The Obama Legacy
Edited by Bert A. Rockman and Andrew Rudalevige
“Hope” and “change” were the keywords of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and in his farewell address on January 10, 2017, he cited the evidence that he’d delivered—from reversing the Great Recession, rebooting the auto industry, and unleashing the longest stretch of job creation in the nation’s history to winning marriage equality and securing the right to health insurance for another 20 million citizens. At the same time, and with a view to the country’s divisive polarization, he made a plea for “the decency of our people” and “the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.”
In hindsight, it is increasingly possible to understand whether and how Obama’s legacy matched his rhetoric as well as to evaluate from various angles what his presidency accomplished and what this has meant for US politics, public policy, and civic life going forward. In The Obama Legacy some of the leading observers and scholars of US politics take up this challenge. In twelve essays these writers examine Obama’s choices, operating style, and opportunities taken and missed as well as the institutional and political constraints on the president’s policy agenda. What were Obama’s personal characteristics as a leader? What were the policy aspirations, output, and strategy of his presidency? What was his role as a political and public leader to the various constituencies needed to generate presidential power? And how did his presidency interact with other political forces?
“A thoughtful and sweeping examination of a historic presidency. Bert A. Rockman and Andrew Rudalevige recruited the nation’s preeminent presidency scholars to contribute to this remarkable collection of essays. These insightful essays will set the parameters of the debate over the Obama presidency for years to come. This is a must read for all of those interested in the Obama years—and for those grappling with the rise of Donald J. Trump.”
—Stephen F. Knott, author of Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, The War on Terror, and His Critics
“The Obama Legacy, edited by Bert A. Rockman and Andrew Rudalevige, is the first in a new University of Kansas series on Presidential Appraisals and Legacies. It sets a high standard for what is to come. A set of 12 well-written and well-argued chapters cover the policies, politics and polarization of the Obama years, and the complexities and accomplishments of the man and his presidency. The authors do not shy away from criticism as they probe and explain the disappointments as well as the accomplishments of the Obama years (with emphasis on the fragility of accomplishments achieved by administrative directives rather than law), but they also reinforce our memories and enhance our understanding of what it takes to leave the presidency with the approval of a majority of the nation.”
—Joel D. Aberbach, author of Understanding Contemporary American Conservatism
“Bert Rockman and Andrew Rudalevige have enlisted a wonderful group of scholars to assess the Obama presidency. The collection of essays not only does much to recount the important lessons and issues faced by President Obama but also analyzes the larger questions of how the presidency impacts race, power, party, and public policy. This book should be considered an essential starting place for anyone who is serious about understanding the Obama presidency and its impact on national politics and governing.”
—Mitchel A. Sollenberger, author of The President Shall Nominate: How Congress Trumps Executive PowerSee fewer reviews...
Addressing these questions and others, the authors analyze Obama’s preferences, tactics, successes, and shortcomings with an eye toward balancing the personal and institutional factors that underlie each—all the while considering how resilient or fragile Obama’s legacy will be in the face of the Trump administration’s eager efforts to dismantle it.