How did we get from electing and re-electing a Black President of these United States, to streets filled with rioters burning, looting, and in some cases, outright assassinating their fellow Americans—rioting, burning, looting, and killing, purportedly over the statistically suspect issue of Police murdering Blacks? The numbers show that a White person encountering the police is just as likely to die at their hands as a Black person. How did we get here and what fork in the road could we have taken to avoid this mess?
Like many pundits, I keep a running list of topics/subjects I intend to opine on “as soon as I can get to it.” Today’s topic, The Missed Opportunities of the Obama Presidency has been on the list for quite some time now, although maybe not in so many words. Sometimes it takes a little nudge to get me off of my fat fundament and actually actually write the piece. Such is the case here.
It took a stellar article written by my friend and colleague Mike Miller, along with a very pithy comment by one of his readers, to get me off the dime. In his article, Miller points out a nice piece of writing by one of the all-time greats of conservative thought, Walter Williams. In his article, Williams in his down to earth, straight-talking style, puts paid to the leftist trope that Blacks in today’s society are no better off than they were during reconstruction. He writes:
In matters of race and other social phenomena, there is a tendency to believe that what is seen today has always been. For black people, the socioeconomic progress achieved during my lifetime, which started in 1936, exceeded anyone’s wildest dreams. In 1936, most black people lived in gross material poverty and racial discrimination. Such poverty and discrimination is all but nonexistent today.
Walter Williams along with Thomas Sowell and the late, great, Dr. Lloyd Marcus are the preeminent Black conservative thinkers of this era. Unlike me, an old fat White dude, their melanin content allows them to avoid the You ain’t Black, so you don’t get to opine on our problems/solutions, retorts from the left. Problem is, their ideas lack somebody with a large megaphone…such as the Presidential bully pulpit to help spread them. This brings me to the second part of the “nudge”
I get some of my best ideas and sometimes even a kick in the pants from readers who comment on my articles. In this particular case, however, I shamelessly poached one of Mike Miller’s reader-commenters.
JohnTruman writes (with my slight edits for formatting):
The Obamas had a historic chance to lead and they failed.
They could have led young blacks to join civilization: marriage, school, church, sobriety, respect, duty, legal work.
Instead, they stood by while black leaders taught kids to blame, to riot, to hate. Too many black voices seed black youth with rage.
They fuel feral pandemonium and get rich doing it.
The Obamas stood by while black culture descended into mayhem and despair.
John is correct…and he joins Williams, Sowell, Marcus, and many other conservative thinkers who have opined similarly. John goes one step further, however. He points out the opportunity spurned by the historic presidency of the first Black American to be elected to that high office. Consider this if you will; President Barack Obama came into office with a huge amount of goodwill and political capital…from both sides of the aisle.
Instead of using that goodwill to make a true difference in race relations, he chose to spend all of his political capital promoting Marxist beliefs while damned near wrecking the health care system in this country. On race issues, instead of promoting conciliation, he fostered strife, wading into discussions and using the bully pulpit to interfere in situations when he didn’t have all the facts. Remember the “Beer Summit” anyone?
When President Obama came into office he came with solid House and Senate Majorities. Almost immediately, he used that power and spent almost all of his political capital to cram an unwanted health care program down the throats of American taxpayers. What he could have done instead, is use the presidential megaphone to talk about the items John ticked off in his comment above—the importance of marriage, school, church, sobriety, respect, duty, legal work.
President Obama could have followed up those speeches with programs that supported those ideas and almost certainly would have garnered bipartisan support, especially coming from the nation’s first Black President — and a Democrat, to boot. For example, he could have encouraged federal legislation that would have education tax dollars follow the child. As the triumvirate I mentioned above has often said, next to married parents, the single biggest contributor to success for a Black child is completing high school. Instead, he chose to pander to the Teachers’ Unions, whose leadership has admitted publicly, that their priority is the teachers, not the children.
John, above, isn’t the only one calling Obama to account. Over at American Thinker, Robert Spencer holds the former President responsible for much of the racial tension we are seeing in the streets today. He writes (emphasis mine):
Racism is America’s original sin, and despite a century and a half and more of efforts to put it behind us, it is more of an issue than ever. A great deal of this is the responsibility of a man whose election to the presidency was hailed as the beginning of a new, post-racial era in American society, a man who was supposed to embody America’s rejection of racism: Barack Hussein Obama.
Although I didn’t vote for Barack Obama, on election night and for several months afterward, I did sport a glass half full attitude. Like Robert Spencer above, I was happy that we had finally, and symbolically, put away the last significant vestiges of racism in these United States. The party of slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK, and the soft bigotry of low expectations had actually nominated and elected a Black man to the most powerful position in the World.
Over time, and continuing up to and including today, that attitude devolved to seeing not just an empty glass, but a desert, bereft of any moisture at all. The rioting you see in the streets, the property damage, the injuries and fatalities fostered by terrorist organizations like ANTIFA and BLM could have been prevented. President Obama chose to use the political goodwill his historic election garnered to advance the socialist agenda and foster the entitlement attitude demonstrated by many of theses peaceful protestors.
Such entitlement attitudes obviously colored the thinking of Ariel Atkins, a BLM organizer who said:
I don’t care if someone decides to loot a Gucci or a Macy’s or a Nike store, because that makes sure that person eats. That makes sure that person has clothes.
That is reparations. Anything they wanted to take, they can take it because these businesses have insurance.**
Such a shame. The first Black American President, instead of using the huge megaphone his historic presidency offered, chose instead to foment distrust and discord. The violence we now see in our streets will set race relations back for decades. Only once could history choose to offer the presidency to a Black American for the first time. President Barack Obama wasted that opportunity.
**I originally saw Atkins’ comments via YouTube video, but couldn’t find it again when writing this. I ended up using the full written quote at Reason.com