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Let’s be clear about something: Barack Obama has been one of the most consequential presidents
in recent American history
"You can't say it, but you know it's true."
In the past eight years, he has completely
transformed the American healthcare system. He got tough reforms to Wall Street passed
after the biggest financial crisis in decades.
He appointed
two of the 4 women to ever serve on the supreme court, both of whom were part of the historic
decision legalizing same sex marriage. He put in place the toughest climate regulations
in American history. He opened the US to Cuba for the first time in half a century. And
he reached a peaceful settlement to the nuclear standoff with Iran that lasted for a decade
before he took office. You can celebrate or bemoan these accomplishments.
Liberals will think they’re great, conservatives will think they’re awful. But it’s
hard to deny that they’re big deals.
So…. where do we start? Obamacare is a big fucking deal.
For at least 100 years, the big goal of American liberals on domestic policy was to get a national
health insurance program done. A lot of countries implemented universal health
care in the 20th century — the UK, Canada, France — but the US always lagged behind.
There were attempt after attempt after attempt by American progressives of both parties to
try to get the US to where everyone else was going. And each of those attempts failed.
Teddy Roosevelt failed, FDR failed, Truman failed, Nixon failed, Carter failed, Clinton
failed… and then Obama succeeded.
And he established for the first time in American history that healthcare is a right.
The plan still leaves millions uninsured, but it laid
a foundation for universal health care.
To understand what Obama did for foreign policy, you have to go back to a moment in 2007, this
moment in particular: “Would you be willing to meet separately
without preconditions, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela,
Cuba, and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?”
Obama: “I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to
countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this
administration, is ridiculous.” So, this was considered a gaffe. The safe
thing that you’re supposed to say is “yeah, diplomacy’s great, we’ll talk to some
people, but there have to be preconditions. No preconditions is silly.” And this is
what other Democrats did say at the time . But he didn’t accept that.
And with two of the countries listed in that question — Iran and Cuba — Obama led some
of the biggest changes to those diplomatic relationships in recent history.
I’d be remiss in not mentioning the importance of the fact that Obama is the first black
president. After 8 years it seems obvious to point out
But the history of America is a history of learning to deal with racial diversity, and
with the legacy of white supremacy. In a very real way the history of America is the history
of race relations. There’s a famous photo that still hangs
in the White House of a black toddler in the White House who asked to touch president Obama’s
hair because he thought it was great that the president had hair that looked like his.
It seems cheesy, but it really is a big deal that a generation of black children are going
to grow up knowing that they could be the president.
Overall it’s a pretty extensive track record. You can generally divide American presidents
into two camps. There are the ones who were maybe a little good, a little bad, but are
sorta forgettable: Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Zachary Taylor, William Howard Taft,
Bill Clinton. And then there are the ones who were
hugely consequential either for good: FDR (ending the depression, winning WWII), Lincoln
(winning the civil war), George Washington (establishing what a president is), or for ill.
Andrew Johnson, destroying reconstruction
and subjugating black people for a century. Andrew Jackson committing genocide or ethnic
cleansing against the Southeast Indians. I think it’s hard to argue that Obama is
in the sorta iffy, “eh” camp rather than the big consequential camp. He did a lot, he accomplished
a lot. And I think in the next 10 or 20 years when
we have a bunch more presidents many more
of whom are alright or slightly bad but ultimately forgettable.
We’re going to look back and realize what a rare thing a presidency that active and that
accomplished is.



Why Obama is one of the most consequential presidents in American history

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g2 2016 年 12 月 26 日 に公開
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