(Click here for part one.)
What President Obama will undoubtedly be most remembered for and most heavily judged upon, is the Affordable Care Act, known more commonly as Obamacare. A piece of legislation this expensive and far-reaching was bound to polarize the nation, as it did throughout the Summer and Fall of 2009. After a prolonged debate, both in public and in both chambers of Congress, not to mention a concession or two, the ACA was passed into law in Spring 2010. It still proved polarizing, though. The Democrat-led U.S. Senate had lost their super-majority shortly before the ACA vote, then got walloped in the midterm elections 6 1/2 months later. The Tea Party movement tried countless times to repeal or defang Obamacare, and until last week they had done so to little avail. Whether semi-socialized health care will live on remains to be seen.
In addition, other socially progressive causes flourished in his administration. In January 2009, just a handful of states had legalized marriage equality. By 2015, after a narrow Supreme Court decision, it was the law of the land. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Obama's other far-reaching bill, was a stimulus package that attempted to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and lessen the burden on the middle class. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act both saw the light of day under Obama's guidance and support.
As I listened to the last 20 minutes of his farewell address Tuesday night, I was reminded of Obama's character. For the first time in awhile, I thought of the man behind the policy: the stirring orator, the guarded optimist, and doting husband and father. For a split second, I wasn't that concerned with any flawed legislation and or his sheepish approach to world affairs, but the genuinely compassionate and even-keeled man that alluded to hope and change in 2007-08.
Eight years ago, I gave George W. Bush a C-/D+ as he left office; to some critics, that may have been somewhat generous, but I stand by that grade. Dubya was mediocre to put it mildly, but we've had far worse commanders in chief. With the Obama years down to its last week or so, I would put our 44th president somewhere in the B/B- range. President Obama was effective but flawed, but more often then not his collected demeanor matched his altruistic leadership.