I do have to admit I may have jumped the gun back in May 2016 when I wrote this bit about the two legacies of Barack Obama:
What the 2016 Election is turning into is a Legacy election. Given the overall stability and economic recovery during the Obama years, and given the great strides in women's and gay rights under Obama's executive orders, and given the passage of health care reforms that are beginning to show positive results - everyone should be seriously following Richard Mayhew's health care updates on Balloon Juice - voters are going to have to look at what's at stake this November.
I admit now that I was projecting: I was HOPING the election would be one where the voters would work to uphold Obama's record and deny the Republicans any chance to dismantle his tenure. To be fair, a majority of Americans DID vote for Hillary Clinton to continue Obama's work, but the archaic and broken Electoral College (and a helping of voter suppression in key states) made that moot.
Thing is, even in the wake of a disastrous election where the Republicans did win out and are now poised to destroy every last bit of Obama's Presidential acts... I still think Obama will still leave powerful legacies to posterity.
I pointed out in that Legacy article that the other thing Obama leaves behind is a broken Republican Party. Sure, they won the 2016 elections: but they lost every last shred of integrity, honesty, maturity, intelligence, wisdom, and long-term survival in the process. They ran on a platform of destruction: massive tax cuts for the rich a majority of Americans don't support, nuking health care that a majority of Americans are beginning to realize is gonna hurt them if it's taken away, rolling back civil rights gains, and discrediting every foreign policy success of the last 70 years (!) just to appease their new best friend Putin.
And having made this fantasy world of lies - where OBAMA was a FAILURE - the Republicans are going to try to reshape the real world to that fantasy. And they're going to find the real world doesn't work that way (and that Obama was more successful than they feared).
We're going to witness over at least the next two years attempts by the Republicans to turn Obama into a damned memory (damnatio memoriae), trying to take his name off every ledger, removing every policy Obama had a hand in crafting. They'll do what they can to darken every story involving him, that somehow Obama was wrong in his logic, that he failed to achieve even a modicum of success. It'll probably get to a point where they won't utter his name at all and will drop hints to the media to keep his name out of everything, as though erasing him from existence.
It won't work. Even if they remove Obamacare, even if they wipe out every civil rights gain like gay marriage, the Republicans can never remove Obama from the office of the President. People are going to remember what he did in office, and what he spoke to. The void that the Republicans are going to carve out will be a reminder to us of the shape of what the world ought to be, and what we can get back to when the Republicans - unavoidable in their fate, as we've seen this movie before - implode on their own failures.
We're already watching the Republicans stumble on their attempt to purge Obamacare/ACA, but while they're setting up the first stage of launch they're finding out that "Repealing" is harder than they thought: Obamacare isn't just a layer added onto our existing Health Care laws, it BECAME our Health Care laws meaning any removal is going to leave a gaping hole in our economy that Congress HAS to Replace. Oh they'll still repeal Obamacare because they've made their Narrative and dare not deviate from script, but they're finding out NOW there's a huge price to pay and the Democratic Party is NOT going to be there to cover their asses...
I doubt the Republicans and their Far Right Noise Machine will ever purge Obama from the history books. They may write 100,000 screeds accusing Obama as "Worst Ever" and they may fly off the shelves for their intended audience of haters, but the real Obama biographies and retrospectives will be read in the classrooms 40 years from now while the anti-Obama books get shipped back to recycling.
There's 60 percent of Americans who are watching Barack Obama leave office with a favorable view of him. The Republicans will continue to label Obama a failed President - "A Disaster! We're cleaning up his mess! Everything bad that happens from 2017 onward is STILL HIS FAULT!" - but more and more Americans won't buy that shit. We'll know better.
We'll remember Obama as a level-headed, optimistic, groundbreaking leader. We'll remember the jobs that did come back during his eight years of office. We'll remember he opened the doors for gays and women, that he tried to speak to our better angels on race relations. We'll remember the good - he was the one who gave the order to take out Bin Laden, he set a nuclear armament deal with Iran that the Republicans can't readily block, and he helped open up Cuba that can signal the end of 40-plus years of bad behavior between neighboring countries - and the bad - he didn't do enough for the Middle East in places like Libya and Syria, he continued a War on Terror using questionable tactics - on his foreign policies.
We're going to remember Obama's place in our culture and history, not JUST as the first African-American President, but also as a major geek, a comic-book fan and wannabe Jedi, who was cool enough to be the Adult In The Room and yet still cool enough to be a guy who can chill at a backyard grill and talk about how bad the Chicago Bulls have gotten.
And we're never giving up the Joe Biden memes, the ones where he's like a clueless yet lovable prankster uncle figure.
The Onion's not going to know what to do with itself.
I've lived now through eight Presidents (starting with Nixon) of whom only six - Carter, Reagan, Bush the Elder, Clinton, Bush the Lesser, Obama - I have any memory regarding their eras. I became fully aware of politics my college years (Bush I) so since then I have to say that Obama has left on me the most sincere, effective impression. I've had my issues - positive and negative - with each President, and I've come to terms with both Bushes for the most part while viewing Clinton as intelligent and effective but flawed. Obama is the one with the fewest disappointments for me.
I revel in the fact that for ALL the slime and falsehoods aimed at Obama over the last eight years, he is leaving the White House with the cleanest reputation. For all of the "scandals" and investigations into his office, no one from his West Wing has been charged, indicted, convicted of crimes. There have been at most resignations for failures in policy - a Secretary for Veterans Affairs had to resign over problems with service and medical aid to our hospitalized vets - but I view those as steps towards accountability.
Obama never had anything on the scale of an Iran-Contra, or the S&L Bailout, or a Lewinsky sex scandal, or a number of officials getting charged and convicted over corruption or other criminal wrong-doings. The Far Right thrilled to such things as Solyandra, Fast and Furious, and BENGHAZI ZOMG, but even their partisan witch-hunts turned into nothingburgers (problems that had more to do with a corrupt or broken Congress, or far down the chain of command among corrupt or inept grunts that the White House had no control over).
Obama, who crawled through a river of Republican shit and came out clean on the other side.
Today, he's leaving office for good. Eight years gone. Where did the time fly?
I can't rank Obama at the moment compared to all the historical Presidents - I dread knocking Truman out of the Top Ten - but he's got to well up there in the Top Twenty (out of 44), and likely well above Clinton, his closest contemporary.
To hell with the incoming administration. I'm doing my best today to not even mention the name.
I'm now living by one simple mantra.
Obama is STILL my President.
Update: Obama is starting up the Presidential Library project on his Obama Foundation page.
I GOTTA SEND IN MY LIBRARIAN RESUME!