Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Legacy of Barack Obama According to Cornel West

Today is the last full day of the presidency of Barack Obama.

For many, his ascension to power brought a fresh wave of hope for a country that desperately needed it, and many have remained loyal to him through these eight years. 

It all started in brilliant fashion, with Americans, and indeed much of the world, with incredibly high hopes for this man, Barack Obama, who had just made history by becoming the first black man to win the White House. 

After seeing their country disgraced and on the verge of an economic collapse following eight long years of poor economic policies that included more tax breaks and incentives for the wealthiest Americans and corporate supremacy, as well as not one, but two wars fought simultaneously and costing not just money, but lives. America' reputation was hurt badly. However, it spiked back up quite a bit with the election of Obama to the White House.

This man was not going to be able to live up to his incredible billing. In fairness, most likely no one could. However, President Obama turned out to be something very different than what the campaign version of the man had many people believing. For the most part, he was a disappointment.

How was he disappointing? He maintained far too many of his predecessor's policies, and a break from George W. Bush's policies is what a vast majority of Americans wanted, including tax breaks to the wealthy. He did not close Guantanamo as promised, and he increased the American surveillance state, most famously with the drones. The economy improved, but mostly for the wealthy, although his administration continually reinforced just how strong the economic numbers on Wall Street were. His policies clearly favored corporations, and he proved not to be as strong with environmental protection as he promised to be. Under Obama, who undeservedly won the Noble Peace Prize right in the beginning of his presidency, there were bombs dropped on average once every twenty minutes, and the United States got involved in numerous conflicts around the globe. 

Cornel West captured the spirit, and how this quickly came crashing down to reality:

Eight years ago the world was on the brink of a grand celebration: the inauguration of a brilliant and charismatic black president of the United States of America. Today we are on the edge of an abyss: the installation of a mendacious and cathartic white president who will replace him.

Indeed, some have suggested, with reason, that Obama's presidency ushered in many of the same pseudo-fascist policies that people now fear with the incoming Trump administration. His unconditional support of Wall Street and refusal to hold them accountable for crimes, as well as his favoring the de facto corporate supremacy that has been tightening it's grip over the country now for decades, and his decidedly unconstitutional actions of suspending habeas corpus and attacking freedom of the press, all are the less savory aspects of his presidency. Still, rather predictably, his supporters act with great sadness at the departure of this false prophet, who capitalized on his initial wave of popularity, and tried to project himself as a "cool" and "fun" president, while his policies actually were quite similar to his predecessors. Again, Cornel West says this quite aptly:

The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump – but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility. 


Here is another thought-provoking description of the Obama presidency, provided by Dr. West:

The age of Obama was the last gasp of neoliberalism. Despite some progressive words and symbolic gestures, Obama chose to ignore Wall Street crimes, reject bailouts for homeowners, oversee growing inequality and facilitate war crimes like US drones killing innocent civilians abroad.

Yes, that about sums it up.

And as we watch the very end of Obama's presidency, and prepare for the likely nightmare to come, we need to understand this. Again, West shares his thoughts:

In this sense, Trump’s election was enabled by the neoliberal policies of the Clintons and Obama that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. The progressive populism of Bernie Sanders nearly toppled the establishment of the Democratic party but Clinton and Obama came to the rescue to preserve the status quo. And I do believe Sanders would have beat Trump to avert this neofascist outcome!

But why did Trump win? In part, certainly race had something to do with it. White workers felt nervous about

The president has been reluctant to target black suffering – be it in overcrowded prisons, decrepit schools or declining workplaces. Yet, despite that, we get celebrations of the neoliberal status quo couched in racial symbolism and personal legacy. Meanwhile, poor and working class citizens of all colors have continued to suffer in relative silence.

Here are the two articles that I got Dr. Cornel West's thoughts shared above from:

Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama Cornel West, January 9, 2017:

Goodbye, American neoliberalism. A new era is here Cornel West, November 17, 2016:

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