Four Ways the Obama Legacy Will Backfire


This is the season to discuss President Obama’s legacy. After all, he is the first black president set to leave the Oval Office this week that begins with Martin Luther King Day and ends with Inauguration Day for his replacement.

Perhaps history will always remember him as the likeable man with a likeable family that he is. History is kind that way. We don’t focus on the negative aspects of, say, the founding fathers’ personal lives, but on their achievements.

But what achievements, exactly, will Obama be remembered for? It seems likely that each of his major achievements will backfire.

Most significantly, Obama redefined marriage. Today, elite opinion at universities and in the media hails Obama for breaking his campaign promise and embracing homosexual marriage.

But will that last? The state became involved in marriage not because the state has any interest in romance but because the state has an interest in the next generation. Marriage bonds parents to each other and turns their focus to bettering the world for their children.

Redefining marriage so that non-procreative couples can get married turned that on its head. Now, marriage has become a way to register your romantic relationship with the state. What will that lead to? As a religious guy, I reject same-sex marriage on principle. But I expect that before too long secular people will also reject the idea that the government should keep a registry of sex partners.

Second, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama won high praise for his peace efforts early on. Then his commitment to peace drove his foreign policy.

But at what cost? He promised to leave Iraq and he did — with disastrous consequences. ISIS rose to fill the vacuum America left, and Obama waited too long and did too little to address the rise of ISIS. And his foreign policy failures continued, leading to the rubble of Aleppo and the annexation of Crimea. Won’t his commitment to peace be remembered for the violence that resulted from it?

Third, Obama “fought for women.” Obama promised early on to support abortion — for the sake of women —more than any previous president, and he did. How will history remember that?

Think of the ways abortion is wrong: We know more than ever about unborn human beings. We even operate on them. So abortion denies science, it denies the right to life, and suggests that women have to kill their own children to be the equal of men. Abortion will leave a darker stain on our generation’s legacy than even slavery did on our forefathers’. Obama’s support for killing children born by mistake and his promotion of taxpayer-funded abortions will horrify future generations.

And to do it all, Obama had to fight against religious freedom.

Above all, Peter Heck argues, one act will define Obama:

“Barack Obama will forever be the president who worked diligently to put the gun of government to the heads of the Little Sisters of the Poor, demanding that they either pay to destroy children in the womb or be crushed. You can’t candy-coat that.”

His fight against religious freedom was relentless, including curtailing the free speech of military chaplains, but it reached its high point in the HHS Mandate, the rule he imposed on Catholic institutions and which he had to go to the Supreme Court to try to enforce on the Little Sisters of the Poor.

But lest we forget, by redefining marriage he also took a stance against every major religion: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism all define marriage as the union of a man and woman.

So — how will Obama be remembered?

History is the tale told by the victors. If modern secularist thought outlasts religion, then Obama will be a hero. If it doesn’t he won’t. In fact, as I have argued before, secularism is already falling by its own weight even economically. And, alas, even on strictly philosophical terms, it looks like religion is winning the battle for hearts worldwide.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Tom Hoopes, author of What Pope Francis Really Said, is writer in residence at Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kansas, where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications Department and edits The Gregorian, a Catholic identity speech digest. He was previously editor of the National Catholic Register for 10 years and with his wife, April, of Faith & Family magazine for five. A frequent contributor to Catholic publications, he began his career as a reporter in the Washington, D.C., area and as press secretary for U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer. He lives in Atchison with his wife and those of his nine children still at home. The views and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Benedictine College or the Gregorian Institute.


  1. My goodness, this is a poorly-written straw-man argument, and yet still completely predictable. These are not Obama’s “major achievements” by any means. They are the issues (marriage, abortion) that define this website.

    1) I realize that you oppose same-sex marriage, but marriage to LGBT couples is more than just “a way to register your romantic relationship” with the state. You can oppose the right to marry without needlessly diminishing the value that others place on their own personal marriages.

    2) I also realize that foreign policy isn’t your field of expertise, however an honest account would acknowledge that President Bush signed the status of forces agreement in 2008, and ISIS grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq as a direct result of that disastrous war.

    An truer account of Obama’s “commitment to peace [driving] his foreign policy” might also include reducing the threat of nuclear weapons, reversing Bush-era torture policies, a commitment to multilateral diplomacy, and increased respect for our country around the world.

    I agree that it’s a mixed legacy, but let’s try for a fairer portrayal rather than focus on a prize that even Obama felt he didn’t deserve.

    3) I don’t know why so many CV writers feel the need to use passive-aggressive quotation marks so often as a way to diminish other people’s views they disagree with, i.e. “fought for women.” Arguing that abortion-related policy is the only way that Obama “fought for women” without mentioning, at the very least, equal pay, paid family leave, domestic violence, and sexual assault is really disingenuous.

    There are so many of Obama’s accomplishments that even conservative Catholics could celebrate without betraying their principles about marriage and abortion. If on MLK Day of all days, the best you can say about our first black president is that he’s a “likeable man with a likeable family,” and then proceed to distort his legacy, perhaps this is a column that shouldn’t have been written.

  2. Hear hear. I agree with your views on the Obama legacy and you have given me more hope that his policies will not be our legacy.

  3. I agree every thing Obama did was a terrible
    Idea. One after another all attacked GOD.

    He failed to remember GOD is waiting for
    all of us.

    BUT OBAMA was good at getting Republicans
    elected in every state. AND for that we thank him.

  4. All of your comments have merit , but it seems to me that you are leaving out a few important issues. When he took office, the country was in the midst of a crisis financially because of the banking crisis, There was a crises in Iraq, and the automobile industry was on the verge of bankruptcy. Any one of those issues would have been a major challenge for any President. As he left office, the banking industry is showing record profit, as is the automobile industry. Albeit because of watered down regulations in passing banking regulations, there is very little in place to stop a repeat of the disaster that hit. It is always said this can never happen again, as it did when the Lincoln saving disaster hit, and even then little was put in place to regulate banks from causing another disaster, which we found out. We don’t learn from history. As to Iraq , the fact that we went in to a place we had no business being, left us with a no win proposition as to pulling out. The Bush administration left Obama with disasters to overcome, which he did in a lot of cases. As to his issues with morality, from your viewpoint, he was a disaster, but don’t overlook the economic disasters that had to be addressed.

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