By Anita Kumar, McClatchy DC
Fist fights at campaign rallies. A major presidential candidate called a bigot and bully by members of his own party. Gridlock in Washington. And Americans downright pessimistic.
This is America’s politics today, seven years after Barack Obama was elected president with a promise to change it all.
The political change he predicted never appeared. Instead, partisanship and dysfunction have grown worse. His legacy on policies is more mixed. He did accomplish things, notably the Affordable Care Act. But his legacy on politics is another story.
Republicans and Democrats refuse to compromise, sometimes even talk. Congress has become more unproductive with lawmakers failing to pass budgets or even consider presidential appointments. And most Americans have little to no confidence in the federal government to tackle the problems facing the nation in 2016, according to a poll released in January.
Just Thursday, about 20 people were arrested after hundreds of protesters blocked an intersection and vandalized a police car outside a rally for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump at the Orange County Fairgrounds in California. Several fights broke out.
“It’s fair to say that President Obama entered office as chief executive of a divided country, and he’s done nothing noticeable to heal those divisions in his seven years,” said William Galston, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and now a senior fellow at the center-left Brookings Institution.
Barring an unexpected change in the country, the political legacy of the 44th president will be that he left office with the atmosphere in the United States in worse shape than when he was elected.
That failure is all the more disappointing, Democrats and Republicans say, because he raised expectations so high.