When Barack Obama ran his presidential campaign on the premise of Hope and Change, anticipation ran high for what his election might bring. Perhaps people of color reasoned that a black president would transform the nation, eliminating racism or at least quelling the ardent discrimination that still exists. And to some degree, and for a while, it seemed, that felt like it was happening. But it did not last. We’ll get to the reasons why in a moment.
Wait a minute…
Part of the reason President Obama did not get off to a running start in race relations is that he had to repair a country under economic siege. Eight years under Bush had left America in a painful state of contraction. Markets were collapsed. Millions of people lost their jobs. The nation was embroiled in two directionless wars, and bleeding money along with the blood and live of soldiers who were being repeatedly thrown into conflicts from which victory could never be wrought. Those problems all stemmed directly from Republican initiatives.
So the Hope part of the initial stages of the Obama presidency necessarily was absorbed in bringinh back some semblance of control to a damaged economy and sense of purpose in the nation as a whole. The government played an important role in this massive venture, using infusions of stimulus cash to stabilize and rescue “Too Big To Fail” banks as well as a restructuring of the auto industry so that even more jobs would not be lost.
Yet the naysayers wanted none of this brand of practical hope. Partisan mopes such as Mitch McConnell publicly stated that the “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” The peripatetic Newt Gingrich admits that on the night of the Obama inauguration Republicans gathered in a meeting in which party leaders took a vow to block any initiatives Obama might try to implement.
Which brings us to the “change” part of the promise Obama promised to America.
The first part of the change that shocked those who opposed the man was racial. That is, President Obama was the first black man elected to the nation’s highest office. That was a change unto itself that was a difficult shift in political balance. There was fear as well in resistance to the man who was both black and so obviously intelligent.
So those who feared the racial side of the new president grabbed on to what they could to try to bring him down. It was handy that his name, Barack Hussein Obama, provided a convenient handle for xenophobes and racists who sought to make connections between the name “Hussein” and Middle Eastern terror threats. It wasn’t much of a leap for these same bigots to tie Obama to the perceptions of so-called Muslim terrorists, using the phrase “He’s a Muslim” as a patent form of insult. As if that were automatic.
The Birther movement
When in fact, President Obama stood for none of those things, yet attempts at scandalizing the man including very public attempts to prove that he was not even a United States citizen. It is worth noting that one of the leaders of the “birther” movement was none other than Donald Trump, who tried to force Obama’s hand on the issue and was ultimately shamed when the real birth certificate proved once and for all that President Obama was indeed a United States citizen from birth.
But the hopeless and people afraid of change never give up, because fear is a powerful motivator. For the entire eight years that President Obama has served the nation, racist and fearmongering resistance has been aimed at him and his family. Some critics accuse Obama of further dividing the nation over race while some recently made the claim that racism did not even exist before President Obama was elected.
As CBS News reported, “In an interview with the Guardian earlier this week, Kathy Miller, former chair of Trump’s campaign in Mahoning County, asserted that, “growing up as a kid, there was no racism, believe me.”
“I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this,” Miller said. “Now, with the people with the guns, and shooting up neighborhoods, and not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change, and I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetuated on America.”
Take note of that comment by the now disgraced and recently resigned Kathy Miller about “change.” She even uses the term “big change,” to describe that she feels Obama caused racism to perpetuate.
Racism exposed, not perpetuated
In fact, what Obama ultimately did was expose the deep veins of racism that had been hidden in the dog-whistle language of conservative campaigns dating back to Reagan and the so-called “Southern Strategy,” in which conservatives identified a very real and fearful voting base that did not like Progressive policies, specifically those that granted equality to blacks and people of color across America.
So Hope and Change were the absolute last wishes of the Regressive Right in America. So it is no surprise that the candidate who emerged in the wake of Obama’s two terms in office is a man named Donald Trump. The Orange Nutcase gives voice to the ugliest tendencies in the American electorate. When Trump says Make America Great Again he is speaking the language of those who want to turn back time, make racism more acceptable and public and allow vigilante justice to take precedences over social justice.
So much for Hope and Change. What we got was Mope and Deranged, the two factions of Ne’er Do Wells and Fanatics now backing Donald Trump for President.
We’ll all be missing Hope and Change is Trump somehow gets elected.