The day is here. President-Elect Trump will become President Trump, and President Obama’s time in office will end. I honestly do not know which makes me more sad. The Obama administration has not been perfect, but they’ve done a pretty great job with lots of things. Perhaps one of their biggest failures was not being able to garner the recognition for many of the things they did. The rise of the right-leaning blogs, and websites like World Net Daily and Breitbart didn’t make that task any easier, but irrespective of the reasons, it was undoubtedly a problem.
The Obama administration oversaw some amazing things, many of them cultural, and it seems clear that the election of Trump was a push back against that. So, as much as I am sad to see Obama leave office, I am equally sad that voters pushed back against all he has accomplished. But, as much as this day is about that push back, for me it’s a whole lot of nostalgia for a president who I deeply adored, perhaps more than I will adore any other president in my lifetime.
The 2008 campaign moved me like I’ve never been moved, politically before. I voted for Obama (on an old, flip-lever voting machine; I think the last time I used one of those), after watching an incredible campaign of hope and love and positivity. It took me a little while to get on board though. I was a Hillary supporter, and thought that Obama was too young, too inexperienced, not ready, and could afford to wait. Then he lost New Hampshire, and gave a speech like I had never heard from a politician. Amazing. Turned into a song that gave the speech the soundtrack that we can only imagine playing in the background of our own lives.
More than I had experienced from a politician ever before, Obama spoke to me, in a tone and linguistic style that I was used to, and that I loved. There was oratory and plenty of gospel in there, but overall, I hear a rational deep thinker that resonates with me. Sure, Bill Clinton and Al Gore had smarts, and were thoughtful, but Bill had a “plainspoken” tone and a southern drawl, and Gore had a stiffness, neither of which sat with me like Obama’s linguistic style did. Perhaps it’s because I’m an academic. Perhaps it’s because I’m a northerner. I don’t know why, but when he speaks, it’s a linguistic style that feels like home. It’s interesting to me how subjective that experience can be. I have family members who cringe when they hear him speak. What I interpret as thoughtful and rational, they perceive as calculated and phony. I think this sense is shared by many Americans. The jokes about him loving his teleprompter likely stuck because his speaking style often flows, as if he’s reading, even when he clearly isn’t.
In the personality politics realm, he had me from New Hampshire, and never lost me, but it wasn’t an empty realm. In policy, he wasn’t perfect, but he did so much that meant a lot to me. Not because his changes affected me personally. Actually, very little of what he did affected me personally. I already had excellent insurance through my job, without a lifetime cap, and I don’t have a pre-existing condition that prevented me from getting insurance. I was in a tenure-track job with a fair amount of job security, and wasn’t at risk of losing my job because of the economic crash (in fact, my union had a relatively new contract, so while things were crashing, I was getting contract-negotiated raises). I am not gay or trans, and am not pursuing a same-sex marriage. I am not a member of an underrepresented minority, I am not a muslim, and I am not concerned about access to abortion for myself or my wife. I do have investments and bank accounts that I’d like to be more stable (I guess less stability in the investments is fine, as long as it’s unstable in the right direction), and I am fortunate enough to have a combined income that liberals (like me) would like to tax more. Honestly, very few things that Obama and liberals propose affect me personally, except (and this is big) I value fairness, and, as I wrote before, I am happier in a world that feels fair. All of this to say that I had no dog in the hunt, except that I have a vision of how I want things to be, and Obama seemed very much to share this vision.
And he did not disappoint on so many fronts. On her show last night, Rachel Maddow listed many Obama administration accomplishments. I embedded the video below, and wrote out the list so it would be here for however long this site remains. It is an impressive list that I would add a couple of things to. For me, one of the more important things that Obama did was restore the view of America as the protector, not the aggressor. The war in Iraq damaged the view of America as the protector, and this was something I felt as I travelled outside of the country. Obama was a source of pride when I travelled. People I met in other countries were excited about Obama. I was in Paris in the summer of 2008, for instance, and there was a palpable excitement for the hope that he would be the next American President there.
Of course, the administration hasn’t been perfect, and I’m sure I could come up with a list of things I don’t like, but here is Maddow’s list, with the video below. This will be a hard act to follow for sure.
1. High school graduation rate hit 83% (highest in history).
2. Unemployment from 10% to 4.7%.
3. Eighty two straight months of private sector job growth (longest streak in history).
4. Put a rover on Mars.
5. First drop in federal prison population in decades.
6. The number of homeless veterans was cut in half (almost half, 47%).
7. Sixteen countries gave up their highly enriched uranium stores
8. First biannual nuclear security summits
9. Credit card companies can no longer raise interest rates without notification.
10. Federal government can no longer terminate employment because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
11. Dependence of foreign oil fell
12. Public access to Bin Laden’s bookshelf, as a result of killing Bin Laden.
13. Nation’s first chief technology officer appointed.
14. Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal was destroyed.
15. US government ban on torture.
16. Opened US embassy in Cuba.
17. Removed ban on stem cell research
18. Added billions of dollars of funding to the VA for mental health services.
19. First administration to voluntarily release list of White House visitors.
20. Gave same-sex couples all the rights of other couples.
21. FDA started regulating tobacco.
22. Reduced deficit from 9.8% of GDP to 3.2% of GDP.
23. Implemented stress test for banks to prevent them from crashing the economy if they fail.
24. Banks can no longer use deposits for risky investments.
25. Dismantled government anti-terrorism registry based on religion.
26. Cracked down on for-profit colleges that took tuition dollars with little chance of graduation.
27. Banned solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons.
28. Shut down secret overseas prisons.
29. Revoked secrecy order for return of remains of fallen military, allowing press to document the return.
30. Covered travel expenses for family of fallen military members to be present when remains are returned.
31. Removed ban on women in combat as well as ban on gay and trans members of the military.
32. Improved solvency of Medicare by slowing growth of healthcare costs under Obamacare.
33. Saved US auto industry.
34. Moved money from bank student loan programs to Pell Grants.
35. Prevented denial of health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
36. Women can no longer be charged more for health insurance because of their biological sex.
37. Removed lifetime caps on coverage.
38. Increased the number of insured Americans by 20 million, and dropped percent of uninsured Americans to single digits for the first time ever.
39. Appointed most diverse cabinet in history and a record number of women and minority judges, including the first Latina Supreme Court Justice.