What is a legacy term? (In the presidential sense.)
January 12, 2020 11:09 PM   Subscribe

Hello, native speakers! I can find the concept online, but never in a context that gives me a definite sense of its meaning. Is it the second term of a president, or the term in which they can do the things that will make their reputation, or something else entirely?
posted by Skyanth to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
Can you post a link to an example of where you see this? I'm not familiar with this term and can't find it online in a quick search. People do talk about a president's "legacy" quite often, but not a "legacy term"
posted by brainmouse at 11:16 PM on January 12

I'm not familiar with the idea of a "legacy term," but it makes sense to describe a 2nd term maybe. With the 2-term limit, a 2nd-term president no longer acts with re-election in mind, and so may focus more on things that will help them be remembered in the future.
posted by p3t3 at 12:06 AM on January 13

I don't recall encountering that phrasing (though this article contends that "the second term is often referred to as the 'legacy term.'") But as p3t3 says, if the second term is the legacy term, it's not just because it's second, but because it's the term in which the president is freed from political constraints and is looking toward a time beyond their term of office.
posted by mumkin at 12:14 AM on January 13

You have it basically. In the U.S. context, at least, it does refer to the second term of a president. However, there's a particular nuance about this phrase... since presidents can only serve two terms, during their second term they are no longer concerned about reelection, and thus can focus on decisions about how they want to be remembered.
posted by oceano at 12:17 AM on January 13

Ex1: For the first time in all history, more people on this planet live under democracy than dictatorship,’ Bill Clinton announced in his second inaugural address in 1997. It was a bold claim of the sort that the American president, flush from success at Dayton and in the Middle East, and now the first full, two-term Democrat since FDR, felt within rights to be using at the start of his ‘legacy’ term.

Ex2: Amidst a sea of applause, President Barack Obama took the podium last evening to deliver his fifth State of the Union address. As the first SOTU address in his "legacy" term, this speech comes on the heels of the most severe government shutdown in the nation's history and an arguably anemic roll-out of his new government health care system.

Ex3: (Finding this just now, this makes me think that it is indeed intended to mean an actual legacy-making term and not just 'second term'): https://ips-dc.org/obama_the_legacy_term/
posted by Skyanth at 12:18 AM on January 13

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