Conventional wisdom is that President Obama had a "bad year" in 2013. You hear it on talk shows and read it in newspaper columns. People cite the government shutdown, problems with the Obamacare rollout, and disclosures about the NSA.
But was it really a bad year? Consider these facts:
1. The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) went into effect October 1st, despite the determined efforts of Republicans to repeal or defund it.
2. Millions of people now have health insurance for the first time. Some got coverage through healthcare.gov, others used the toll-free line or worked with navigators. People under 26 are now covered by their parents' health insurance.
3. The expansion of Medicaid has provided millions of others with coverage. Hospitals like Cook County Hospital are now being reimbursed for care they've been providing for free.
4. The economy is growing at a faster pace, and the unemployment rate continues to fall.
5. President Obama refused to give in to the government shutdown, which ended without further damage to the economy and our political process.
6. The President established the principle that we will not allow the use of chemical weapons by announcing his intention to attack Syria. At the same time, he restored the role of Congress in committing US troops abroad. Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons and is doing so without the loss of US troops and without our becoming engaged in another quagmire.
7. The US continues to draw down its troops in Afghanistan and did not become enmeshed in any new foreign military interventions.
8. The Senate limited abuse of the filibuster, allowing many of the President's well-qualified appointees to be approved.
9. More states adopted marriage equality, and several allowed medical marijuana or even legal, recreational use. These aren't President Obama's accomplishments as such, but his endorsement of marriage equality and his admission that he smoked marijuana when he was young helped create the environment for those societal changes.
10. The President has increased public attention to increasing economic inequality, climate change, and gun violence prevention. None of those issues will be resolved in a year or even in a Presidential administration, but putting them front and center is a necessary first step.
11. Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated the framework of a temporary agreement with Iran that will reduce the risk of was in the Middle East.
Peace, prosperity, and progress? Not a bad year after all.