As we celebrate Black History Month and President’s Day, the nation should mute the loud talk about our future president and quietly reflect on the accomplishments of our current president, Barack Obama.
History will reveal in short time, that Obama ranks as one of our nation’s best presidents. As a political science professor of 20 years, I feel qualified in stating that Obama ranks among the top five presidents in U.S. history: 1. George Washington, 2. Abraham Lincoln, 3. Franklin D. Roosevelt, 4. Barack Obama, 5. Bill Clinton.
On almost any given checklist of presidential effectiveness, Obama can be considered the best president of the modern era. He has transformed the landscape of the U.S. economy, health care, climate change, and foreign policy.
He has advocated for gun control, prison reform, women’s rights, gay rights, workers’ rights, and racial reconciliation; in doing so, he has embraced Martin Luther Kings Jr.’s concept of the “Beloved Community.”
Obama’s intelligence, savvy, and political instincts have proven to be superb. In the midst of a ubiquitous and unrelenting anti-Obama political environment, and with one hand tied behind his back, he has made monumental strides in America’s progress.
For the Obama-haters, here are the unpleasant facts: the economy has gained nearly five times more jobs under President Obama than under George W. Bush. The unemployment rate recently reached an 8-year low at 4.9 percent and the stock market has reached record highs. Wages and consumer confidence have dramatically increased and the dollar has seen its fastest rise in 40 years. And, since Obama took office, the U.S. economy has added a net gain of 8.7 million jobs.
As one commenter on a Huffington Post article about the Obama economy stated, “If the economy was performing this well under a Republican Administration, conservatives would start a movement to repeal the two-term limit and name every public edifice after the president.”
The primary ideological argument against Obama has been that his socialist policies would lead to the economic destruction of this great nation when in fact his Affordable Care Act, auto bailout, federal regulations, increased taxes, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act proved to dramatically transform the U.S. economy. Moreover, his administrations have reduced the deficit by two-thirds.
Obamacare was supposed to be Obama’s signature colossal socialist failure. It was supposed to collapse the American economy and dramatically undermine America’s capitalistic spirit. Republicans held more than 50 votes to repeal or block this law. Nevertheless, under the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured in the country has dropped from a high of 18% to 11.4%, which has resulted in a net total of 17.6 million newly insured during Obama’s presidency.
On climate change and the environment, Obama helped broker the historic agreement signed by 196 countries in Paris in December 2015 to limit greenhouse gases and slow global warming.
In terms of foreign policy, Obama brokered the Iran Deal, transitioned us out of two expensive wars, and re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba. He dispensed of Osama bin Laden and has proactively pursued other high profile terrorists. But, his restrained approach to intervening in foreign affairs has been pragmatic and refreshing. He has meticulously explained to the American public the benefits of diplomacy v. aggression. And, his capacity to tune out the beating of war drums has made him a wise commander-in-chief.
Beyond his policy resume, Obama’s presidency has been scandal-free. There has not been a Watergate, Iran-Contra, or Lewinsky-type scandal during his presidency. On an episode of PBS’s “NewsHour,” Conservative New York Times columnist, David Brooks, stated, “I have my disagreements, say, with President Obama, but President Obama has run an amazingly scandal-free administration, not only he himself, but the people around him.” And, in a recent New York Times OpEd, “I Miss Barack Obama,” the right-leaning Brooks states, “Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss.”
Moreover, Obama has been the consummate father, husband, and family man. In this capacity, he has been an exemplary role model.
Yet, one of the most remarkable phenomena in Obama’s two terms as president is that his counterparts have rarely given him credit for any of his accomplishments. We often despise what is different and envy those who are more talented. This is a simple explanation of why Obama has been hated in the midst of overwhelming success.
Possessing a little of Jackie, Martin, Nelson, and Ali, we see now that he is who he said he was in 2008—a principled man, who despite opposition, practices what he preaches.
As president, he has always tried to do the right thing, which has made him honorable. As a leader, he saw what others could not see, which has made him a visionary. As a politician, he has transcended the pettiness of politics, which has made him uniquely admirable.
As we march toward the end of his tenure, we must collectively give credit when credit is due. Obama has made our nation better. And for this, we should all pause and salute our president.
By Renford Reese,
Renford Reese, Ph.D. is a professor of political science at Cal Poly Pomona. He is the author of six books. His book “Obama: The First Black President” will be published in July.