Nearing the end of his term, President Obama has an approval rating of 56% according to the Gallup Poll. This compares favorably with his predecessors especially George W. Bush then at 25%.
The critics are using the gridlocks in Washington to define Obama’s legacy. They are blind to all the obstructions created by the “angry white men” of the Republican Party in both Houses of the US Congress. The opposition against Obama is epitomized by the pronouncement of Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader, that his top priority would be to make Obama a one-term president. That means they will oppose to everything this first black US president plans to do, thus earning them the title, “The Party of No”. Despite the heavy obstructions, Obama has achieved the following major feats:
* Win a decisive second term in 2012 over Mitt Romney.
* End US combat role in Iraq and Afghanistan as promised.
* Restore the US economy on the verge of financial collapse in late 2008.
* Reduce the federal deficit from $1,400 billion in 2009 to $587 billion in 2016.
* Pass Obamacare that covers more than 11 million Americans. Thus the number of uninsured has dropped from 42 million to 31 million since 2014 when the law became effective.
On the energy front, Obama’s green legacy has seldom been noted. The Sierra Magazine (Sept/Oct, 2016) spotlights his achievements as follows:
Despite heavy obstructions put up by the Republicans, Obama has managed to pass a $800 billion stimulus package in 2009 to rescue the economy from the financial crisis. In this package, the investments in renewable energy total $90 billion. One result is that solar production in America has shot up by thirty folds, and wind by three folds.
Bailing out the auto industry in 2009 was opposed by the Republicans although it is a major source of employment for the people. The bailout has brought great leverage to the government for the enforcement of fuel efficiency. As a result, the private auto industry has agreed to boost the average fuel consumption of passenger cars to an average of 36.6 miles per gallon by 2017, and further to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
Since 2012, the government has designated 23 national monuments, and set aside 265 million acres of land for environmental protection.
In 2014, both US and Chinese presidents came together and made a joint statement on climate change. This agreement between the world’s two biggest polluting countries paved the way for a breakthrough in Paris in 2015 where 186 countries signed a historic joint agreement for climate action.
In 2015, Obama rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline on grounds that it would be detrimental to the environment. While the project might greatly benefit the oil industry, the resultant increase in employment would not be as great as it was advertised.
Historians will make an objective evaluation regarding Obama’s legacy based on the significance of its consequences.