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Mark Andrew

Mark Andrew, a former Hennepin County Board Chair and former chair of the Minnesota DFL Party, writes about politics.

Obama's lasting impact on America

Power-wash the graffiti from the Republican message boards that declare Obama the “Worst President Ever.” Underneath, an essential truth shines through: Obama will likely be seen as delivering more lasting achievements than any President of his generation. 

That doesn’t make him the greatest President ever, only one of the most influential. 

It is undeniable that Obama has turned around the economy. While there are still troubling realities, his restoring order to a chaotic economy is a signature accomplishment. 

With brave support from out-going President Bush, Obama passed the American Recovery and              Reinvestment Act to spur immediate growth amid the greatest economic crisis since the Great                Depression.

He won an increase in taxes on the wealthiest Americans to return us to fairer tax rates of the Reagan era.

He won a bailout of General Motors that allowed for total recovery and a path to American supremacy in the auto industry.

Even his detractors grudgingly admit a conservative push for the White House will be more difficult with the remarkable progress made on the economy. 

Obama succeeded in getting private lending out of the student loan business, ending decades of subsidizing banks; that saved taxpayers tens of billions of dollars and is providing billions in student aid instead of windfall bank profits. 

Obama won authorization to triple the size of the old AmeriCorps at a time opponents were smacking their chops hoping to ax a Clinton achievement. 

He served up a generation of more healthful school menus for students by mandating a huge boost in higher nutritional food and health standards.

Obama added protections from hate crimes to include crimes based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender or disability, in addition to the established federal protections of race, color, religion or national origin.

Obama successfully outlawed Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy and removed sexual orientation as a barrier to military service.

A long-term benefit of Obama’s election is that America proved its ability to instantly overcome racism and discrimination that is so pervasive around the world. 

Obama’s election inspired jubilant celebrations among subjugated people around the world and restored America’s moral leadership as a nation of opportunity and hope.

He ended the practice of torture of our perceived enemies, returning our country to compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

Obama has been a success in using military diplomacy to assure a safer world into the future. 

He signed a new START Treaty with Russia that substantially reduces strategic warheads and launchers while reestablishing a transparency program through which each country can monitor the other.

The President kept his first major campaign promise and ended the war in Iraq by ordering all U.S. military forces out of the country; and pulled our troops out of Afghanistan.

Oh, yes, and he killed Bin Laden.

Obama has made monumental contributions to saving our country and planet from the ravages of climate change and air pollution. 

He ordered his EPA head to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant, allowing the agency to regulate its production, and with it, created a measurable basis for future climate strategies. 

Obama kept his campaign promise to impose fuel-efficiency standards that will double fuel economy for cars and trucks by 2025.

 

He expanded wilderness protection by designating more than two million acres as wilderness; created thousands of miles of recreational and historic trails; and protected more than 1,000 miles of our rivers.

His signature air quality achievement imposes new restrictions on mercury and other emissions from power plants, likely to lead to the closing of up to 230 coal-fired power plants that have no place in our energy strategy any more.

In December, at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change meetings in Peru, Obama single-handedly engaged China to agree for the first time to substantial carbon reduction goals. 

This one action is likely to have more effect in mitigating climate change than all the symbolic climate actions taken to date.

Obama reformed American healthcare. 

He famously proposed and ultimately signed the Affordable Care Act, covering 32 million uninsured Americans beginning in 2014. Love it or hate it, this is a lasting achievement that numerous presidents tried to accomplish for over a century—and failed. 

I haven’t liked everything President Obama has done—or not done. His public relations and communications skills with Congress and the public have hurt his ability to lead. Early in his Administration he was too eager to kowtow to the right without assurances of mutual commitments, leading to lost opportunities for progressive policies.

Almost unforgivably, Obama has not acted on public demands to go after the several hundred Wall Street jackals who brought down the economy. Despite the Dodd-Frank reforms, the wolves of Wall Street are feasting on the spoils of their old tricks, manufacturing financial products designed to fatten their own wallets and exploit consumers. 

 

Obama never should have let them off the hook.

We can leave the corrupting problems on Wall Street for the future President Elizabeth Warren to fix. 

Worst President Ever Has Long List of Accomplishments

It’s a red-letter day for President Obama. His approval ratings just hit 50% overall favorable, the first time he’s had half the electorate’s overall support in over eight months.

There are still more Americans who STRONGLY disapprove of the President’s job performance than STRONGLY approve, however, so his negative index is still minus 12.

How can that be?

Are the President’s job ratings the result of presidential ineptitude? Or have the relentless undercurrents of the far-out fringes of America had anything to do with them?

Obama, Worst President Ever. That is the headline on the media statements of Republican attack dogs to the special interest political base.

The rest of us should look at the facts.

They reveal a lengthy list of meaningful Democratic victories over the past 6 years. Arguably, Obama has had a longer-lasting impact on America than any President since Reagan.

On substance Obama delivered early on several of his major campaign promises, such as his pledge to end the Iraq War and remove our troops from Afghanistan. He also immediately delivered on promises to boldly attack the economic meltdown he inherited.

That the economy is humming today seems not to have made an impression on the President’s detractors—they give him no credit for any of it.

But Democrats’ policies have generated five times as many jobs in six years than his predecessor created in two full terms. This is made all the more impressive considering the epic refusal of most businesses to hire more employees even though many companies still sit on billions in cash assets.

In addition to escalating economic advances, the current President has a list of legislative and political achievements that make the bright light of even rock-star Democrats such as Bill Clinton seem dim by comparison.

The President did this by defying the conventional wisdom that he is a standard-bearing Left-wing liberal. The panicked alarms about Obama’s ideological rigidity when he was first elected ring hollow today.

Obama has been far from that.

People forget Democratic purists attacked him when Mr. Obama included tax cuts in his stimulus package, quickly gave up on a government-run option in health care negotiations and temporarily extended the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. A Democratic insurrection was in the air.

In truth, the President has been far less intimidated by the Democratic Left than Republican leadership has been by the far-Right.

If Obama seems less inclined to give ground to his opponents today it is not due to concerns about his base; it is because Congressional Republicans have been utterly unwilling to deal with the President on any consequential issue.

When then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared the main conservative agenda was to defeat Obama, the President shrugged and tried to cut a deal on the budget.

Perhaps his greatest disappointment as President is that he has never been able to truly forge the collaborative atmosphere in Washington that he tried to fashion in the early years of his Administration.

But when the dust settles on the 44th president’s final term of public office, both the math and the mood of the nation will show he won a lot more than he lost.

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