By James Wallace Harris, Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Lately my conservatives friends have told me that Barrack Obama is the worst president the country has ever had. I ask them how they come to that conclusion. They just say he is the worst, and everyone knows it. I point out he did win two terms, so by that metric, he’s ahead of all the one term presidents. Most people think it’s much too early to judge Obama’s legacy, but I wondered if there are yardsticks by which we can measure on-going presidential success.
Some conservatives are quite hard on past presidents, such as this book, Recarving Rushmore. They judge presidents by very narrow value systems and personal opinions, and would remove Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt from Mt. Rushmore. I did find some conservative news sources basing their judgment of Obama on an opinion poll taken by Quinnipiac University. It has a sample size of 1,446 and a fair spread of demographic diversity. But is current opinion any real measure of actual performance? It would be better to say the poll showed Obama has low popularity at that moment. If the same poll was taken after the recent Supreme court rulings it might be very different.
If you search the web you’ll find two kinds of presidential evaluations. Opinions and numbers. That old saying about actions speak louder than words apply here. The only real measuring of reality is with numbers reflecting action.
Forbes Magazine took a numerical approach, effectively using statistics and graphs. By gathering a variety of economic measurements they showed Obama outperformed Reagan on job creation, economic growth and investing on Wall Street. Here’s just one of their charts – see all here.
A personal way to numerically measure a president’s performance is to look at your retirement savings. Mine took a beating under Bush, but has rallied nicely under Obama.
Once we get away from opinions and into numbers, Obama’s track record looks much better. By using money as a measuring stick, Forbes also ran a story back in 2013 “Economically, Could Obama Be America’s Best President?” This makes me wonder how many quantitative yardsticks I could find. If we use health insurance as a measuring tool, millions more Americans are protected now. Just look at this article from New Republic, “7 Charts That Prove Obamacare Is Working.” Or this article from Vox, “Barack Obama is officially one the most consequential presidents in American history.” Politicians have been trying to find a way to provide Americans with health insurance for over a hundred years, and Obama was the first to succeed.
We really should ask what we want from the captain of our political ship. For some requirements, we all want the same thing, whether conservative or liberal.
- Economic Stability
- Social Stability
- Law and Order
- Maximum freedom for all
- Opportunity for all
- The promise of a secure future
Economic stability means reasonable growth with no bursting economic bubbles or inflation. What conservatives want is unfettered growth that allow them to get rich quick. That has always led to disaster. What we really want is a stable steady-state growth and low unemployment. And it’s become very apparent that wealth equality is important to overall economic stability. Minimum wages that cover living expenses is good for long term economic stability.
We all want to live in a safe society, and a peaceful world. Law and order without corruption is the key to social order. Stable societies have corruption free police, national guards and armies. Societies where everyone is treated fairly have a great happiness index. As we bring political equality to all, we should have less social unrest in America. If we could stop arguing for a few years over what is marriage and how to give everyone health insurance, we might find less polarization in our society. If religious beliefs and sexual relationships were private affairs there’d be a lot less anger.
Many conservatives hate Obama for personal reasons. Because he’s black, or think he’s Muslim, or believe he was born outside the country, or he doesn’t support some pet personal belief. I also think a lot of conservatives hate Obama because of team mentality. Like rabid football fans who passionate hate rival teams, I feel some Republicans just can’t accept anyone who plays for the Democrats. Personal traits and party affiliation should not be considerations in evaluating a president’s performance.
In 2016 we want to elect a president that can keep the country peaceful and prosperous. Every four years we want to elect a president that will enact policies that will continue that security into the future, and even the far future. Refusing to deal with climate change now, puts future America at risk. If you think about the United States surviving for a thousand years, or even a million years, we can’t use up all the resources now, or destroy the environment or climate.
I think we need to get away from opinion polls. We need to start measuring political success impartially by statistical indicators in as many ways as we can find data to track. It would be great is we had a governmental site that had a whole range of graphs like this one from the Washington Post.
The power of infographics is constantly improving. Just look at this one at Bloomberg Business. I can’t copy it here because it’s an animation. Go to the site, and then slowly scroll down and watch the show. I find the use of numbers more persuasive than opinion.
If you go to this Google search you’ll see hundreds of graphs that measure all kinds of indicators that prove Obama is not the worst president – not even close. In terms of creating a stable economy and providing more freedom, jobs, security and opportunity to the most people, Obama has done an extremely good job.