As of 12:01 January 20, 2017, we have a new president, Donald J. Trump; the most odious and oleaginous man to grace one’s imagination. How did he get here? How did we get here? It’s the actions and inactions of his predecessor Barack Obama.
“My administration,” the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”
This was all Obama had to say to the greedy bankers sat before him when they were trying to justify why they deserved such high salaries and bonuses after they stole everyone else’s money and homes and got a government bailout. This statement also summarized this whole presidency. That he is a do nothing fence sitter. He tried to govern from the center like a good liberal, appealing to the morals and good conscience of the intransigent Republican party. While the Republican party obstructed and sabotaged, instead of playing their game on their level and strike back with whatever powers being a president affords him; Obama followed the rules, which was to do nothing, and then tell the voters who voted for him ‘sorry, I tried. If you have any issues, take it up with the Republicans.’ In his first midterm elections, he lost the House majority by a wide margin and nearly lost the Senate. He went from having a supermajority on both chambers to losing the majority in one chamber and nearly losing the majority on the other.
So this pattern went on. Obama doing everything half assed, never putting forth the full effort, in the spirit of compromise and finding common ground with his political foes. His so-called signature but about to be repealed domestic legislation the Affordable Care Act is another fine example of fence sitting. Instead of insisting on Single Payer or nothing, he concocted this messy hodgepodge of commingling of private insurance companies with public funds. Instead of insisting insurance companies play ball or the government will go ahead with its own government backed healthcare initiative, he compromised again. Eight years later, the ACA is all but useless, premiums are not lower and people find out they don’t get to keep their doctors unless they pay out of pocket for them. I have personal testimony to this fact. And if someone asks him now about the failure of Obamacare, he’ll say he tried his best with what he had to work with at the time. Not good enough.
Awkwardly, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, not having been in office for even a year, he’s never brokered any peace treaties, the only thing he remotely did which resembled an act of peace was his speech at Cairo University in Egypt about unity between Muslims, Jews and Christians. And the first foreign interview he gave as president of United States was to the Arabic network Al Arabiya (which we know now to be an Al Qaeda mouthpiece advocating for the war in Syria) as a show of good faith to the Muslim world. These combined actions furthered inflamed the claim from the far right that he’s really a Muslim and not a Christian. After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, he’s gone on to bomb seven countries, all of them Muslim, all of them impoverished, brown and black. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “led from behind” – (what the fuck does that even mean?) along with NATO allies and destroyed Libya, now it’s a wasteland, a failed state, infiltrated and occupied by extremists. With Syria, he didn’t take a strong stance against against intervention except by saying “Assad needs to step aside” and by creating an arbitrary ‘red line’, but allowed Gulf mercenaries to send armed gangs to essentially invade Syria. The Gulf States provided the mercenaries and the US sold the weapons to the Gulf states. He gave himself a huge pat on the back when at the last minute he decided to not bomb Syrian army’s positions in Damascus because the evidence for the gas attack allegedly carried out by they Syrian army (the ‘red line’) was not solid and could have been a false flag by the rebels to induce the United States to bomb Syrian army’s positions. So, with less than 24 hours to spare, much to the ire of Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama called off the airstrikes. He’s learned from the lessons of Iraq and decided to let brown Arabic speaking people go to war with each other and topple undesirable regimes rather than US army invading another Muslim country in the Middle East again. This way, there is plausible deniability. And if it all goes sideways, the State Department can blame it on ‘sectarian conflict’. Obama’s one foreign policy winner is the nuclear deal struck with Iran. He did this against the opposition of the Republicans, Israel and various Israel lobbies, which goes to prove, if he really wanted to do something, he can get it done, even in the face of strong opposition. It wasn’t that Obama had warm and fuzzy feelings toward Tehran, but that risking a nuclear war with an oil rich Middle Eastern nation who has the support and backing of Russia isn’t smart foreign policy. Any policy which prevents going to war with Russia or any of its proxies is a good thing.
The biggest betrayal of Obama was towards the middle and working class Americans, the people that voted him into office, the people that supported him in spite of everything. The same people who are misty eyed at him leaving now. Obama bailed out the auto industry but not its workers. The workers were faced with either redundancy, forced early retirement at a fraction of the promised pension or accept lower wages and without union protection (we can’t afford it – he said). When Obama chose Wall Street over Main Street and let people lose their homes despite bailing out the banks who held their mortgages, he betrayed the people. He gave the banks a blank check and then told them to go help the people in need without any preconditions or consequences for not following through. The banks have no incentive nor fear of consequences for not saving people’s homes and they’ve got billions in free government bailout money at the same time. He did the same thing with Israel, he writes them a $38 billion dollar check and then says ‘now, be nice to the Palestinians, don’t shoot innocent civilians and don’t bomb them’. Under Obama the mass surveillance state started by Bush has expanded. When whistleblowers outed the NSA mass surveillance scheme, they were punished mercilessly. Guantanamo Bay prison is still open. He did next to nothing against police brutality. Aside from offering words of condolence and platitudes, his open support for state sanctioned armed gangs is unwavering. If the issue of police brutality doesn’t hit home with him, then perhaps the accusation that he is detached, aloof and professorial isn’t too wide off the mark. Obama has been known to make good speeches at the right times to diffuse whatever overcharged emotions or events we are mired in, but they usually come after the horse has bolted. And reflecting back upon some of them, they sound downright patronizing and preaching. He deported millions of vulnerable undocumented immigrants back to poverty stricken and unsafe countries. Families are torn apart, lives ruined and disrupted, all to prove to Republicans that he’s tough on immigration. But to deflect from that, he granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children and without criminal records a path to citizenship. Obama did all of these things right under our noses and liberals are wiping away their tears as he leaves office today. Some even go so far as to declare Obama one of the best presidents this nation has ever had. That is unclear, what’s for sure is he is the first Black president United States has ever had and he can rest on that laurel. He’ll always be in the history books for that fact alone.
A combination of all of these actions and inactions angered and inflamed an already agitated nation. Worried about job security, the economy and how will anyone afford a decent standard of living anymore, the Democratic party offered the people Hillary Clinton – a neoliberal warmongering Wall Street and corporate shill, against the people’s choice of Bernie Sanders, who for all his shortcomings at least directly addressed the economic anxiety of the people (which the Clinton people turned it into a racist and sexist message as that’s only geared towards white working class men), where as Clinton babbled on and on about an esoteric form of equality which doesn’t address the income inequality and tough foreign policy. The Republican party had its own mayhem and disorder and they produced Donald Trump. Trump dumbed down the message and the American people by selling them a false bill of goods. Make America Great Again (again, what the fuck does that even mean). Trump will kick out the immigrants, build a wall on the southern border, he’ll bring jobs back (how he doesn’t say, employ them at his sleazy hotels?), and out of a better alternative, people fell for it hook, line and sinker. Trump didn’t win this election squarely and fairly, Hillary Clinton got three million more popular votes, but due to the archaic rules of the electoral college, Trump won the election. But the real story is about half of the eligible voters stayed home, couldn’t be arsed to vote. Hillary Clinton couldn’t do what Obama could, which is bring people to the polls, Obama had volunteers drive people to vote if they couldn’t get there on their own. So between the non-voters, third party voters, and the three million popular votes which didn’t count, we got Donald J. Trump as our next president. Liberalism has failed. Neoliberalism has failed. Capitalism has failed and morphed into fascism. Liberals won the cultural war but lost the political battle.
If Obama had only picked up the pitchfork instead of being the barrier to the pitchforks, even if that action failed and he turned out to only be a one term president, he would at least go down in history as not just the first Black president but also a president being on the side of the working people and not the powerful ruling elite.