The amazing power of moderation

The clash between normality and polarization will decide Obama's legacy.

The legacy of Barack Obama, who became the first black US president while declaring he felt close to the liberal republicanism of the past, will be contested for a long time, and its definitive form depends more than usual on just what path the country takes in the next few years.

In general, highly intellectual presidents don’t age well: consider Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter. On the other hand, those who hold steady and deliver their basic agenda in turbulent times do far better: think of Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan.

While liberals and conservatives alike have their beef with Obama, he will leave office after two terms with a number of high-profile policy scalps. Not only has he midwifed the birth of a broader public healthcare scheme, avoided new wars as far as possible and steered the US economy towards a more robust path than its European counterpart in the wake of the global financial crisis, he also inked a landmark diplomatic deal with Iran and pledged to make sweeping reductions in carbon emissions with China as a partner. If all these project hold water, his star will shine for a long time to come. On the other hand, the current election campaign to replace him reveals fault lines that almost suggest he never existed. 

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