Wednesday, March 30, 2016

This, Too, Will Be Part Of The Legacy

It was back in October and he later (sort of) apologized for it, but it was telling when NewsCorp chairperson Rupert Murdoch remarked "Ben and Candy Carson terrific. What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide? And much else."

This reflects a recurring theme throughout the right- that the first black President promised to wave a magic wand and make all of America's racial history go away.  But as Jamil Smith explained when he criticized Murdoch's perspective, once Barack Obama was inaugurated

it soon became evident that his mere corporeal presence in the Oval Office would not end racial bias or injustice—as some on both sides of the aisle had theorized. The “black president will kill racism” narrative was a joke to black folks in particular, given the inherent societal pessimism many of us share. But not to some, even today, who believe that the most prominent black leaders in any arena alone are charged with most assiduously attending to the racial divide. 

This narrative never made sense, especially to the few of us who, unpersuaded that an individual's race would be the defining characteristic of his presidency, voted against Mr. Obama in a primary in 2008 and for him in the ensuing general election.

Of course,  Republicans literally from the night of his inauguration in 2008 never gave President Obama a chance to do what almost no human being ever could do. Then, twelve Republicans including nine members of Congress met for dinner and agreed, as Robert Draper put it, to "show united and unyielding opposition to the president's economic policies" and to "jab Obama relentlessly in 2011."  More famously, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell- absent from the 1/20/08 meeting because of a feud with a participant- in October, 2010 would admit "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

They were sincere in their intent. One of the two signature legislative achievements of the President- the stimulus bill- passed with three Republicans (all Senators) in Congress voting in favor of it, despite the appropriation of revenues sufficiently meager that conservatives should have welcomed it. The other, the Affordable Care Act, passed with a grand total of zero (0) Republicans in favor, despite offering no public option and inspired by a plan originally proposed by the Heritage Foundation.

They should be more appreciative of President Obama. After the nation in 2008 elected as President a Democrat who was a former community organizer, they feared the worst and instead were rewarded with a President who reached out to them at every opportunity.

As now evident, this was foreshadowed a few years earlier in Senator Obama's speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention when, as Smith explained, his

grandiloquence was nothing compared to the trick he pulled in perhaps its most remembered passage. In asserting the oneness of the United States of America and implying that the union is free from political or racial separation or iniquity, Obama offered preemptive disagreement to the populist claim of “two Americas” that then-vice presidential nominee John Edwards would issue the very next night in his remarks. And he did so out of a black mouth, no less. The most talented African American politician you or I likely have ever seen was making it clear that he didn’t believe we citizens live in an American reality stratified by race, political belief, or heritage. This, of course, sounded recklessly optimistic and a bit insane all at once. 

Smith, adding "I knew immediately he'd be our first black President," realized that Senator Obama was sowing the seeds for his own successful presidential candidacy , in part by assuaging the guilt of white America. Obama also was satisfying the need of the political class and of voters to ignore the existence of two Americas, divided by political belief, race and/or heritage. He thus was laying the groundwork for turning a blind eye to the wide range of social and economic problems endemic to society.

"Crushing truths perish from being acknowledged," Camus wrote. Though it may be understandable with the weight of the Republican establishment arrayed against him, Barack Obama never has wanted to acknowledge those "crushing truths" and has done his best for twelve years to deny them.

Share |

No comments:


Give New York Times columnist Bret Stephens his due. Back before black lives matter was a thing, and criticism of that thing would get a pe...