Quick impressions to follow. Maybe I’ll build this out later with references, but why not enter the ‘Obama Legacy Game?’
Barack Obama was a good president in the sense that he did a good job administering an inhumane place. He effectively led America as it did the same sort of inhumane things it has done for most of its history. His passage of the ACA, something Democrats had been trying to do for at least 50 years, can’t be dismissed. It was a massive political achievement, even as its flaws were immediately obvious and its far from a progressive win.
He wasn’t transformative, but what a ridiculous standard to which no white president would be held – certainly not a white male president. Obama’s failings are the failings of American Institutions, of American culture, of American politics. He led those institutions, worked within that culture and our polarized politics with remarkable skill. He won most of the political battles he entered, even as Republican opposition was set on not letting him claim even the smallest victories.
As Obama now faces attacks from both the right and left, criticizing him as a failed leader, it is important to remember that expecting a black man to be excellent in exchange for granting him adequacy is the essence of racism. Look at who President Obama followed. George W. Bush was the definition of mediocre, and his rise to power was entirely a function of his family ties and wealth. Look at who is following America’s first black president. Donald Trump represents all of the worst things of white masculinity and American arrogance. Say what you will about how much better President Obama could have been, maybe even should have been, but don’t apply a different set of standards than we have before, and certainly will not with President Trump.