Obama’s Last Year Wasn’t as Bad as They Say

His 2013 was lackluster—no doubt—but Obama made some good moves last year, too.

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There’ll be more fights ahead between the White House and Congress, but the president scored a win (later squandered) when he forced House Republicans to blink first in the standoff that led to the government shutdown, and got—temporarily, at least—Washington’s political fever to break. When the dust settled, the path cleared for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)—budget chairs in their respective legislative chambers—to come to terms on a deal.

Janet Yellen

The same president who tripled the number of women on the Supreme Court went on to nominate respected economist and current Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen as the Fed’s first female chair, and she's expected to be confirmed by the Senate this month.

Civil Rights

He hasn’t really done much that’s new on gay civil rights, but over the course of his tenure repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” and Obama's public support of same-sex marriage helped make the high court’s decisions to strike down provisions of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and not to reinstate California’s Proposition 8 seem inevitable.

Obamacare (Seriously)

And, OK, for now, keep Obamacare in the fail column. For reasons that can’t adequately be explained, team Obama—including Sec. Kathleen Sebelius and the president himself—kept their eye off the ball for four years while overpaid contractors botched a rollout that The Roots development team could have handled in their sleep with one hand tied behind their keyboards.

Policywise, the Affordable Care Act works—and premiums come down—only if enough healthy enrollees sign up to offset the cost of covering those who already need care. That hasn’t happened yet, and we won’t know if it does for a year. 

Without cost savings to individuals, or a bending of the infamous “cost curve,” the law is a loser. 

On the politics, though, Obama is playing a longer game. As of this week, more than 6 million people have signed up for Medicaid or for coverage on the ACA exchanges—nowhere near the planned enrollment goals, but not the fiasco of two months ago. To the degree that he’s failing, he’s doing it while trying to bring health care to the uninsured. In time, politically, that might wind up being a win.