President Barack Obama’s new book, “A Promised Land,” is a best seller and has drawn a variety of responses as the former leader of the free world shared his thoughts about time in office and America’s future.
Fareed Zakaria, political commentator and host of a CNN Sunday morning talk show, made some interesting observations about the Obama book during a Nov. 22 broadcast over the cable network.
Mr. Zakaria lauded the president’s writing style and the way Mr. Obama was able to show sympathy for those who were his political rivals, ranging from former Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to the nefarious Tea Party movement that rose to oppose him.
The writer and analyst also recounted moves Mr. Obama made to reach out to Republicans, who declared that their first order of business upon his election was to ensure that his presidency failed. He notes Mr. Obama was “a moderate Democrat, conservative in temperament,” and chose key economic advisors who were two of his party’s “most centrist market-friendly experts,” offered Republicans a cabinet post and influence in the administration, sent troops into Afghanistan, and broadened drone warfare.
The Obama “health care plan was modeled on the conservative Heritage Foundation’s old proposal, one that also served as the basis for Mitt Romney’s program when he was governor of Massachusetts,” adds Mr. Zakaria.
“This reign of moderation and compromise, however, elicited a reaction from the Republican Party that was furious and vengeful,” Mr. Zakaria continues. “Despite many compromises Obama got not one Republican vote for his stimulus or health care bills in the House of Representatives. And opposition to his policies was often couched in blatantly racist ways, such as posters denouncing Obama came with caricatures, pictures of him as an African witchdoctor with a bone stuck to his nose. The man who succeeded him in the office, Donald Trump, rose to political prominence by casting doubt on whether Obama was born in the United States. Obama talks about these hysterical reactions to him intelligently, but briefly, never offering deep analysis or passionate anger. He admits he wasn’t focused on the ominous undercurrents that were growing in strength. He writes ‘my team and I were too busy,’ but it might also be that it would take him into deep and dark waters that are so different from the hopeful, optimistic country he so plainly wants to believe in. America, for him, remains a promised land.”
Mr. Obama’s team may have been busy, but it’s highly likely that the first Black president and his team were in deep denial about how fractured America was and remains. The most clear indicator of the political and social chasm in America was the rise of Donald Trump and the wide support Trumpism received this election. Instead of a repudiation, a president who has violated every political norm, insulted women, hired staff accused and convicted of crimes and cover-ups, bungled and lied about a pandemic that has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, soiled the U.S. reputation on the world stage and practiced the raw, naked politics of division received more votes than any Republican in history. And, as a “loser,” Mr. Trump received more votes than President Obama did as the “winner” of the 2008 presidential election.
Yet Mr. Obama remains hopeful as he often speaks of the messiness of democracy and one-step-forward-two-steps-backward-American-politics. But his hopefulness seems to always rest on the long suffering of Black people and hope for change inside of America. His appeal is to belief that things will get better and this too shall pass, but will it?
What evidence and indicators do we have that America is willing to change? None. Certainly, there is no indicator of major change on the political horizon and none is promised. Mr. Obama, before ballots were cast for president, rejected any notion of a “transformational” Biden presidency and the president-elect’s mantra is “build back better.”
What does that mean for Black folk dying from Covid-19, lagging in health status and access to care, beset by police and fratricidal violence, mired in severe poverty, and bullied in an anemic politics where the promised reward for services rendered never comes?
Mr. Obama’s words, nor his policies, have ever reflected the “fierce urgency of now” seen by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the former president has not delivered major messages challenging White America to be better while often castigating Blacks, even successful Blacks, in his speeches.
America has been and remains a land of broken promises and lies for Black people and nothing shows any willingness to change. And our blind faith in benevolent slavemasters or magical thinking that systemic change will come someday, is a dangerous delusion. If you think that you are among friends while seated with enemies actively plotting your doom, your destruction is on the menu, not your survival nor your agenda.