The flimsiness of Obama's 'legacy'
President Trump is busy doing the job the voters asked for him to do, but this isn't stopping the mainstream press and other establishment cognoscenti from whining about "the Obama legacy" and the dreadful loss these actions by President Trump supposedly represent.
According to Agence France-Presse:
Brick by brick, the demolition job has begun: since taking office less than a year ago, Donald Trump has launched an all-out assault on the legacy of Barack Obama.
Climate, free trade, health care, immigration, foreign policy – the 45th US president has set about undoing just about everything done by the 44th.
All new presidents, of course, break with their predecessor once in the Oval Office, especially if they come from a rival political party.
But what is striking is how systematic the hammer blows to Obama's legacy have been.
CNN talking head Anderson Cooper weighs in with the same talking points, complaining that Trump's dismantling of the Obama legacy has to be personal.
There are many more examples.
The real issue here is how tissue-paper flimsy the Obama legacy really is.
Virtually all of the things Trump has done to destroy the Obama legacy were actions taken by the previous president on his own initiative without any of the building blocks of legislation or consent of the public that really do ensure a legacy. Executive orders, treaties, even Obamacare were never executed in any bipartisan spirit or with consideration for the sentiment. Obama issued the executive orders on his own and did the treaties on his own, and even on the one legislative achievement, Obamacare, he passed the law on a monopartisan basis.
Of course it was an unstable house of cards.
The Obama legacy was never grounded in the institutional framework that could really ensure a lasting legacy.
The Paris Accord on global warming was done unilaterally, never mind what the American people thought of it, the validity of the science, or the jobs it cost. The designation of large swaths of the West for environmental "national monuments" was done without the consent of the states involved. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was basically an executive order, enacted after Congress refused to pass the DREAM Act. The large free trade pact known as the Trans Pacific Partnership was the work of professional negotiators, not lawmakers, with opponents saying they were shut out of seeing the contents. The Cuba rapprochement and the Iran deal were done by presidential fiat rather than treaty, which would have involved Congress – and there was plenty of contempt for the public. The Iran deal, in fact, was sold to the public after the fact through lies. The encouragement of transgenders in the military was also done by executive fiat. Obamacare itself failed to attract a single Republican vote and was passed only by exerting muscle on every single Democrat for passage.
In Obama's mind, these were justified acts because they amounted to "change." And if Americans didn't like them, well, the justification was that it was all for their own good, even if it had to be justified through lies. The actions were heavy-handed but not grounded in institutions. They were grounded only Obama's own personality, which Americans tended to like. But in the minds of the American people, these acts ran roughshod over their own views and governing by diktat. Like it or not, the U.S. has always tended to be a center-right country that takes a dim view of radical acts imposed. In Obama's mind, that meant things had to change, like it or not, because in his mind, he loved the country so much that he wanted to change it.
Of course they were easy for Trump to shut down. Obama never spent time with Congress trying to create a lasting legacy by building consensus or creating a bipartisan basis for legislation. His agenda was too radical for that. He preferred just to shove his priorities in Americans' faces and tell them to like it, since it was a lot easier that way, governing by executive order.
Well, it's just as easy to reverse the diktats and decrees, which President Trump was elected to do. Live by the executive order, die by the executive order. Obama's real legacy was that in ruling by fiat and bypassing Congress, he left the Democratic Party in tatters, with more than 1,000 lost offices at the state and federal levels. That's his real legacy, which came of his failure to build an authentic legacy on institutional, bipartisan, consensual grounds.