Obama, admittedly, has had a mixed reputation among liberals and progressives. Many of the promises made while on the campaign trail in both 2008 and for his reelection in 2012 he has backed down on. However, one must give credit where credit is due. Some of this list may prove controversial, as some of the accomplishments are perceived as half-measures, and some are controversial for other reasons, but at the same time, during a time when the country is extremely polarized among political lines, it often seems like a wonder that he got any of them accomplished at all.
5. The Iran Deal.
While his predecessor (George W. Bush) was very well known for starting wars, wars that unfortunately in some cases Obama has continued, Obama also reached a historic deal with a long time enemy of the United States, Iran. Some progressives may think the deal didn’t go far enough, and at the same time, it’s unknown with the incoming Donald Trump administration what will happen with the deal, but all agree it was definitely historic.
4. Marriage Equality.
While Obama certainly doesn’t deserve credit for the long running court cases and disputes that eventually lead to marriage equality, his administration’s backing down on defending the “Defense of Marriage Act”, as well a Obama’s tacit support through his 2008 platform of the repealing of the act, his ideas definitely paved the way for marriage equality.
3. Obama Pardoning Non-Violent Drug Offenders.
While Obama has had an abysmal record on protecting whistle blowers, as well as not prosecuting corporate criminals (many whose actions led to the 2008 recession), he has in recent times been doing a lot of good as far as commuting sentences (see: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/03/30/president-obama-has-now-commuted-sentences-348-individuals) of some of those convicted under harsh and unfair sentencing. It may take years to reform the criminal justice system, but what Obama has done more recently has been at least a good start.
2. Opening up Cuban-American Relations.
While opening trade and other relations with longtime adversaries of the United States is hardly “liberal” by any stretch (see Nixon and China for example), Obama’s historic olive branch to the Caribbean nation gave people hope of reconciliation, even if it was to the chagrin of many of the more conservative Cuban American exiles and their families
One of the most contentious points on this list, and obviously not without controversy, Obamacare was (?) an unprecedented overhaul of the health and medical system of the United States. Even though it has it’s roots in a corporate compromise on healthcare going back to ideas proposed by the right wing Heritage Foundation, for the first time it was federal law that one could not be denied insurance if they had a preexisting condition, and also individuals could stay on their parent’s health care plans until aged 26. Obamacare isn’t without it’s problems, but it was a step in the direction of a national health care system that the rest of the western world takes for granted.