Thursday, January 19, 2017

Obama Era Postmortem

Obama's Legacy as a Historian:

Around noon on Friday, the presidency of Barack Obama will officially be history, and for months the news media has been awash in considerations of the first African-American president’s legacy.
But there’s one aspect of his record that has received less attention: his legacy as a historian.
True, Mr. Obama may be unlikely to emulate Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and follow his years in the Oval Office with a stint as president of the American Historical Association. But some scholars see in him a man who used the presidency not just as a bully pulpit but also as something of a historian’s lectern.
And he wielded it, they say, to tell a story more strikingly in sync with the bottom-up view of history that dominates academic scholarship than with the biographies of great leaders that rule the best-seller list.
“Obama had these confabs with the presidential historians, but I don’t think he thinks like a presidential historian,” James Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, said, referring to the regular dinners Mr. Obama held with leading historians in the early years of his presidency. “I think he thinks like a social historian.”
I've said for years, he's about as close as we'll ever get to having a true sociologist in the House.
David M. Kennedy, a historian at Stanford who attended the dinners, said that Mr. Obama had very much focused on the presidency, and on how his predecessors had responded to crises or maneuvered in Congress — “blocking and tackling,” as Mr. Kennedy put it.
But this president, Mr. Kennedy added, also had “a detached sense of himself as an actor in history.”
“He doesn’t think of history as himself writ large,” Mr. Kennedy added, “but as a big stage with a lot of actors on it.”
Paging Erving Goffman: please report to the dramaturgical analysis aisle as soon as possible.

I've certainly been critical of the Obama years and his justice department in particular: criminal justice reform was largely a failure, decarceration never materialized, and Eric Holder's tenure should be remembered as one of the great disasters in the department's history (save for probably the incoming AG). Obama's failure to close GITMO, the drone strikes and disaster in Syria, and being the only Nobel Peace Prize winner ever to maintain a kill list, have also been more than troubling.

But in terms of support for the arts and we writers, musicians, painters, actors and other nuts out there? No one was more passionate about it than Obama, which is important since the incoming administration supposedly wants to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, PBS, and a host of other arts-related endeavors.

This makes sense, if you think about it, because killing funding for the arts kills critical thinking, and killing critical thinking ensures more bozos being elected to political office by a lobotomized, walking dead populace.

No postmortem can be written without sufficient hindsight, so I would expect the combination of time and the impending, uh, "shit show" the next few years, will probably help put the Obama presidency in proper perspective. The fact that his approval rating is 60% on leaving office, higher than it's been since he took office, and trending upward, is probably a good indicator of things to come.

Bend over and grab your cankles, y'all. Yes you can, and yes you did.

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