-aggressive refusal to do anything. But overall, I think he did a good, thoughtful job.

    And now we go from Class to Crass….

  37. Hey John,

    When Obama got his Nobel Prize around seven years ago, you said: “I’d’ve liked to have seen him earn the thing before they plopped it into his lap. I think he’s got the potential to do so, one day.”

    Unless Obama goes the Jimmy Carter/Al Gore route, he’s probably done making significant achievements. So do you think, at the last few days of his presidency, that he did enough to deserve the award?

  38. As an Australian, I think what I’ll miss about the change in government is this: throughout Obama’s presidency, I’ve always been reassured that even if we have a bunch of utter nincompoops with their hands on the political tiller here in Australia, there was someone sensible in the White House, and if nothing else, he was capable of issuing a valid reality check. There was someone eminently sensible, and reasonable, in charge of one of the biggest economies in the world. Even if our Prime Minister and cabinet did something incredibly daft (take your pick of decisions for the last three and a half years, really) there was someone grown-up in charge of one of our major allies.

    The mistakes of our politicians, and yours, weren’t likely to get us all killed.

    These days… well, as I’ve said elsewhere, I’ve been dusting off old favourites from the Cold War era (“We Will All Go Together When We Go”; “Twenty Tons of TNT”; “The Merry Little Minuet”; “Ship of Fools”; “Mad World” and so on) for my playlists and being somewhat cynically amused by the amount of updating they don’t require. I grew up in the 1980s. The 27 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall have been a real contrast to the world I lived through my adolescence in. Now I feel like a teenager again…

    It’s not a fun feeling.

  39. President Obama did a lot of things, and failed to do a lot of things, that disappointed me. A few even pissed me off. But on balance, I think we lucked into a decent President at a time when partisanship made it virtually impossible to have a truly great one.

    As for thought of his retirement, I kind of hope he takes it easy for a little while and then gets back involved. I’d love to see him run for the Senate again, or possibly accept a nomination to a federal bench in a little more than four years when sanity has been restored. However, if he chooses a quieter path after Friday, I certainly can’t begrudge him that.

  40. MadLibrarian: The ACA is similar to things Newt Gingrich used to propose; so it was Republican by at least some measures. I don’t want to derail this with a broader discussion of specific issues; so I will leave it at that.

  41. Shorter Pedro: I blame Obama for everything bad.

    Got it. It must be fun living in a world where causation is what you want to believe. The rest of us are stuck in the real world.

    As for Obama, I voted for him twice. He was the best main party candidate both times, so no regrets about my vote. I do wish he would have prosecuted torturers, and put cheney and bush before the Hague. And he seemed to preemptively give republicans whatever they wanted a couple of times, which only resulted in them wanting more, but he seemed to think it would make them more flexible. Didnt seem to work that way.

    Damn disappointed that he didnt wail on the republicans to put merrick on scotus. Now we get the worst president in the world bringing an army of sociopaths with him to the whitehouse. And god only knows what knucklehead he is going to nominate for scotus.

    He wins high scores for grace. But gets a zero for busting balls when ball busting was needed.

  42. You left out the part about having an unabashed geek in the White House for the past eight years. The appearance on “Mythbusters”, the response to the Death Star petition, several science fairs, a professed love of Spiderman comics, and probably at least a dozen other times he let his geek flag fly that I am forgetting.

  43. I think Obama deserves to be remembered as one of our best presidents. Unusually smart, phenomenally eloquent, fundamentally decent. But I suppose I shouldn’t underestimate the power of the Republican Lie Machine–goodness knows we’ve seen it bring down other unusually smart and fundamentally decent people–so it’s possible that in the long term he won’t be remembered that way. But I think enough people will remember the truth that the Republican Lie Machine will have its work cut out for it.

    I think we’re going to miss that intelligence and decency. Those of us who care about such things, anyway.

    And yes, it was fun having a fellow geek in the White House.

  44. It was also nice to have a President in the white house who was a great believer in science, and realized the gravity of the issue the world, let alone the country faces, with climate change.

  45. Actually, Pedro, it’s “Happy New Year”. It’s a phrase said with a joyous heart, wishing good things in the future on the person you’re expressing it to. Any fool would know that.

  46. I didn’t vote for Obama the first time, but that was more because of my overwhelming respect for McCain than any real flaw in Obama. By the second time, the Obamas had won and will likely forever keep my admiration and respect. I voted for him proudly in 2012 and would have him for a 3rd term in a heartbeat, for all of the reasons you outlined, John. A clear-eyed and lovely tribute to a man we should all be proud to have elected and called president.

    It’s a safe bet I won’t have a similar progression of increased respect over time for our incoming commander-in-chief, but I suppose when you’re at rock bottom there is nowhere to go but up.

  47. Pedro: not quite there yet. Getting better, no question, but still ground to cover. To bring it back on topic: say it like Obama would say it: Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Apologies to John. I’ll stop now.

  48. Magda,

    Please don’t stop.

    I was just starting to get a baseline feel for your repertoire.

    You’ve clearly got A to B down pat. Now let’s reach for C. You can do it.

    I know you can.

    Best,

    Pedro

  49. Apologies if I’m breaking the rules here, but a few of the more recent posts here (by one author in particular) seem to be attempting to be clever and failing, bringing our host’s definition of the failure mode of clever to mind.

    As for myself, I hope that some of the bright spots of the Obama years are a harbinger of the future, and do not get relegated to artifacts of a fondly-remembered past that will never come again.

  50. My early young adulthood was the Bush II years, when I felt deeply alienated by the smug triumphalism of people whose vision of America didn’t seem to include me. Or included me only so long as I was willing to meekly acquiesce and remake myself in their image.

    And then we elected Obama, and I was so proud of us. Everything others have said: a President (and a First Family) who were honorable, thoughtful, serious about their job, and yet still able to be delightfully human. I had some very strong disagreements with Obama administration decisions (especially around civil liberties), but wow it felt good to have somebody so gosh darn admirable leading us.

    And I disagree that Obama had no vision. I think his vision did not always trumpet clearly because for him, it hinged on unity and bipartisanship — all the things he wanted to do, he wanted to do with consensus and coming together — and it took him too long to come to terms with the depth of the cynicism that had taken root among his opposition and the bitterness of partisanship in our society. It seemed to me that Obama’s faith in American optimism and goodwill was his hamartia.

    But saying all that, I was also aware (and disturbed) that throughout his eight years of office, there was a group of people for whom Obama’s America looked like a fever dream version of how I felt under Bush II. And I never knew what to do about this. And we as a society never seemed to know what to do about this, but some of us fanned the flames and exploited it for all it was worth. I hope Obama does rise in people’s estimation in the long term (his exiting approval ratings are a good start), and that eventually this era’s Republican Party and Trump are remembered for their destructiveness, obstructiveness and cynicism. I guess I’m optimistic, too.

    My goal in this new era is to resist the corruption and destruction of the American institutions and traditions I believe in, but also to resist my own alienation. To both resist and engage, because different groups of us taking turns feeling alienated every 4 or 8 years doesn’t seem like it leads anywhere good. I can’t tell anybody else how to feel, but I can choose engagement and a dogged insistence on belonging for myself, at least, and do what I can to reach out to and fight for others who need to know that in my America, they belong too.

  51. I’m proud I was able to vote for Obama twice. He’s easily the best President in my lifetime. (Well, technically LBJ falls in my lifetime, but I was so young I don’t typically count him.) He did not have LBJ’s failings, though, and if the GOP hadn’t been completely overtaken by racism and radicalized right-wing ideologues (hardly conservative by any traditional measure) and politics worked vaguely normally, he probably would have easily exceeded LBJ’s achievements. As it is, Obama gave LBJ a run for his money. I’m not sure people realize just how much Obama accomplished. Short of a full authoritarian takeover (which remains a distinct possibility), the GOP will have a hard time reversing those achievements. On a symbolic level, he’s very likely the most consequential president since Lincoln.

    I hope the actions of Trump and the GOP force him quickly into activism. I think that’s what we’re going to need going forward.

    I also hope he’s not our last legitimate president. That’s also a distinct and frightening possibility at this juncture.

  52. I think Obama did remarkably well in cleaning up a number of the messes left behind by the Lesser Bush and Clinton administrations. He achieved the most consequential advances in civil rights since the sixties, brought about a genuine health care reform and saved the economy from Great Depression II. He did this in the teeth of fanatical, bigoted and dishonest opposition from a Republican party that had long ago ceased to care whether its actions were patriotic and beneficial to the nation. Those are genuine achievements and merit genuine respect. Over time, I suspect that we shall regard Obama with increasing respect and we shall wonder just how some of the more obviously childish and dishonest naysayers on here managed to figure out how to turn on a computer, never mind typing sentences that occasionally resemble English.

  53. For myself, Obama was a good President who had some class. He could have been at the Teddy Roosevelt level but for whatever reason he fell short, alas.

    Pedro, may you and yours be well this year, no matter what slum you grew up in. I suspect in the years to come tthat you will need all the goodwiill that you can get.