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What will be Barack Obama’s legacy?

Was Donald Trump right when he said that Barack Obama might be one of the worst presidents in US history?

One aspect of the Hillary Clinton campaign defeat often downplayed or even silenced is about Barack Obama’s administration outcomes and legacy. It is safe to say that many of the mistakes of the Obama administration surely played an important role on the part of the people’s decision to cast their vote for Donald Trump.

After the election of Donald Trump, it has become more evident that the negative weighs more in the balance. Obama concentrated even more powers in the Executive than his predecessor George Bush, and that now will surrender to his successor.

Obama will always be remembered as the first African-American president, a “symbol of the social progress” but was it sufficient to leave a lasting legacy?

He was elected by promising hope and change – the motto of his campaign – and that would unite a people and a political system highly divided by the policies that led the country to wars, an economic crisis and abuses of power that a growing number of Americans saw with disdain. He also promised to reduce the influence of the lobbyists in Washington.

During his presidency, however, Obama achieved the opposite, as evidenced by the current acute political polarization. He increased public spending in response to the economic crisis and generated the largest fiscal deficits in four decades. The efficacy of such policies will be discussed for a long time, but the economic recovery was historically slow and came at a high cost: public debt shot up almost 50% and is to exceed 100% of GDP.

Obama’s healthcare (often called “Obamacare”) reform was one of the most important public policy changes in the United States in decades, but Obama did so without the support of a single Republican in Congress and was very unpopular with the public.

In his second term, Obama complained that Congress did not support him, so he was increasingly governed by dubious executive decrees. Thus, he amended his own health law unilaterally and ordered to spend billions of dollars not approved by the Congress.

In the same way, he ordered that more than one million underage immigrants be legalised even though Congress rejected a similar bill. (His immigration record was mixed, as Obama also deported millions of US immigrants, far more than his predecessors).

Now that Trump is about to succeed him in the White House, he will not only inherit the powers created by Obama, but he will also be able to unilaterally reverse many of his policies. Trump could, for example, deport minority immigrants more easily, especially now that they were registered with the government. And the electoral rejection of Obama means that his health reform will be largely reversed by a Congress with a Republican majority.

It is not until now that many of those who supported the concentration of power under Obama are waking up to the danger that this means. What would be the reaction of the legislators if Trump, for example, not receiving the support of Congress, simply redistributes the national budget to build a wall with Mexico? Too late for such questions.

But the thing gets even worse. The president who came to power criticising the “imperial presidency”, especially with regard to foreign and security policy, has strengthened it. Obama not only continued with many of the more extreme policies of the Executive Power that he once condemned, but on many occasions strengthened and extended them.

His administration detained suspected terrorists without due process, proposed new frameworks to keep them locked up without trial, did not close Guantanamo Bay, targeted thousands of individuals (including a US citizen) to execute them with drones, invoked secret doctrines to protect torture and spy programs and, covertly, expanded the nation’s massive electronic surveillance.

Last, but not least, the Obama’s administration foreign policies were disastrous for the world stability: Libya and Syria are just two of the examples of how Obama’s administration took erroneous decisions in the Middle East. While the backed “Syrian rebels” were using chemical weapons in Syria, Barack Obama concern was to publish his music playlist in Spotify. Let’s not even discuss here the constant interference in other conflicts and countries, such as Ukraine, Turkey, et cetera..

In the end, it doesn’t sound like Donald Trump was completely wrong when he said that Obama can leave the legacy of being the worst President in American history.

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Guilherme Schneider is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Radboud University (Netherlands) and Master Degree in International Business at the EAE Business School (Spain). He worked for top Consulting and Technology Services companies in the Americas and Europe and is a Political Analyst at WikiStrat.