As the old train of history comes down the track towards Obama Station, two groups of people will stand on either side of the tracks. On the one side there are those who will remember the first African-American President of the United States of America. A man who brought so much hope and promise that in their eyes he was the change they had been waiting for all their lives. On the other side stands the 44th president’s biggest critics.

Not only were they ready to scrutinize the new president’s every move, but they were never going to be satisfied with the son of a Kenyan, no matter what he achieved. On board the old steam train was history, wise, observant, and aware that the yardstick by which this president would be measured will be different to that of his predecessors. This essay seeks to analyse the Obama Presidency from a lay person’s perspective, taking all relevant factors into account.

Even in a court case, where the guilt of the accused is beyond reasonable doubt, counsel is still afforded an opportunity to argue in aggravation and mitigation of sentence. The actions of the man in the dock are scrutinised by the court within the context of the relevant facts. It therefore follows that the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama must be viewed in context. What was the state of America when he was elected in November 2008? What were the historical challenges he would face? And what challenges would he inherit from the Bush administration? What changes did he promise to make? What changes did he actually bring about?

If you consider that a number of surveys and historians reportedly rated George W. Bush as one of America’s worst presidents, then you cannot begin to analyse Obama’s legacy without appreciating the situation he inherited, inter alia: the trauma of 9/11; two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq); growing unemployment; arguably one the worst recessions since 1929; historical challenges; and a nation generally very low on morale.

By virtue of being the first African-American President of the United States, the job also came with very high expectations. Many African Americans now believed they finally had someone in the highest office in the land who would not only fight for them, but begin to address the many injustices they still face today. A number of African states on the other hand, must have thought, at the very least, they would benefit from more favourable trade deals and perhaps even be treated with a little more respect by the rest of the world.

To top it all off, being a president in the age of social media means not only are you under constant scrutiny, but you are increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks and every mistake you make can be used against you quicker than you can take the oath.

It would appear that the balancing act that had to follow was a tricky one. The incoming president would have to inspire a nation, while being forced to make some tough decisions. He would have to deliver on his promises, while simultaneously being briefed on a fluid set of circumstances. In an interview with Lester Holt, an NBC reporter, Obama gives us a glimpse into the kind of opposition that he would face from Republicans for the next eight years.

The president recalls how while on his way to meet with members of the opposition to discuss the troubles facing the economy and to get their input, his aid informed him that the Republicans had released a statement saying they would oppose whatever reforms he was going to put forward.


Tell us: What role do you think social media plays in politics today?