As Barack Obama’s presidency winds down, I find myself wondering more and more how the history books will explain that we replaced him with Donald Trump. The indictments against the soon-to-be 45th president are well known and we’re about to spend the next four years prosecuting them so this week let’s take a moment to also focus on the often unheralded accomplishments of the 44th.
Each day this week I’m going to post highlights from a notable perspective on Obama’s legacy. Today we start with GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson, who earlier this year made a convincing case in a piece titled “Why Obama Will Go Down as One of the Greatest Presidents of All Time”:
In so many ways, Obama was better than we imagined, better than the body politic deserved, and far, far better than his enemies will ever concede, but the great thing about being great is that the verdict of enemies doesn’t matter.
It may be hard to imagine now, but in the face of rising chaos, we’ll crave unity all the more, and in future years whoever can speak most convincingly of unity will rise to the top. (It’s also hard to imagine many beating Obama at the game.) This year’s carnival election, with Trump as a kind of debauched circus barker, only makes the distinction clearer. The absurdity and car-crash spectacle of it all have already lent Obama an out-of-time quality, as if he were a creature from another, loftier century. Whatever happens next, I feel this in my bones: We’ll look back at history, hopefully when we’re zooming down the Barack Obama Hyperloop Transport System, and think: That man was rare. And we were damn lucky to have him.
Go read the whole thing.