BY DAVID LIGHTMAN

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WASHINGTON

Barack Obama promised hope and change when he became the nation’s 44th president eight years ago. He delivered on the change, but leaves a nation still struggling for hope.

He departs office after leading the United States out of its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and as the country enjoys its most robust economy in years.

His policies helped revive the auto industry, clamp down on financial industry abuses and provide health insurance coverage to millions. And his very ascension to the White House “sent a strong signal about America as the land of opportunity,” said former South Carolina Gov. James Hodges, a Democrat.

Yet Obama leaves not with a country united and eager for what comes next, but one divided between rural and urban, left and right, lower-skilled workers and the more educated. Huge numbers of people are not confident about their financial futures. They’re deeply concerned about whether the government can keep them safe. Overwhelming numbers of Republicans continue to dismiss Obama as too liberal and out of touch.

The Republican-led Congress and President-elect Donald Trump see Obamacare as emblematic of much that’s gone wrong, a costly big-government disaster spawning higher premiums and less quality care.

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