Reflecting on President Barack Obama’s past eight years in the White House on his last day in the White House, I’m totally ambivalent about his legacy. I am still amazed that an African American man was not only elected to the White House but he was actually re-elected. That’s because, growing up, I honestly thought that I would not live to see a person of color even occupy the Oval Office. I grew up in Glen Burnie where I heard white kids routinely drop the “n” word when describing a black person. I thought the racism was just too entrenched for the people in my lifetime to ever consider voting for someone who isn’t white.

I remember the speech Barack Obama gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and I was awed by what he said. His vision of a real United States of America consisting of people of all races and all political beliefs working together to forge a new progressive society. When he announced his presidential campaign in 2008 I was thrilled. I did some volunteer work at the Obama campaign office in Largo, Maryland and I only regretted not being able to devote more time due to my health problems at the time. (My left hip joint had deteriorated so much that I underwent a hip replacement soon after Election Day in 2008.)

But then he got into office and he turned out to be such a disappointment. I know his supporters will say that the racist Tea Party, which sprung up soon after his election, had taken over the Republican Party, and had elected likeminded politicians to Congress who obstructed President Obama every step of the way. That’s true to some extent, especially after 2010. But the first couple of years or so he had a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate where he could’ve acted on fulfilling his campaign promises (such as closing Guantanamo) and he didn’t do so.

Worse, he not only failed to prosecute those on Wall Street who tanked the economy but he even appointed Wall Street insiders like Tim Geithner to his administration. Then there are the slew of broken promises like closing Guantanamo (it’s still open) and health care reform including a public option (he decided against including a public option). He promised hope and change and all we got was a continuation of the status quo.

I recently learned that a Tumblr group has sprung up called Trumpgrets, where those who voted for Donald Trump have expressed their regrets in voting for him, starting with the fact that, like Barack Obama, Donald Trump has appointed Wall Street insiders to his administration. I can understand where these Trump voters are coming from. Many of them voted for him because he promised to “Make America Great Again” and it looks like it’s not going to happen anytime soon. I felt a similar disappointment when Barack Obama appointed Wall Street insiders to his cabinet and have reneged on many of his promises. Like Barack Obama, Donald Trump pretended that he was for the average person while saying the right things that resonated with these people (such as saying that he opposed the proposed TPP) but it was all an act.

The sole reason why I didn’t feel the least bit tempted to vote for Trump despite his stated opposition to the TPP is because I’ve been aware of this man ever since the media hyped him as some kind of a business genius after he released his first book, The Art of the Deal. I’ve seen him go through multiple bankruptcies while making himself a fixture in the gossip pages after he dumped his first wife Ivana for Marla Maples. I’ve been to New York City numerous times in the past where, despite the buildings with Trump’s name on them, I’ve spoken with enough New Yorkers to know that this man is not well-liked nor is he admired very much. Donald Trump personifies this saying that’s popular in Texas: All hat, no cattle.

I first wrote about my disillusionment with Barack Obama back in 2010 when he decided to extend the Bush-era tax cuts to the wealthy for another two years while freezing the pay of federal employees like my ex-husband. The sole reason why I voted for Obama the second time was because the Republican Party had put up a disastrous candidate like Mitt Romney, who boasted about how he liked being able to fire people while proclaiming that corporations are people. By 2013 I wrote another blog post declaring that I was done with President Obama because he was such a big letdown.

How much of a letdown was President Obama. Here is what this article on Salon.com has to say about this.

It is as if America’s traditional racial segregationist tendencies have been reorganized, and the tools and tactics of that system have been repurposed for a multicultural elite colonizing a multicultural population. The data bears this out: Under Bush, economic inequality was bad, as 65 cents of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1 percent. Under Obama, however, that number is 93 cents out of every dollar. That’s right, under Barack Obama there is more economic inequality than under George W. Bush. And if you look at the chart above, most of this shift happened in 2009-2010, when Democrats controlled Congress. This was not, in other words, the doing of the mean Republican Congress. And it’s not strictly a result of the financial crisis; after all, corporate profits did crash, like housing values did, but they also recovered, while housing values have not.

This is the shape of the system Obama has designed. It is intentional, it is the modern American order, and it has a certain equilibrium, the kind we identify in Middle Eastern resource extraction based economies. We are even seeing, as I showed in an earlier post, a transition of the American economic order toward a petro-state. By some accounts, America will be the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the world, bigger than Saudi Arabia. This is just not an America that any of us should want to live in. It is a country whose economic basis is oligarchy, whose political system is authoritarianism, and whose political culture is murderous toward the rest of the world and suicidal in our aggressive lack of attention to climate change.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

There are also the drone strikes, which has killed innocent men, women, and children in the Middle East among a litany of the major disappointments of the Obama Administration.

The biggest irony about seeing the first African American man elected to the Oval Office is that African Americans as a whole didn’t really improve economically or politically that much. Cornel West has a thorough yet stinging critique about President Obama and the African American community that’s well worth reading.

I’ll admit that President Obama did a few things right, most notably he got rid of the Bill Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that led to drumming numerous LGBTQ people out of the U.S. military and he supported the legalization of same-sex marriage. I’ve been using the state-run American Jobs Center, which exists because of the Workforce Investment Act, which was a result of President Obama’s policies.

I just wished he had gone further and made more of an effort to actually bring about hope and change and fight harder for more progressive programs that could’ve put more Americans back to work and possibly revive the economy, which has remained sluggish since the 2008 economic crash. He had the mandate to do so before the 2010 midterm elections. In fact, had he pushed harder for more programs, it’s possible that the Democrats would’ve retained control of both the House and the Senate after those midterms.

The one other thing that I’m appreciative about is that there were no major sex scandals or political scandals like Teapot Dome or Iran-Contra.

The bottom line is that while President Obama did a few good things, he basically continued the failed economic policies that began under President Reagan and continued under successive administrations—both Republican and Democrat—since then.

UPDATE (January 25, 2017): Chelsea Manning has written a powerful essay on President Obama’s legacy in The Guardian that’s worth reading. Here’s the best quote from that link, which explains the main point of this rant even better than I did: “The one simple lesson to draw from President Obama’s legacy: do not start off with a compromise. They won’t meet you in the middle. Instead, what we need is an unapologetic progressive leader.”

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