Barack Obama gives up on a united America
The former president has given up any pretence of a post-partisan USA
There was once a time when Barack Obama dreamt of leading a post-racial, post-partisan America. Back in 2004, the then Senate candidate famously declared: “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is a United States of America.” This was no doubt a sincerely held belief, and one that he ran with during his presidential run three years later: “I don’t want to pit red America against blue America. I want to be the president of the United States of America.”
Then, reality intervened. Obama left office as the most polarising president in history (before the arrival of you-know-who), with virtually all of his major achievements coming from party-line votes or executive actions. By his own admission, he failed: “There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide.”
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Now it seems as though the 44th president has finally cast off any pretence that there is a United States of America (in the symbolic or cultural sense). Stumping for two Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey this weekend, the forty-fourth president sounded more like a flame-throwing populist than the austere president he once was. “We don’t have time to be wasted on these phoney trumped-up culture wars, this fake outrage, the right-wing media’s pedals to juice their ratings.” He continued: “You’ve [Republicans] started to fabricate lies and conspiracies about the last election — the one you didn’t win. That’s not how democracy is supposed to work”.
“You’re trying to rig elections … when that doesn’t work, you start fabricating lies & conspiracy theories about the last election, the one that you didn’t win.”
— Obama calls out GOP for restrictive voting laws while campaigning for VA gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. pic.twitter.com/4NIB2wAmeO
— The Recount (@therecount) October 24, 2021
These were uncharacteristically strident — and tribal — remarks from a president who has always prided himself on restraint. Indeed, it took him four years to directly criticise his successor, who wasn’t exactly a friend of the Obama administration. But this weekend showed a different side of the former president, one that accused Republicans of trying to rig elections:
Why is this significant? Because it comes at a time when red and blue America has never been more divided. Not only does each side now have their own anthem, flag and founding date, but talk of a civil war along with discussions of ‘national divorce’ have become a part of American discourse. As extreme as that may sound, a recent survey by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia found that about 50% of Donald Trump voters and 40% of Joe Biden voters agreed to some extent that the country should split up, with either red or blue states seceding.
We shouldn’t read too much into two speeches. But the fact that even Obama has succumbed to the pull of partisan politics is a worrying harbinger of things to come.
It’s been my experience that people who witter on incessantly about “bringing people together” and “uniting the country” are fine until they run up against people who don’t see things their way. That’s the reason the American Founding Fathers distributed power as diffusely as possible, to stop “unifiers” with a vision. People like that always think everyone else will just fall in behind them if they present themselves in a reasonable way, but they’re always wrong, and when they realize they can’t persuade everyone into the fold, they get nasty. And it’s always the other guy’s fault. We’re seeing Obama now for what he actually is.
The problem with diffusing power the way the American system dies is that nothing ever seems to get done, especially now it has become incredibly partisan. Both Obama and Trump have seen major policies they campaigned and were elected on (such as Obama’s healthcare reforms and Trumps immigration policies) blocked and held up at every attempt. The only way they can get past this is executive orders, which means any debate then doesn’t happen and the opposition invariably end up dragging the whole thing through the courts for years.
Come the end of the presidential term nothing has been achieved and it’s some other poor persons turn to go through the whole charade again
Re your comment on executive orders, they have a place, perhaps, but are not a substitute for legislation, which is a bit complicated by it’s very nature.
But when you have a filthy fraud “I’ve got a pen and a phone” like Obama, who governed almost exclusively be executive order, it is a massive abuse.
Take the so-called “dreamers,” who are economic terrorists (illegal aliens) like all the other economic terrorists. Obama campaigned for them. He went around the country pleading that they deserved “a path to citizenship.” I disagree, but Obama did his best. He said many, many times that this had to be done legislatively, that he was not a king, that he did not have the power to grant a massive amnesty, he pleaded for legislation.
The dreamers had a vote. They won in the House, lost in the Senate. Their path to citizenship did not prevail. And what did Obama do? 15 minutes (figuratively) after they lost, he did what he had repeatedly said he couldn’t do.
Vile and disgusting!
So you’ve just proved my point. A president elected on a policy of granting an amnesty to dreamers was unable to do so due to the convoluted nature of the American System. The only way he could keep his electoral promise was to issue executive orders, exactly the same as Trump had to with his much stronger immigration restrictions. I’m not arguing for or against either policy here, simply that it’s far too easy for partisan nonsense to block any policy one side doesn’t approve of.
Personally I don’t see the point of a second chamber, people elect their representatives and they should have the power to enact the policies they campaigned on. If the public don’t like it they can vote them out at the following election
The Senate as it exists now is not as it was originally created. Senators were appointed by state governments to represent the state as a whole, rather than being directly elected as they are now. I agree that there seems to be little point in having two kinds of directly elected representatives. Under the previous system, you would not have had senators like Manshin and Sinema who are essentially Republican lite because they represent red states. You’d have actual Republicans. And without direct mandate, senators in general were more inclined to hang back and act as final controls rather than in-the-trenches partisans. That’s probably why the system worked reasonably well for so long.
In The Administrative Process (1938) James Landis advances a parallel complaint. Less explicit but very nearly parallel is Woodrow Wilson in The State (1889). But, these complaints does raise the question: What should government be doing? Some people will say too much. Others will say not enough.
I believe a government should be free to enact the policies it has campaigned on without the opposition (which by definition lost the previous election) being able to scupper it. If the policy proves to be unpopular then the opposition can campaign to rescind it at the next election, but they shouldn’t be able to block it from being enacted in the first place.
That’s just my opinion obviously, which is why I’m no fan of second chambers such as the HoL in the UK or Senate in US or Aus. They just strike me as an unnecessary level of government
In recent years in the US, there is no real majority. Whoever gets elected is supposed to represent ALL citizens, not those of one particular party. That they remain resolutely partisan creates the no-compromise situation.
I’m guessing all those that downvoted me are happy Trump wasn’t able to keep any of his campaign promises regarding the wall and immigration then due to the losing opposition being able to thwart large parts of it
That is one of the greatest aspects of our system. That it shuts down where there is no agreement is a feature, not a bug. I might seem like a horror, but in reality, when you need the will of the public to govern, and you cannot get at least enough to vote on something, to pass something, maybe it needs to be looked at closer to be the publics will, and not just a bit of willow-the-wisp partisan BS.
In theory yes it’s possible that could work, that it could prevent the more unpopular ideas getting through. However in reality almost vote is split directly along party lines, so in my opinion it just descends into a preening talking shop with nothing of note ever getting passed
Yes. Nothing gets passed.
You are missing the fact that it isn’t supposed to be a government ruling over us, but rather a gov’t <em>of us</em>. If we are delving into partisan bickering, which I will fully admit is where we are at, then maybe it isn’t a time to pass anything.
If something important comes up, we will probably agree on what to do, or at least whether or not to do something. But unless that happens, it is far, far better to do… nothing.
I disagree personally. I’d rather a party that’s elected be free to pass the laws promised in their manifesto, not having the excuse of blaming the opposition if they fail to deliver. If those laws prove unpopular then the opposition can campaign at the subsequent election to repeal them
One of the problems with that is that there is so much that happens in the world no political party can predict what will need to be done exactly. And when you follow it up with political parties saying that they will fix X, and then the fix is, let’s just say catastrophically stupid, Obamacare is a wonderful example of that. See, he campaigned on platitudes such as “hope” and “Change”, but when it came to the nuts and bolts of policy and law, it was hard left boilerplate, and quite crap to be frank. In fact, it was so bad that it cost him the supermajority that he had in Congress, losing the house completely and almost the senate. And that is just one example.
But, to your point, the US cannot just turn on a dime and elect new officers. We have an election schedule. And that is just as important to the whole balance.
To most western countries the problem with Obamacare appeared to be that it didn’t go far enough, it was watered down significantly to try and get it past the roadblocks in the US system that it became a hodgepodge system incorporating the worst of both worlds. The US is just about the only major nation whose healthcare isn’t free at point of use, the rest of us just don’t see free healthcare as a far left policy.
TINSTAAFL, or, There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. You pay for your health care, it is just at a remove. England pays for its health care, and many people say, without irony, that it sucks. Big Time. Heck, you once admitted that what should have been done re COVID was shoring up the health services. That is as clear an admission that what you have sucks as anything I have seen.
I have MS. No way do I want my health care to be a line item, no matter that every other country has done this. And you can see the proof in the pudding of how successful US health care is by the number of people who come here for the HC alone, not to mention the opportunities that having a dynamic economy, one not retarded by one more massive gov’t spending regime.
I am assuming that you know that India has “free” health care. Well, free but not universal, as it doesn’t cover the hinterlands. Venezuela has free healthcare, only no doctors or medicine. But, hey, it’s free!
Thank you, but I will take my bills upfront, and pay them on time.
You do realise the American taxpayer actually spends more per head on their system than the UK or almost any other country that has free point of use healthcare don’t you? Then you have your bills on top? The UK system has its faults, it’s a top heavy organisation that is sorely underfunded compared to its European counterparts, but you’d be hard pressed to find any Brit, Aussie, Canadian, Kiwi or European who’d swap their system for the American one.
And if you don’t like the public system you can always pay to go privately anyway
With respect, I never thought that these “I’m a uniter not a divider” people were fine….not for a minute.
I simply thought they were liars. And I’ve always been right (on this).
I was happy when Obama came to power. I didn’t pay much attention to politics back then, beyond thinking George Bush and Tony Blair had no business invading Iraq. A few years into his presidency and I realized that his slogan of ‘Change’ was empty and he was just riding the gravy train.
Donald Trump, for all his faults, broke the mold. He was an outsider that was never supposed to be president, the joker in the pack of cards. Which is why the establishment went nuclear on him and those who desired true change. This current Democrat Party is the most vengeful political group I have ever experienced. They’re out to hurt those who opposed them: the uppity working classes who are now being subjected to ideological and psychological warfare by the very tax-funded institutions that were originally designed to aid them.
With respect, I do not understand and strongly disagree with your first sentence, but the rest is spot on. I hope that this sentiment is true with those who voted for Sleepy Joe Biden–or is it officially Senile Joe Biden?–who voted for a “return to normalcy.”
I told them that they would long for the Trump middle of the night tweets because Biden would hide in the WH basement, and no one would know who is running the country. So true.
Obama promised an end to middle eastern wars, so I started to become jaded when he continued and expanded them.
They really want to take down Florida and Texas. If they can manage that they figure the rest of the low population red states will be easy to isolate and take down. They are in for a fight though. We don’t believe any of their nonsense and are ready to fight back. The already are having a terrible time in red counties in blue states who aren’t listening to any of their dictates.
I think both sides are divisive. On the one hand you have intolerant, woke, authoritarian public health tyrants and on the other you have intolerant, semi-fascistic, anti-vaxx conspiracy theorists. Good luck America.
Exactly. It’s always easy to blame the other side, but we all have to be aware of how we are feeding this divisiveness ourselves.
like an abused spouse, both sides to blame? I have lost my right to return to my old home of London because I will not vax – that is pure Fas* ism.
Do you actually know what Fas*ism is? I’ll tell you what it isn’t – it isn’t is a generalised insult or curse.
Exactly. I mean the nazis had a right to gas all those jews. Let them explain their side of it. Maybe we can reach at something inbetween? Only gas half the jews?
But you DO have a choice. Victims of fascism don’t.
No – the old thing that there is blame on both sides is a huge fallacy. Was this true in WWII? This is a war on the scale of that one, but one of economics and freedoms taken, and dividing up the people in Democracies so the Socialists may make every one poor, and then buy their votes.
The Lockdown, Mandates, Passport, Track and Trace, side are out to destroy the West, and thus the world, economy so the Global elites may divide and conquer economically and do the CBDC, and the Great Reset and Build Back Better – which is really the era of Nu-Feudalism with them as the Kings and aristocracy and us as the lackeys, peasants and serfs.
There is not wrong on both sides! There is wrong on one, and fighting for freedom on the other. This plandemic is never letting a crisis go to waste in furthering their agenda. This is not about health!
If you’re seriously comparing partisan bickering to a global conflict that killed tens of millions, as well as the crimes of the Third Reich then you clearly are deluded.
I’m not a fan of the way Covid has been handled, but to me it appears to be governments being terrified of bad press rather than some global conspiracy. At the start of the pandemic, if a country had stayed fully open while its neighbours locked down and subsequently suffered a much higher fatality rate they would have been crucified by the papers, so once a couple locked down it was much easier and safer politically to simply copy their neighbours and then claim any difference in the number of deaths wasn’t their fault.
I think you’re a absolutely right about fear of the moronic press being the main driver of the lockdowns, but only at the state and local levels. The national-elites actions are clearly not about the health of the citizens.
I would put to you that the left in the US is starting to reek like fascists rather than the libertarian right.
Obama was never for a united America. All the unity talk was just posturing targeted at affluent white people. But it was phony from the start. No news here.
Love your name. How are the plants?
This was no doubt a sincerely held belief….
Really? I had no doubt that this was not his true view, and that he was the Divider in Chief. Remember, this Black Jesus was a disciple of Rev. Wright–God Damn America–and his America-hating wife, who taught him America from the perspective of a beneficiary of what you call “positive discrimination,” who had and has a massive chip on her shoulder. Obama knew little about America–born in Hawaii, raised in Indonesia, his experiences were far outside the mainstream. And his America-hating mother was a huge influence on him, but did him the greatest favour by dying before he came up. Obama never would have been presidentially viable with an America-hating nutter of a mother speaking to the press.
Obama was and is a vile, disgusting poseur, who ingratiated himself with the powerful, and a bit like Collin Powell before him, cast a spell on otherwise thinking Americans and others (See the comments of Julian Farrows below). There was no substance to Obama, no principles. Instead of the Nobel Peace Prize (“Who knew that I would turn out to be so good at killing people, that it would be my strong suit?”), Obama should have received every possible acting award, since his entire schtick was all an act. Not real, an act!
Reality is that he was and remains anti-white, anti-American, and in 50 or 100 years, he will be a laugh line in history lessons: And shortly after America was attacked by radical Islam, it elected a president–twice–named Barack Hussein Obama. Are there any people born Christian named Baruch Israel Cohen?
And how was Obama even America’s first “black” president? Another scam. Isn’t it more accurate in these hyper-sensitive times–that he helped bring about–to call Obama “bi-racial?” It is now fashionable to check many race boxes in the US Census. Obama made a show out of checking black, despite being “bi-racial,” and in so doing, expressed his hatred of white society, which raised him. This “blood of Africa runs through my veins” piece of garbage even rejected a white girl who loved him because….she was white. As a scheming, manipulative political operative, only someone exactly like Michelle could make him acceptable to black America–which has no real love for individual Africans in America–despite all the “Africa is the motherland” tosh. Incidentally, it is worth noting that the names of radical left blacks in America were mainstream 50-60 years ago–to be named Barack Hussein was certainly an anomaly, a hindrance to success at the time–hence, “Barry.” Think Lori Lightfoot, Susan Rice, Michelle Obama, and many more. Today they are given less mainstream, dare I say more divisive names.
Finally, I welcome what this author and more and more commentators mention: a form of national divorce, but I think a Civil War is more likely. I welcome the dissolution of the United States of America because it’s not united, and there is no hope for national unity. I don’t want to be a citizen of a country where half the country does not share even the most basic common values, culture, and traditions. Where half the country despises me and a significant part of that half wants me dead. Let’s call it a day, peacefully, but lock and load in case that doesn’t work.
Surely there will be readers who do not share my views, my skepticism. And yes, there are countries that have been very successful and prosperous when divided along racial/religious/ethnic lines–such as Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia.
Oh, wait, they weren’t so successful after all. And how did those countries end?
Lock and load. Civil War soon!
“There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide.”
Honestly quite a funny quote if you know anything about American history. Not a pair of gentlemen who were afraid of a bit of partisanship.
As for Obama, the idea that he is just now all of a sudden engaged in partisanship is ludicrous. As this article observes, he passed his bills on partyline votes. He engaged in a bit of “bipartisan” mood music whenever the occasion demanded or political benefit might be had, but he has never been any less partisan than any of them. And his recent speeches are fairly standard “rally the troops” type stuff that a popular elder statesman of the party might be expected to give to try and turnout the vote for a very unappealing gubernatorial candidate in VA.
I don’t understand how so many people could have been so fooled. My radar was flashing danger signals the first time I heard the man speak. He has achieved much of what he wanted from the beginning and is working overtime to keep us divided now.
If you think Obama was sincere in 2004, maybe you would like to buy this big bridge that I own in New York City.
“when that doesn’t work, you start fabricating lies & conspiracy theories about the last election, the one that you didn’t win.”
Oh, the irony, in the mouth of a democrat. Russian “interference” anyone ?
How can you look yourself in the mirror? These professional politician are the most morally bankrupt bunch of people on the planet…
A plague on both their houses for a shocking abnegation of responsibility?
This is, of course, after he put the kibosh on
That some here see it as preferable to have a president who is a pathological liar, unable to show genuine interest or empathy for any other humans, to Obama, for all his faults, goes a long way to explaining why the US is in severe decline in pretty much every way you can think of.
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