Friday, November 29, 2013

Legacy of the First African-American President




I wonder how many people who comment on what President Obama said in any particular speech actually heard him speak. It’s far easier to read the media and form an opinion, but often there’s very little difference between an article that’s supposed to be journalism and the op-ed pages that are openly personal opinion. 

Not long ago he said he made two promises at his inauguration: that he wasn’t a perfect man and wouldn’t be a perfect president; and that he would work unflinchingly towards giving the middle class better opportunities to be rewarded for their work. He smiled as he said he didn’t break either of those promises. And he hasn’t. As to the first, nobody’s perfect. But it’s a rare American President who will stand up and acknowledge that, and then do what he needs to do to fix whatever problem has resulted from his imperfection.

Obama has done that with Obamacare. He has acknowledged that HealthCare.gov is flawed, and he hasn’t blamed the IT specialists who set it up. He’s clearly said “that’s on me”. He promised people they could keep their old medical insurance policies and it turned out they couldn’t. Again, he shouldered responsibility for that and did something about it. 

You would think, from the way the media interprets what he says and how he says it that he’s on the back foot. But he isn’t. If you listen to him speak you can see that.

He was never going to have it easy. It’s one thing for a country to want change; it’s another for everybody to actually be willing do what’s necessary for that change to happen. For Obama to have been optimally effective, voters needed to take responsibility for properly informing themselves about the Republican agenda, and not give them so much power to thwart Obama at every step. 

And as for him being African American, the racist river of blood that has tainted America since forever never dried up, it just flowed underground. It will be generations before every white conservative American can look at an African American president and see a man or a woman before they see the color of their skin. If it ever happens. What's more likely is that the conservative base will die out. They're vocal, often vicious, and counter-productive. But they aren't smart. They don't even wait for somebody to give them rope. They just grab it and go about hanging themselves.

There’s been a lot of noise about how the ACA is Obama’s legacy, and Republicans celebrated wildly whilst they thought they could take it down, then when HealthCare.gov floundered at first. They believed part of their main objective – to destroy Obama – was achieved. 

Firstly, they didn’t succeed, and HealthCare.gov is already functioning a whole lot better. Secondly, Obama’s legacy is that as the first African American president in a country still dessicated by racism he hasn’t buckled and given in to Republican efforts to derail him and his mission – to improve the lives of the majority of Americans; to strengthen the middle class and to change a status quo that’s brought the US to its knees. Part of that has been to provide all Americans with affordable quality healthcare and destroy the power insurance companies have had which they abused by selling low quality insurance. 

Obama has also withdrawn America from war-mongering and brought the deficit down from 9.2% of GDP in 2009 to less than half of that, at 4.1%, currently. It’s the fastest sustained decline in a deficit since World War II. No wonder House Republicans, whose main opposition to Obama in 2012 was the deficit, who don’t want the status quo to change, don’t want reform, don’t want to lose the power they’ve abused for way too long, stir up dust storms wherever they can to distract Americans from the truth. 

That Obama is successful. He was always going to be, no matter how hard it was for him.