Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Obama Begins Last Month With High Approval, But a Mixed Record and Endangered Legacy

RealClearPolitics records President Obama’s aggregated approval rating at 54 percent, a high for his second term. Pew Research records it a 58 percent and competitive with Bill Clinton’s final approval of 61 percent and Ronald Reagan’s 63 percent.

But Obama must contend with having led a party that lost the presidential race; hence, being unable to stop the alteration and cancellation of much of his legacy and a party at the nadir of its power in the modern era. Since 2009, Democrats have lost 64 House seats and their majority in 2010, 12 Senate seats and their majority in 2014, and are now down to 16 governors.

Because of the Democrats’ political losses, Obama’s domestic legacy after 2014 was built on executive and administrative authority, making it much more vulnerable to Trump’s wrecking crew. Obama’s foreign policy legacy is both subject to Trump’s alternative view, but also has been under assault by the reality of the rise of authoritarianism and expansionism in Russia, China and Iran and the collapse of the Western alliances’ trade and defense policies.

As Obama begins to focus on his Chicago library and think tank, his personal approval rating may be comforting, and is a reflection of the public’s general appreciation of his temperament and professional performance, but it is not much help in the challenges to come. America is about to move on and Obama is unlikely to be able to make much of a difference.

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