One year after election, Obama presidency under siege By Brian E. Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Nov 5, 2009 - 1:43:22 PM Euphoria dissipates after the historic election of President Barack Obama
What a difference a year makes: The president is less popular, seems assaulted from nearly every side and still faces the problems of an ailing economy, a “jobless” recovery and two wars, with his partner in Afghanistan back in office because of a tainted election and a runner-up who refuses to stand for a political rerun.
It was November 4, 2008, when 66 million voters chose Mr. Obama, whose success rose out of the ashes of the some say failed, definitely unpopular presidency of George W. Bush.
The Obama message of change resonated around the world and with American voters. Now many question whether the president has moved too fast too soon or whether he has not moved fast enough. Mr. Obama's political ascension was meteoric, going from Illinois state senator, to a junior U.S. senator and president of the United States. The Obama balancing act—standing as president of all the people—and not incurring the anger of Whites suspicious of his loyalties has been difficult.
“He has faced a whole lot of serious problems, I think he's trying to address them, but he seems to always want to keep an arms distance from the issues important to us or anything that remotely comes close to being Black,” said longtime journalist and author George Curry.
“While his election should be celebrated, we cannot abandon our role of holding whoever sits in that office accountable. Basically Blacks remained silent, hoping that Obama would get around to us, and that's not the way politics work,” he argued.
“People react to voices, and just as he get nudges from women and gay groups and everybody else, he needs a kick in the butt from the African American community, because our needs must be addressed as well,” said Mr. Curry.
Other observers contend if Obama was White, there would've been a different response to him from Blacks, such as demanding more action on issues like employment, youth violence and bailout packages for disenfranchised communities, similar to bailouts for Wall Street.
“It was unprecedented and Black folks, baby boomers and older, did not expect to see a Black person elected to the presidency in our life time,” said Bill Fletcher, Jr., executive editor of the online Black Commentator publication, and past president of TransAfrica Forum. “It was an amazing moment, and for me as well as others of African American descent, we were ecstatic and to varying degrees cautious.”
Foreign policy challenges for president
Mr. Obama's foreign policy is not faring well. Amid calls for Mr. Obama to change strategy and get out of Afghanistan, recent reports charged wide corruption with allegations Ahmed Wali Karzai—the brother of President Hamid Karzai—peddled narcotics and is on the CIA payroll.
America has a long history of murky relationships in Afghanistan, going back to the Soviet invasion in 1979. The C.I.A, used and backed proxy groups to do the U.S. bidding in Afghanistan, namely the Mujahedeen and gave billions of American taxpayer dollars to the struggle to eradicate Soviet occupation of the country. It was in those years that Osama Bin Laden received U.S. training and financial backing.
Mr. Karzai retained power Nov. 1 when his man opponent Dr. Abdullah Abdullah declined to participate in a run off election, saying the Karzai government had not done enough to fix problems and root out fraud. By default Mr. Karzai retains his office and Mr. Obama called Nov. 2 for a new day in Afghan politics.
Internationally President Obama's approval ratings are still relatively high. Polls show people are still excited about him, hoping he represents a departure from U.S. arrogance toward the rest of the world. But the question is what about policy breaks from the past?
“We have seen no significant difference in policy between the two wars,” declared Mr. Curry, comparing the Obama and Bush administrations on Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Once you get beyond symbolism, we're still engaged in two bloody wars, we have not gotten out and even some conservatives like George Will are questioning whether we should be in Afghanistan.”
Polls, problems and politics
In January 2009—Mr. Obama's official start date—no time was wasted addressing the chaos of his predecessor, tackling economic problems; defining his healthcare reform act; planning his war strategy for Afghanistan and Iraq and plotting his course for foreign relations that included two major speeches in Egypt and Ghana, an audience with Pope Benedict XVI and several summits in Europe, the Caribbean and South America.
Mr. Obama's popularity dip partly reflects a growing sense of despair and lack of confidence that segued from “euphoric expectations” of him from the beginning, according to Paul Street, an independent analyst and author of “Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics.”
“A lot of liberal and progressive Whites had enormous expectations of Obama, frankly in part because he was African American, and that was such a dramatic departure in terms of symbolic representation of the presidency,” Mr. Street told The Final Call.
Bill Fletcher concurs that the level of expectation was high, adding that even many supporters did not really know Barack Obama.
“Many people who voted for Obama did not look carefully at whom he was and what he stood for and as a result had exaggerated expectation,” Mr. Fletcher said. “Many people voted for Barack Husain Obama, many others voted for Barack ‘Merlin the Magician' Obama, and they expected within 72 hrs of the inauguration that he was going to make miracles. This becomes a real problem because there was no sense of the gravity of the problems that we are in,” Mr. Fletcher said.
Mr. Street observed further that the same set of expectations wouldn't have been realistic for Democrats Hilary Clinton, and John Edwards, or former Presidents Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.
Any president that came in confronting what President Obama was facing, which was an absolute “economic meltdown of epic proportions,” probably the biggest fall since the Great Depression would have experienced the same swing in approval ratings, he argued.
Initial elation is one thing but unemployment numbers are approaching 10 percent and “thousands are losing their health insurance and homes each day,” said Mr. Street, “while an increasing number of U.S. soldiers are dying needlessly in Afghanistan.”
The danger of ‘corporate-managed' democracy?
Mr. Street described the political climate that ushered President Obama into power as “corporate-managed democracy,” where every four years the American people are in search of a “savior” or at least a more “effective manager” who can raise wages, curb militarism, provide affordable health care, fix the environmental crisis, and generally make life more livable.
In the presidential election season, the “American voters put their political hats on, they hope, and then go back to sleep,” Mr. Street said.
Giving an analysis, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam, warned about people lulled into a false sense that choosing one man fixes all problems. “Babies sometimes need the breast or the bottle and if the breast or the bottle is not present, a pacifier will do. Usually the baby will fall asleep,” said Minister Farrakhan during his Oct. 18 Holy Day of Atonement address in Memphis.
“This is a very dangerous time and we have to be very careful that the masses of the people are not being pacified by the fact that the first Black president sits in the White House. This can pacify you and lull you to sleep in a dangerous time, making you to think that we live in a post-racial America when the opposite is true,” Minister Farrakhan warned.
As Black people and others responded with jubilation by the election last year, segments of White America responded with desolation to the decision.
Since the election, there has been a 400 percent increase in death threats against President Obama in less than one year, said Congressional Research Service Report. Experts have also cited a rise in White homegrown hate groups, and a new wave of anti-government fervor.
Media reports noted that in the months following November 2008, there was a spike in firearms sales, and recently the increase of right wing Tea Parties, patterned after the Boston Tea Party of 1773, that led to independence from England and the establishment of the U.S.A., have made Mr. Obama their favorite target.
Blacks are the only group whose poll numbers in support of President Obama remains a constant 90 percent, but the illusion of a “post racial America” seems to be quickly fading, if it hasn't disappeared altogether already.
Mr. Fletcher agrees that, “Obama will do what he is pressured to do,” adding that, “people who are waiting for something magical to happen are making a very big mistake.”
“The right wing wants to not only undermine his presidency, but some of them want to literally overthrow him,” said Mr. Fletcher.
America's racial climate and the first Black president (FCN, 10-27-2009)
Why is White Right attacking the first Black president? (FCN, 08-04-2009)
Final victory over race hatred elusive (FCN, 07-03-2009)