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When Obama was first elected President in 2008, seven-year-old me knew almost nothing about him. But growing up in a Democratic household, I had a deep respect for him because he was like-minded. Now, as I have started to grasp the real-world consequences of politicians’ decisions, I’ve grown increasingly skeptical of Obama’s legacy, and started to question why the general public is so insistent he was our best president to date. 

For one thing, Obama didn’t like doing politics. The purpose of a president, who holds the highest power in the country, is to make a viable change for their constituents regardless of the backlash. Obama thought it would be too contentious and took a more neutral and vague approach with everything. When a doctor criticized a statement on Obama’s website to “fight right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose,” instead of standing firm on why access to abortion is a fundamental human right, he apologized for the framing of his support and vowed to reword the language. If this doctor (who swore on the Hippocratic Oath) wasn’t willing to extend even a sliver of empathy to women, why was Obama trying to understand his discriminative point of view? 

White House with American Flag
Photo by Joshua Sukoff from Unsplash

In regards to the Bush administration’s brutal killing of 500,000 Iraqi civilians, the former President claimed we should “look forward, not backward,” as opposed to condemning this war criminal. He even prosecuted the CIA official who leaked evidence of the torture program instead of litigating the torturers. By remaining complacent on this issue, Obama was justifying Islamophobic sentiments that remain a dilemma. In short, he was “attuned to injustice but moderate in word and deed.” 

Obama allowed the CIA to carry out drone strikes in the Middle East and chose to keep these drone killings classified information; he also allowed killings outside the Afghanistan war zone with countries that didn’t have any conflicts with the United States. In 2016, Obama ordered the deployment of at least 26,171 bombs. When divided into a year, that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day that the U.S. military attacked soldiers or civilians overseas with. How can someone who claims to value the sanctity of life give a green light to such wanton murder?

During his presidency, Obama prioritized the need to secure our borders and went on to deport the most immigrants out of all his predecessors. Donald Trump’s inhumane zero-tolerance policy for immigrant families was never done before, but the prior administration was also guilty of sending back many new immigrants with clean records. Fortunately, President Joe Biden has shown deep remorse for the way Obama’s cabinet had dealt with the sudden influx of Central Americans who just wanted a second chance. 

The fossil fuel industry, who lied about climate science for years, was praised by Obama for opening “millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration.” Then, he told Congress to find a middle ground to tackle climate change, as if a certain party doesn’t deny the existence of it (hell, they even politicized a virus, so are we surprised?). 

The fight for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ rights is far too time-sensitive for us to accept impartiality. We need to put someone in charge who cares enough about us to make America great, and that begins with acknowledging the terrible things our government has done to people, citizens and non-citizens alike. Though I remain hopeful about Biden and Kamala Harris’ abilities, I’m not confident they’ll make up for the past four years. America needs someone like Bernie Sanders, who has not once given up his integrity, or someone like AOC, who isn’t afraid to call herself a “fellow radical” for wanting to improve minimum wage. What’s funny is that the right labels these individuals as socialists, but compared to the rest of the world, America’s most left-leaning politicians are closer to the center than the actual “left-wingers.” 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Photo by Ståle Grut / NRKbeta distributed under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license

In no way am I insinuating that President Obama was the worst in history. I think Obama is an exceptional orator, great father, husband, and a charming person all around. Donald Trump, on the other hand, was the igniting fuel to the fires of white supremacy that hauled this country decades back. I merely believe we need to start judging politicians for their ability to do their job, not their personality.   

Chelina is a second-year Communication and Sociology double major at UC Davis. She loves binge watching Parks and Rec and considers herself an ice cream fanatic. After graduating, she hopes to work in journalism, public relations, or politics.
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