Pin It
Favorite

Thanks, Obama 

The legacy of the 44th President goes far beyond the election of the 45th

click to enlarge CALEB WALSH ILLUSTRATION
  • Caleb Walsh illustration

At 21, I excitedly watched "The Speech" — the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, delivered by a senator from Illinois with a "funny" name to commentators: Barack Hussein Obama.

click to enlarge dillonpaul.jpg

"Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes," he declared to tens of millions of galvanized listeners. "Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America."

A star was born. Inspired by his message, I volunteered for his 2008 presidential campaign. I wanted our country to move beyond the stagnating dorm-room culture-war arguments from the 1960s which flowed downstream to my generation. (Bush, Clinton, Bush, and in 2008, Clinton again.) Obama represented a break from the past. In making calls and knocking on doors, I was freshly engaging in the political process, because the power to do right and make our world better mattered.

With an energetic, groundbreaking organizing strategy, an improbable candidacy turned to victory. Hope and change was here — the first black President of the United States, a beautiful embodiment of the American dream made history.

Now, as he packs up the White House, how will history judge Barack Obama?

Kindly.

The Affordable Care Act, which is, as the inimitable Vice President Joe Biden said, a "big f---ing deal," passed. It saved lives, with more than 20 million Americans gaining health insurance coverage. Globally, Obama was a key leader in the Paris climate agreement with 194 other countries, a turning point in climate policy intended to phase out the use of fossil fuels. He jump-started the economy after inheriting the worst recession since the Great Depression, and on matters of national security, we were safer — we didn't go to war gratuitously, which isn't faint praise when you think of the alternatives today. He and First Lady Michelle Obama brought a Kennedyesque air of dignity and gracefulness, without scandal. They invited Beyoncé to the White House, instead of Kid Rock.

But no politician is perfect, and President Obama is no exception. He should be held accountable for his failings: He took too long to act on the Dakota Access Pipeline, those who crashed Wall Street didn't pay the price for the financial crisis, and we hardly batted an eye at ongoing tragedy in Syria, to name three.

But to say that Obama's legacy is the election of Donald Trump is a lie.

What happened is that our politics finally caught up to our culture, with the election of an authoritarian reality television star who is even more fraudulent than the fake news he personifies. Another story emerged that took a foundational shift during Obama's presidency: The dawning of a post-truth age. The signs were there, from Sarah Palin's celebrity to the Tea Party insurgency, and even trickle-down effects like the Republican coup in the Washington State Senate, as moderates and extremists joined hands to subvert budget negotiations, ensuring a special session. Or flirting with government shutdowns. The old rules didn't apply, as democracy was repeatedly hit below the belt. Trump, controlled by a team of swamp monsters, was the logical conclusion of these tactics.

Democrats are now going to have to think like Republicans, and fight the "modern" GOP's regressive policies instead of fighting among themselves. Rather than going high when the opposition goes low, they're going to have to go lower — and hit back harder. Preserving Obama's legacy demands that this be the case.

The currents of lies, hate, war and greed, and threats to basic human rights in the name of economic pain and fear, will be pushed back, because President Obama activated people like me who won't ever give up — the ongoing struggle for hope and change, especially when things are at their worst, will never die. It's tough work, and it's why I do it.

And for that, there's only one thing left to say: Thanks, Obama.♦

  • Pin It

Speaking of Comment, Politics

Latest in Comment

  • Children Will Listen
  • Children Will Listen

    How art speaks to life in this particular moment
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • So Here We Are
  • So Here We Are

    Here's hoping the new president fills the office with the grace and sense of tradition it requires
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Get Big Money Out
  • Get Big Money Out

    Letters to the Editor
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Lego Club

Lego Club @ Fairfield Library

Tuesdays, 4-5 p.m. Continues through May 30

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Paul Dillon

  • This Isn't Normal
  • This Isn't Normal

    America has gone down this road before, and it's a dead end
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Darkest Before the Dawn
  • Darkest Before the Dawn

    This election has brought out the worst in too many Americans, but there's still an opportunity to deliver overdue justice
    • Nov 3, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • The Landed and the White

    How Americans followed tradition when they voted for Trump
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Comment


Briefs


marijuana


green zone


Politics


Readers also liked…

  • To Kill the Black Snake
  • To Kill the Black Snake

    Historic all-tribes protest at Standing Rock is meant to stop the destruction of the earth for all
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • Tragedy of John Wayne
  • Tragedy of John Wayne

    Why the John Wayne Pioneer Trail is worth saving
    • Oct 29, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation