On Jan. 10, 2017, President Obama delivered his last speech as active President of the United States in front of a captivated audience in Chicago.
The speech was nothing short of incredible, with Obama eloquently weaving through various themes that he has always been passionate about, such as economic inequality, racial divisions and the role of democracy in America. However as legendary a public speaker as Obama is, and as seemingly earnest and sincere he comes across, the fact that he claimed in one point in the speech that America is a better and safer place today than it was eight years ago is beyond ridiculous.
Republicans in general have been largely the only ones who have criticized Obama, and understandably so coming from the opposition party. This ranged from ludicrous claims about him secretly being allied with radical Islamic terrorism because his middle name is “Hussein” to more understandable concerns about his unprecedented use of executive power.
Liberals in general however have been largely silent. They are quick to praise Obama for any of his accomplishments but do not say anything about his many failures as president. Cornel West summed it up best when he recently stated, “The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump – but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility.” A scroll through Facebook or any popular media page and you will see videos, posts or memes pretty much deifying Obama.
Some have even claimed that he is the greatest and most progressive president in the history of the United States. However solely judging a president by their image and their positive impact is pretty much the definition of sugar coating, and shows a lack of critical thinking and objective reflection on the past eight years. Obama started his presidency off by bailing out Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis, leaving the working class of America in complete economic disarray rather than holding those responsible on Wall Street accountable, with literally trillions of dollars being lost in economic output.
Obama and his administration, especially Hillary Clinton, are directly responsible for continued instability in the Middle East and North Africa, especially now in Syria. Their regime change agenda has resulted in widespread political and economic turmoil, a rise in radical Islamic extremism and terrorism and thousands of innocent civilians dead, including many children, due to drone attacks and armed assaults.
Privatization of medicine through Obamacare as a market-based policy has allowed for large pharmaceutical companies to monopolize the market and keeps their vested interests intact at the expense of the taxpayer. Gun violence, the militarization of the police, illegal surveillance and unlawful detainment of citizens exercising their rights have run rampant under Obama’s presidency leading one to think we are in an Orwellian nightmare rather than Obama’s “progressive” America.
As much disarray and instability the world has seen under Obama as leader of the free world, he has still had a monumental impact on the political world, especially with him being the first African American president in United States history, a significant achievement considering African Americans only gained full, equal rights as citizens a little over 60 years ago. Obama has spearheaded very progressive social and environmental policy that has definitely had a positive impact on the country.
He is arguably one of the greatest speakers in presidential history, frequently met with cultural icons such as Kendrick Lamar, and is without a doubt the greatest President at basketball of all time. However the very ugly side of Obama and his large, establishment, neoliberal administration have to be examined and reflected upon if we want to understand what has gone wrong in the past eight years and what has allowed economic instability, political extremism and the rise of Donald Trump to occur, instead of blindly praising his legacy like many seem to love to do.