The amazing power of moderation
The clash between normality and polarization will decide Obama's legacy.
- Tuesday, 20 October 2015
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.