The end of an era
Opinion on the transition from one president to another
By Cameron Mitchell, Staff Writer
When President Obama was elected to the Oval Office in 2008, many around the world viewed the moment as a turning point for the country. Finally, a black man had reached the country’s highest office, arguably the highest office in the world. Though the situation was far more complex than this, the symbolism of the moment was undeniable.
Over the past eight years, Barack Obama has faced presidential challenges with poise and dignity. He hasn’t always been perfect, but he seems to have had the best of intentions.
On Jan. 20, Barack Obama’s time in the Oval Office comes to an end. Unfortunately, the fact that his successor is Donald Trump may not instill confidence in the outgoing president that his legacy will be well protected. Only time will tell how the world remembers Obama.
Dr. Shawn England, a professor of American history in Mount Royal’s humanities department is hopeful that, within a few years, Obama will have cemented a solid legacy. “The tumultuous carnival side-show politics that I predict for the coming four years will cause even many of Obama’s current detractors to look back on his presidency with a degree of fond nostalgia,” he says.
Obama’s strength while in office was his ability to successfully appeal to various, often conflicting groups. There’s a degree of likability about the man: he is intelligent, good natured, and approached issues with integrity.
The same can hardly be said for the president-elect.
Since it began in 2015, Trump’s campaign has been dogged with accusations of sexism, racism, and homophobia. His unconventional style of politics has been the major hallmark of his campaign, helping him seize the presidency from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In the lead up to the election, his position as a political maverick gave him a unique appeal to a disgruntled portion of the American electorate.
The fact that his disregard for political norms often involves brash statements, ill-informed actions, and a questionable ethical and legal background has not fazed his supporters. Many of them argue that the process of change is more important than the faults of the man leading the process.
President-elect Trump has been a vocal critic of Obama for years, but his rhetoric was noticeably taken to the next level over the campaign. From gun control to immigration, Trump has attacked many of the outgoing president’s actions and initiatives.
But it’s probably Trump’s upcoming healthcare initiatives that will keep Obama up at night over the coming weeks and months. Congress has already begun taking steps towards President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare), with a goal to produce a draft of replacement legislation by the end of the month.
As many have noted, the repealing of Obamacare will mark a significant blow to the outgoing president’s legacy.
Yet, Dr. England remains hopeful. “Of course they will try [to reverse Obama’s policies] but, they will face stiff legal opposition on many fronts if they try to ban abortion and gay marriage, or dismantle affordable healthcare.”
Regardless of how Donald Trump’s presidency unfolds, the significance of Barack Obama’s successes cannot be understated. Despite its issues, Obamacare is a landmark piece of legislation that has completely changed the way Americans discuss healthcare. No longer is the question whether or not all Americans deserve healthcare; the conversation is now about what kind of healthcare all Americans should have.
As Dr. England notes, “I think Obama has a great deal of admirers beyond the rabid conservatives who have dogged his every decision over the last eight years… His progressive social agenda helped advance some big changes.”
Amid a backdrop of growing racial tension, Obama has continually walked a fine line between holding the office that owns a legacy of racism while originating from the community that racism targeted. He’s worked tirelessly to increase gun control in the wake of mass tragedies. In 2015 he brokered a nuclear arms deal with Iran, and over the past several years he has taken steps to reform the United States’ interaction with Cuba. He was the first president to advocate for gay marriage rights.
Obama’s presidency has not been perfect, but as Dr. England says, “Obama survived two terms in office and emerged free of any whiff of real scandal, but I will be surprised if Trump survives even one term without an impeachment trial.”