The Sunday, January 15th New York Times editorial is titled “The Optimism of Barack Obama”.
It begins by saying,
“Barack Obama is leaving the White House with polls showing him to be one of the most popular presidents in recent decades. This makes sense. His achievements, not least pulling the nation back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, have been remarkable — all the more so because they were bitterly opposed from the outset by Republicans who made it their top priority to ensure that his presidency would fail.”
It ends with his farewell quote,
“Let me tell you, this generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair and just and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace; you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands.”
We must be at least as optimistic as he. There is precedent. The Republican Party.
Several decades ago the Republicans were reeling. Nixon. Ugh! Ford? Eh! An economic crisis brought Ronald Reagan, a Republican visionary, into the White House followed by his VP. Republicans thought they were to be in power forever. Then Bill Clinton won and gained back power for the Democrats. The Republicans began to see a shift in the population of the US. The Democrats boasted about reaching the new younger and more multicultural demographic. Newt Gingrich and Congressional Republicans tried to revolt, but that flopped. However, optimistically, they hatched a plan…. That worked twice.
They realized they would have a very difficult time winning the popular vote, so they figured out how to use the Electoral College to win the presidency and did so in 2000 with Florida’s hanging chads, and in 2016, by turning the tables in Pennsylvania’s, Wisconsin’s, and Michigan’s rural and white working class election districts.
They knew, 20 years ago, that the key was to control state legislatures during Census years to ensure control of redistricting and gerrymandering. That they did in both 2000 and in 2010. Their optimism paid off. So did a smart plan.
So how do Democrats look at the future? Do we fold? Do we argue amongst ourselves? Or, do we learn about optimism from President Obama, and, yes, even from those nasty Republicans that optimism connected with a good plan works.
What will swing the pendulum back? Politics is always local and it is always the economy, stupid. The national democrats blew that. It is time to gain remember that to get power back.
Now, as for the Nay Sayers who are worried that Obama’s legacy will be lost? You cant undo what was done. You can repeal and replace but you can’t make believe it didn’t happen. He will gain his rightful place in the rankings of presidents just as others have.
Remember, John Adams followed Washington. Washington is still usually ranked number two.
Lincoln’s legacy as the number one ranked president survived despite being followed by quite a few awful presidents. Andrew Johnson tried to reverse Lincoln’s reconstruction plan and was also the first president to be impeached. U.S. Grant presided over a very corrupt administration that included it’s own Black Friday when speculators Jim Fisk and Jay Gould attempted to corner the nation’s gold market and enlisted the help of Grant’s brother-in-law, who had pledged to prevent the president from acting to ruin the scheme. Grant’s administration also saw The Whiskey Ring scandal when many of the nation’s distillers bribed officials in the Department of the Treasury. In the end, more than 100 officials were convicted. Grant, much to his discredit, successfully shielded his private secretary, Orville E. Babcock.
Warren Harding followed Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was ranked most recently in the top 10 out of 44, because even with his racist negatives, he was responsible for one of the most progressive eras in our history. Harding was a successful newspaper publisher and horrible senator before becoming president. He won that position because his supporters viciously attacked his opponent for being a Catholic intent on delivering Ohio to the pope.
During his campaign he promised to restore the U.S. to “normalcy”, ostensibly to “Make America Great Again.” President Harding often rewarded political allies and contributors with powerful positions with financial leverage. Scandals and corruption ran rampant under his administration. Scholars and historians consistently regard Harding as one of our worst Presidents.
So look up America. No one is perfect. I didn’t like Obama’s education policies and how he also is responsible for Trump’s triumph. He, as almost all other democrats did, forgot how important local economies are, especially jobs with good wages and benefits that include health care.
We will survive. So will President Obama’s legacy, not just because of his achievements, but also because of his character. You can’t fake character like you can fake news.