With Barack Obama back to being a private citizen having handed over the reins of power to Donald Trump today after eight years as United States president, one noted political scientist said unlike former leaders, Obama has not left a legacy for the Caribbean.
When Obama became the first black person to win the presidency in 2008, many in the region had hailed his achievement and anticipated even better relations between the US and the Caribbean. However eight years later, those expectations have not been met, according to political analyst Peter Wickham.
“The past presidents have left a legacy for the Caribbean that was fairly direct in the sense of we had a CBI [Caribbean Basin Initiative] programme or Enterprise for the Americas programme or something like that.
“In the case of Obama there is no such legacy in the sense that there was no specific plan of action,” Wickham told Barbados TODAY.
However, the pollster acknowledged that the Caribbean and the rest of the world had “drawn inspiration from a presidency that was outstanding in terms of US domestic policy”.
Wickham pointed to normalization of relations with Cuba as a major achievement, although he said the failure to close the US military prison on Guantanamo Bay had left much to be desired.
“Generally speaking I think we draw inspiration from the fact that as a person of colour he was able to win the election, he was able to perform reasonably well, and he leaves the White House without having made the kind of fuss or rancor [associated with some of his predecessors]. There were no scandals or that type of thing.
“And I think we will look back and see him as a person who did well and who represented well, to the extent that a person of colour could be as good a president or better than any that has come before, and certainly will be as likely to stand out a lot more than the one that’s likely to follow,” Wickham stated.
Looking ahead to the incoming Trump administration, Wickham said it was difficult to predict the relationship between the Caribbean and Washington over the next four years.
“I think that anybody who suggested that they have an idea of what relations would be would be essentially misleading themselves. Because I don’t think that any of us knows what a Trump presidency would be like.
“Certainly the Trump election campaign has presented certain ideas, many of which have been modified and I think that it depends on how Mr Trump feels on the day he wakes up that you would get a sense of what he will do,” Wickham said of the 45th president, recommending that the region should adopt a wait-and-see approach.