|Pete Prodoehl from Flicker Some rights reserved|
There was a phrase that became popular in the early part of Obama's presidency--"Thanks, Obama." It was originally used by conservatives and Republicans, people that disagreed with some policy that Obama was trying to enact--probably the stimulus package, which everyone said was wasting money and would never work to kick start the economy, that the better idea was to cut taxes on rich people further so that they could keep making jobs.
It seemed to liberals that conservatives blamed Obama for every problem the country faced from the word go--conveniently ignoring that he inherited the state of the country from a previous president. There are some people that were critical that Obama wasn't aggressive enough on 9/11--when he wasn't president, or blamed him personally for the Iraq war--again...when he wasn't president. And eventually, the "Thanks, Obama" meme was born--mocking conservatives that seemed to blame everything bad that happened on Obama.
There are plenty of critiques that one could lay against Obama. He had a tendency to lean on respectability politics--"pull up your pants," "the real struggle of black communities is the absent father," and other tired gems. He never closed Guantanamo Bay--which is one of many tainted spots on America's reputation as a land of free people. He was far too naive in thinking that Republicans that had the run of the place before would suddenly play ball not just with a Democrat, but a black man. He downplays the amount race factored into opposition to him, he was too moderate in some of his policies, and often too eager to play false equivalence when he talked about how race affects citizens.
But for all of that, Obama is likely to be the best president in my lifetime, and very likely one of the best presidents in our history. He had his problems, as every president does, but he was dignified, he was highly educated and knowledgeable, he was charming, he was cautious, he was everything a president should be. One of the biggest shames of Obama's presidency is we didn't get to see what he could have done if the Republicans hadn't made it their mission statement to stop him at every opportunity.
Consider how much opposition he faced when trying to pass the Affordable Care Act, which was just a slightly reconfigured RomenyCare--a Republican program. And yet, the Republicans made up all kinds of lies about death panels and government take overs and all manner of nonsense. Republicans weren't willing to give him anything--not a single victory. They were so threatened by him that admitted that their goal was to make him a one term president. They radically disrespected him, shouting "You lie" during State of the Union addresses. They openly told the American people that their goal was to keep Obama from accomplishing anything--including going so far as the shut down the government.
And yet, in spite of all of that, Obama saved the American economy with the stimulus package and programs like "Cash for Clunkers," he managed to take unemployment back from the brink, he helped legalize gay marriage, and pushed through one of the most revolutionary healthcare reforms in US history.
His very existence is an amazing statement of America--the first African American president of the United States. And while there's a conversation to be had about the "twice as good to go half has far" aspect of Obama's presidency, it's still an amazing and beautiful moment where America seemed to rise up and become better than its legacy, if only for a moment. And no matter what follows, no matter what gets undone, it happened, and we were here to witness it. And for that, I'm grateful.
Thank you, Obama. For helping us hope. For helping us believe we could be better. For pushing us to be better.