The utter failure of Paul Ryan and Donald Trump to pass a bill rolling back the Affordable Care Act makes one thing perfectly clear: love him or hate him, Barack Obama is one of the most consequential presidents in American history — and that he will be a particularly towering figure in the history of American progressivism.
He signed into law a comprehensive national health insurance bill, a goal that had eluded progressive presidents for a century — and built it strong enough to withstand assaults from the Supreme Court and avoid repeal from a Republican administration. He got surprisingly tough reforms to Wall Street passed as well, not to mention a stimulus package that both blunted the recession and transformed education and energy policy.
He’s put in place the toughest climate rules in American history and signed a major international climate accord. He opened the US to Cuba for the first time in more than half a century, and reached a peaceful settlement to the nuclear standoff with Iran.
You can celebrate or bemoan these accomplishments. Liberals hail them as moves toward a social democratic welfare state and a foreign policy more skeptical of military intervention; conservatives critique Obama’s efforts to expand regulation and the government’s reach, and accuse him of abdicating America’s role as world hegemon.
But no one can deny that the changes Obama has wrought are enormous in scale.
And it was only four months ago.