One of America’s principal contributions to political language is the expression “lame duck,” referring to the limited — or frankly nonexistent — ability of a public administrator to perform during his last term in office — that is, when he is no longer in a position to qualify for re-election. With slightly over a year before the next election takes place at the White House, it seems that Barack Obama may be an exception.
After six years of delivering minimal results, and with Congress heavily dominated by Republicans, everything seems to imply that Obama’s legacy will be nothing but negligible, and that his last two years in office will be characterized by paralysis. On the contrary, since the 2014 general election, the president has managed to produce oil in what seemed to be a political and diplomatic desert. In terms of foreign politics, Obama has been responsible for the restoration of U.S.-Cuba relations, the agreement reached with Iran regarding its nuclear program, and the consensus with China for the limitation of polluting gases. And last week, the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement became reality, creating a pact between 11 countries representing 40 percent of world trade. As for domestic policy, the president has pushed a series of progressive measures ranging from the reinforcement of his much-criticized health care reform to Internet neutrality to the constitutional protection of homosexual marriage. And numerous others are in the making, such as the reform of the criminal justice system.
Barack Obama has played all possible weaknesses to his advantage in order to continue passing laws. This is precisely what stops him being a “lame duck” during his final term in office. He’s demonstrated that even with Congress standing against him, and with underlying motives and single-mindedness proving a challenge, a president’s work never truly stops. He may have escaped being a “lame duck,” yet that certainly doesn’t mean he’s succeeded in fulfilling promises made long ago during his very first presidential campaign. Guantanamo, perhaps the most painful example, remains. Other negative examples revealing minimal improvement include the uncertainty surrounding the war in Syria and the maintenance of mass surveillance programs, leaked by Edward Snowden. However, it is possible Obama may surprise us yet. It is possible he may be a “flying duck.”