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For Obama and his supporters, a stubborn fact will linger long into the Trump era. Donald Trump would not exist as a political entity if not for Barack Obama. His elevation to the presidency would not have been possible without a backlash against the president whose time is coming to a close.
That means, for a good stretch of the Trump presidency if not longer, Trump’s success will be defined by his ability to undo what Obama did. The Trump whirlwind is already overtaking Obama, and January 20 will begin a countdown toward the unraveling of key initiatives regarding immigration, the climate, and race relations.
In response to the new reality, Obama is seeking to leave office with reminders of what got him there. With his calls to accept diversity and elevate political discourse, he set that up as a veiled warning of what his successor might bring.
“If we don’t create opportunity for all people,” he said Tuesday night, “the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.”
Obama leaves office with an array of achievements –- in health care, social justice, the economy, the environment, and efforts to disentangle the nation from a long period of wars. Yet the list of unfinished business is always and inarguably longer.