Wednesday, December 14, 2016
The Obama legacy—he exposed the Republican Party for their racism
By SJ Otto
Barack Obama has only a few weeks left of his presidency so it is a good time to try to assess what kind of president he was. He goes down in history as the first black
president. He was only about half black or less. But he is as black as a US president
ever got so far. If he is known for anything it will be for exposing the
childish, obstructionist and even racist antics of the Republican Party and its
congress people who kept him a lame duck president for almost six years.
Let's remember that The US House of Representatives turned Republican in November 2, 2010. These new Republicans were mostly Tea Party conservatives who wanted to push the
US to the Far Far right. They
wanted to slash all social programs to the point of no return. They wanted to
make deep cuts do all government programs including education. They wanted to
strip away regulations on businesses. They wanted to end abortion. But they had
one obstacle and that was Obama. He would not go along.
They turned on him with anger. They began to call him a communist, a socialist a radical leftist and at times a fascist or a Nazi. Their allies in the media often made fun of Obama's slogans for hope and change. But the reality is that Obama was actually none of those things. He was not to the left at all. He was not even a liberal (and many Republicans equate liberals with communism or socialism). He was a pure centrist politician. He didn't go along with their far far right-wing ideas, but he also did little to move the country in the other direction. He didn't cut spending to social services, but he didn't ad to their budgets either. Social spending went up because poverty in the US went up. The president didn't cut regulations, but he didn't ad to them either.
The one thing that might seem liberal was his health care system that may now end up being repealed. Conservatives call it Obamacare, but its real name is the Affordable Care Act. But it wasn't straight up socialist medicine. It attempted to benefit the insurance companies at every turn, even forcing some people to buy private insurance. It had a lot of problems. It caused some prices to go up. It forced some people to get new insurance plans. But it also caused a lot of working people to be insured for the first time. It stopped insurance companies from refusing to insure people with pre-existing medical conditions.
The rate of uninsured workers dropped from 13.3 percent to 10.4 in 2014. That’s the largest single-year drop on record based on data going back to 1987. And for those who fell way below the poverty line, Obamacare provided for grants, to states willing to accept them, that would allow them to expand Medicaid.
While all of this was good for the people who learn to use it, it was hated by the Republican Party and its conservative supporters. The House of Representatives had voted more than 50 times to repeal that law. Many Tea Party governors, such as Kansas' Sam Brownback, refused the money and refused to expand Medicaid.
On November 4, 2014 the Republicans won back the US Senate. Now Obama had the same stiff opposition to him from both chambers of Congress. US Senator Mitch McConnell stated, “When I first came into office," the head of the Senate Republicans said, "my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president." This became a calling for both houses. It lead to pure gridlock. Everything Obama tried to do was stopped by the Republicans in both houses. Even on issue were they usually agreed they would not support him. Republicans constantly fought over defense spending claiming that Obama was gutting the military. That was false. He kept military spending the same. So here also he is a centrist. He was not cutting military spending, but not raising it way up either.
"The question remains: was he too centrist, or too incompetent? In the spirit of Obama-style bipartisanship, I ask: why can’t it be both? This was a man who had no business in progressive politics. But he found liberalism wanting a hero, and had us marked for easy traffic the moment he came on the scene. If conservatives are cheap marks for authoritarian, tribal appeals, then progressives are susceptible to the Echo of Kennedy."
As a leftist myself, I noticed when Obama ran for office that he made no real promises of liberal or progressive change. I didn't expect that of him and I wasn't disappointed. I knew he was not a leftist.
So when historians look back on Obama's presidency and wonder why these Republicans were so hostile to him it will look a lot like pure racism. Their charges against him are mostly false. Their accusations that he was a radical leftist are ridiculous. Any real scholar will see all of that and wonder "why did they hate this guy so much?" The real answer is that the Republicans had a far far right agenda and he got in their way. He kept them from destroying the government structure they hated so much for six years. There has to be a little tinge of racism there, just the same. And to future historians it will look like their opposition was mostly racism. That is the only conclusion that makes any sense.
......I plan to do another analysis on Obama's foreign policy later.