Remember when we had a thoughtful, morally centered adult serving as President of the United States? Princeton Professor Julian Zelizer, in this summary of his book on Obama’s legacy, reminds us that it really wasn’t that long ago. For those who are interested, it looks like a useful and readable book of essays by reputable scholars. I especially appreciated Zelizer’s introduction, which I think in many ways recalls my own assessment of Obama’s legacy in American domestic politics. Here are some excerpts from the Zelizer piece. (Warning: I’m cherry-picking. Zelizer is rather easier on Obama than I am.)
What Obama could never accept about American politics was just how ugly it had become. In many ways, this always had been the President’s greatest political weakness. His confidence in our democracy prevented him from doing more to stand firm against the destructive forces that were shaping our country during his two terms in office….Obama kept reaching out to shake [the Republicans’] hands. Every time that they bit him rather than agreeing to compromise, Obama gave bipartisan civility another shot.
Many members of his party pleaded with him to stop watering down his proposals, including lowering the amount of his stimulus request, based on the false hope he would be able to persuade his opponents — but Obama insisted…..
Obama was wrong in [his famous convention speech of] 2004. The nation’s democracy moved in a very combative and divisive direction that would not be reversed by a president who believed in a different style of governance.”
We needed a warrior in the White House between 2008 and 2016. Unfortunately, we have one now.