Barack Obama’s Eternal Legacy
Former United States President Barack Obama ran his campaign on the word “change” and began his presidency by saying he would “fundamentally transform America.” Even for a politician, that is quite a goal. By the time he left office, however, it was obvious Mr. Obama had achieved his goal.
His replacement, of course, disagrees with this. Donald Trump’s campaign was fueled by promises to undo President Obama’s handiwork and “make America great again.” For months prior to the election, candidate Trump promised he would undo what President Obama was doing, and that it would be tremendously easy. He would nullify Mr. Obama’s executive actions by simply passing executive actions of his own. If that didn’t work, he’d deploy the Republican-controlled Congress. True to his word, Mr. Trump—within hours of his inauguration—began drafting and signing executive actions designed to undo President Obama’s actions.
But what if undoing President Obama’s fundamental transformation isn’t that easy? What if America’s transformation was systemic and irreversible? It’s one thing to undo legal and regulatory regulations; it’s another to reverse profound cultural, moral and psychological changes. Especially when many Americans, millions in fact, simply don’t want to go back.
Consider America’s youth. The Obama Justice Department and Education Department, in a movement they termed “restorative justice,” created and enforced numerous policies, regulations and laws that prevented educators from confronting and disciplining insubordinate students. Since statistics show that black teenagers are typically disciplined at a higher rate than white students, they argued, America’s educational institutions are inherently racist. The solution was to coerce and force schools, via laws and regulations, to cut back discipline and order. The result? A sweeping cultural change among America’s youth—one that endorses the rejection of rules and authority and encourages a spirit of rebellion.
The Obama White House took the same approach to America’s justice and legal systems and its law enforcement agencies, all of which, according to the president and his team, suffer from the same institutional racism. President Obama believed most of the blame for America’s swelling jail populations was caused, not by Americans breaking the law, but by the law itself as well as the judges and law enforcement officers. He accused some police of being so racist that they murder a man simply because he is black. By the end of his second term, a bounty of new laws, policies and standards had been rolled out and a new “restorative” culture created. A culture that valued “fixing” the “problems” over actually upholding law and order. The result? America in January 2017 was more prone to riotous protests and marches, more prone to race riots like those in Ferguson and Baltimore, and filled with more Americans questioning, disrespecting, resisting and attacking America and its institutions.
And why not? Why should Americans respect law and government when their president, despite occupying an office created for the purpose of enforcing the law, personally undermined the rule of law? On some issues, like immigration, President Obama openly refused to enforce laws that his office is specifically required to enforce.
As president, Mr. Obama endorsed multiple issues that fundamentally transformed the culture, economy and security of the United States. He entrenched the entitlement culture, spending hundreds of billions giving away phones, health care, money and more. He hooked greater numbers of people on welfare benefits. He passed a gargantuan health-care law. He became the biggest spender in American history, accumulating twice as much debt as his predecessor and nearly doubling the national debt to almost $20 trillion. Can that be paid back—with interest—with a few signatures?
The Obama White House empowered special interest organizations and movements, many of which are hostile to traditional American customs, practices and values. Groups like Black Lives Matter and movements such as the lgbt crusade. Under President Obama, America experienced a profound cultural, moral and social transformation in the areas of race, sexuality and family. Even if he wanted to, President Trump couldn’t reverse the changes in these areas. Why? Because many Americans—especially those in Hollywood, the mainstream media and higher education—don’t want to reverse the changes.
The most fundamental transformation President Obama accomplished can be seen in each of his actions: lawlessness. For eight years, the most important office in the U.S. government was occupied by a man who, rather than upholding the law of the land, chose to uphold the law of Barack Obama. Since its creation, the Constitution has been America’s ultimate authority, more powerful than even the president. Today, the U.S. Constitution remains influential, but less influential than the individual who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office.
America today is a much different organism than it was on inauguration day Jan. 20, 2009, and it’s not going to be easy to transform it back to the way it was, much less to make it great. The easiest path to take will be to reverse some of Mr. Obama’s policies and laws, but to ignore the profound cultural and social transformations that have occurred. The truth is, the Obama years appealed to an ugly, destructive and powerful force: our lawless human nature. Ultimately, the only way to truly roll back the Obama years is to transform the hearts and attitudes of the American people. And that is an impossible feat—even for Donald J. Trump.