Obama’s legacy: He sparked hope — and got blindsided

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By Julian Zelizer,

from CNN,

Barack Obama has been out of the White House for only a little more than a year. But it’s not too soon for historians to begin to assess the impact of his momentous presidency. Soon after the election, I convened a conference at Princeton University to start the discussion, and now some of the work by scholars who attended the meeting has been published as the first historical assessment of the 44th President’s two terms. In the piece that follows and with the contributions from some of the historians, we attempt to analyze what Obama did and did not accomplish.

To begin, any assessment of President Obama has to reckon with the extraordinary election that resulted in the election of Donald Trump as his successor, a President who has seemed determined to erase Obama’s legacy. Obama’s failure to see it coming — in this he was not alone — is one of the biggest question marks over his White House years.

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’s election in 2008 was supposed to signify that our country was finally moving in the right direction — a country born with slavery had elected an African-American to be president.

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