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Tags: Barack Obama | historians | presidential legacy

Historians on Obama Legacy: 'Polarizing,' Not 'Transformative'

Historians on Obama Legacy: 'Polarizing,' Not 'Transformative'
(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/Landov)

Monday, 12 January 2015 01:53 PM

More than 50 historians have revealed what they think President Barack Obama’s legacy will be two decades from now.

They were asked to respond to a broad questionnaire from New York magazine about how Obama and his administration will be viewed in 2034.

"Throughout history, unilateral presidential actions designed to circumvent Congress have led to pushback in the Courts and Congress that have ultimately undermined, rather than strengthened, the president’s legitimacy," wrote Jeffrey Rosen, author of "The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America."

He added: "Obama’s rhetoric on executive orders has been so polarizing —‘Where I can act without Congress, I’m going to do so’ — that he has inflamed his opponents and strengthened their resolve to reverse his achievements. Just as the Supreme Court unanimously rejected Obama’s efforts to use recess appointments, so it could reject his immigration orders."

Historian Stephen Walt, co-author of "The Israel Lobby and U.S Foreign Policy," wrote: "As president, he showed that effective governing requires careful deliberation, discipline, and the willingness to make hard and imperfect decisions, and he let us all watch him do just that."

He continued, "Even when one disagreed with his choices, one knew that his acts were never impulsive or cavalier. Future historians will give him full marks for that."

"His great appeal as a candidate was that he was not interested in traditional politics," wrote historian Stephen Kinzer, author of "The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War."

He added, "That quality, inevitably, has not helped him in Washington. He seems to have the rhetorical and conceptual tools necessary to use the ‘bully pulpit’ power to great effect. Forging a popular coalition, however, requires a galvanizing inspirational agenda. His policies were too moderate to electrify the public."

Miriam Pawel, author of "The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography," said, "it is difficult to see how his presidency can be viewed as ‘transformative’ when so many of his policies represented a continuation of the past rather than a break."

Kimberly Phillips-Fein, author of "Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal," wrote: "I suspect that future historians are likely to focus on the rising inequality in the American economy during the Obama years, the deepening precariousness experienced by people who once anticipated a greater level of security and prosperity, and on the poisonous impact this has on the entire American political system."

Mason Williams, author of "City of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern New York," said: "Many of the young people energized by Obama’s 2008 campaign subsequently became victims of the Great Recession — a devastating event for many young people — and grew disillusioned with politics; this prevented Obama from permanently attaching millennials to the Democratic Party."

And Mike Davis, author of "City of Quartz," said: "The first African-American president largely ignored left-behind black people. He spent most of eight years avoiding confrontations about municipal bankruptcies, intractable poverty, the plight of older suburbs (like Ferguson, Missouri) and super-incarceration."
 

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Politics
More than 50 historians have revealed what they think President Barack Obama’s legacy will be two decades from now.
historians, presidential legacy
498
2015-53-12
Monday, 12 January 2015 01:53 PM
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