On Thursday, there’s a decent chance you will be joined at the Thanksgiving dinner table by family members who despise President Trump and wish President Obama would “come back.” This weird, ex-boyfriend-like nostalgia for the distant Obama years seems to be spreading with every NBC News or CNN tweet.
If you do end up spending time with a family member who misses President Obama so much that they tweet shirtless photos of the man (wait, a sitting U.S. Senator did that?), I urge you to present to them the following challenge:
Name one “accomplishment” of President Obama’s administration that left the United States better off than before. It should be pretty simple for them, right?
Now, I hardly criticize President Obama anymore. As far as I’m concerned, it’s best to let the past remain just that. I am still hopeful that Donald Trump’s presidency will be a glowing success economically, judicially, and on the world stage. These are matters to which I prefer devoting my thoughts these days. However, conservatives still get smacked with the Obama nostalgia on a regular basis, as illustrated by the former President’s “happy birthday” tweet to Joe Biden. It currently has over 436,000 retweets and 1.6 million “likes.”
This slightly pathetic state of reminiscence that liberals and the Left keep finding themselves in is obviously fueled by their loathing for our new Commander-in-Chief. When they watch President Trump’s on-camera appearances, his attempts to stay on script constantly unfettered by his natural inclinations, they yearn for the sexy eloquence of Barack Obama. When they see their favorite policies facing potential extinction, they wish for the days of old, when President Obama’s big government Progressivism and identity politics reshaped the litmus test for establishment Democrats.
It’s astonishing, really, that so many people are dying to rewind the clock by nine years to experience what they see as one of the most successful presidencies in American history. So, should you find yourself breaking bread with an Obama’s Witness this Thanksgiving, challenge them to name the 44th President’s major “successes.” Then hit them with the truth (respectfully, of course).
Their first response will undoubtedly be the Affordable Care Act (“30 million more people insured blah blah blah”). But do they know that premiums have skyrocketed for a swath of Americans, making health insurance UN-affordable? Do they know President Obama promised many they could keep their doctor? (They couldn’t) Do they know the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, held that the forced purchase of a specific commodity by the federal government is constitutional? (It isn’t) Do they know that the “insurance cartel” is not a creation of capitalism’s excesses but of government’s collusion? Do they know that moving even further down the road toward a single-payer system would bankrupt the country?
They will likely tout President Obama as an economic wizard, who not only saved our nation from another depression, but catalyzed historic growth; it was if he hit the NOS button from Fast & Furious while ringing the Wall Street trading floor bell. Hillary Clinton loved to brag about such claims during her miserable attempt at a campaign for President, but they’re simply not true. The jury is still out on whether George Bush’s TARP bailouts or Obama’s ARRA stimulus package and auto industry bailouts were the right long-term solutions. Economic growth remained steady in the 2% ballpark, a measly figure. In 2016, there was actually a “jobs gap” of 14 million despite the Obama administration’s constant assertions to the contrary.
Oh, and the national debt has now exceeded $20 trillion. This is not sustainable. Your 21-year-old cousin who majors in intersectional identity theory might say something to the effect of, “but, like, what does the national debt even mean, like why does it matter? We’re the richest country in history.” It matters for so many reasons. According to Forbes, “historically [economic] growth has not suffered significantly until debts reached 90% of a nation’s GDP.” In 2016, the national debt was 106% of GDP. What it essentially boils down to this: the debt must eventually be paid. Here is more from Bruce Bartlett at Forbes:
Recently some foolish bloggers have suggested that it would be better to default on the debt than raise taxes. That would, of course, cause tremendous hardship for millions of Americans because some $800 billion in Treasury securities are owned by private investors, almost $700 billion are owned by mutual funds, more than $500 billion are owned by state and local governments and more than $300 billion are owned by pension funds, among others. I tend to think that they won’t take too kindly to the idea that raising taxes would be worse than paying them the money they are owed. In the end the debt must be paid, and we will have to raise taxes and cut spending to make sure it is.
Thankfully the Republican Congress is actually hard at work trying to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Now if only they would simultaneously pass spending cuts. Wouldn’t that be a sight for sore eyes?
Moving on, your liberal relatives might mention marriage equality. Casting aside the fact that President Obama personally did nothing to make that happen—and publicly opposed gay marriage until it was politically inconvenient—do they know why Obergefell v. Hodges was an assault on our Constitution? Do they know that five Supreme Court Justices used a “dangerous fiction of treating the Due Process Clause as a font of substantive rights,” as Justice Thomas argued in his dissent, to rewrite laws decided upon by the voting citizens of thirty-two different states? Do they know that government is “incapable of bestowing dignity?” They probably won’t, but urge them to read Justice Thomas’ entire dissent from Obergefell.
How about foreign policy? President Obama was a Kennedy or Reagan-esque stalwart of American strength, liberty, and values on the global stage, right? Actually, they probably love him for being precisely the opposite. Apologist-in-Chief Barack Obama embarked on a world tour during which he lambasted past American intervention in international affairs, which reeked of nefarious, imperialist motives. His earliest foreign policy “victory” was ending the war in Iraq entirely too early and without leaving a “status of forces” agreement in place, thus clearing the way for the Islamic State to begin its crusade in Iraq and neighboring Syria. By the way, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate recently crumbled, all in a matter of ten months of President Trump.
His largest foreign policy “victory” was the Iran Nuclear Deal, the most significant betrayal of Israel by any U.S. administration in history and a guarantor of instability in the Middle East and a nuclearized Iran. If your relatives praise President Obama for this deal, urge them to watch Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress in 2015. Remember, this exercise is not meant to belittle or berate your family members, but to educate them with alternative perspectives they may have never been exposed to. Hopefully, you will change their minds on some of the issues as well.
Lastly, what of race relations in America today versus December 2008? I will always recognize the importance of President Obama’s election and the impact that such a milestone had on our nation’s history. That being said, I’m not sure there’s a single person in America who believes race relations improved under Obama. Ask your cousins or aunts or nephews why they think this is the case. If they concede that President Obama could have done more, perhaps a good faith dialogue can actually occur! If they say it’s because of all the racist white people who just wanted to see Obama fail, challenge them to name one high profile example of this and why it stemmed from inherent racism. If they say it’s because of institutional racism and white privilege, just laugh at them and turn on some “Ben Shapiro Thug Life” videos.
The contrast in images that Republicans and Democrats see when assessing the Obama presidency is not the most glaring example of the fracture in today’s polity. We can bestow that honor upon the 2016 election. However, whereas the election was simply a tribalist shouting match, the debate over the successes and failures of Obama’s eight years is almost entirely reliant upon real issues and the direction of our country. The time is now to reach a firm verdict that, in terms of the government’s size and scope and our social fabric, President Obama left the United States worse off than it was when he was sworn in.
There are millions of young children, now high school and college students, who were too young to formulate educated political opinions during the Obama years. Conservatives cannot allow their impressionable minds to be inculcated with the near holy reverence which the political left bestows upon Barack Obama in his retirement. If that were to happen, America will continue to depart from the founding values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
What better way to stave off this fall of Rome scenario than with a respectful conversation at Thanksgiving dinner? When your hipster cousin mentions something neat he saw at a recent Women’s March, take that as an indicator to start the challenge.
After a healthy, good faith argument with evidence-based rebuttals is enjoyed by both sides, you can sink into both the couch and the glorious delirium of your food comas, watch Giants-Redskins or the Macy’s Parade, and doze off thinking about everything you are thankful for. This year, I’m thankful for football (i.e. the Patriots), family, and the Founding Fathers.
Cover image courtesy of the Obama White House Archives (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)