28

The Unmaking of the President

WASHINGTON, DC – Barack Obama was widely considered an exciting new figure when he was first elected President of the United States in 2008. His increasing unpopularity and virtual abandonment by his own party in his second term in 2014 stems largely from that fact: Expectations exceeded reality. But, more important, reality changed – in several ways.

Obama is not a failed president. He has in fact accomplished much in nearly impossible circumstances. In his first two years in office, when his Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress, he took numerous steps to stem the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Likewise, he got his landmark health-care reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed.

Even now, despite opposition from Republican politicians and major interest groups, he has begun to turn energy policy toward dealing with climate change and curbing greenhouse gases. He has also taken significant steps to uphold the rights of women and sexual minorities, and has used his executive power to loosen immigration restrictions on families amid congressional paralysis.

An assessment of Obama’s presidency must focus not just on him, but also on the Republicans’ unprecedented hostility. Even before Obama took office, Republican leaders were plotting to oppose his every proposal, so he could not claim bipartisan support. No Republican voted for Obama’s health-care legislation, even though it was modeled on schemes backed by some Republican officials and prominent think tanks.