Sometimes, I get confused.
I think I understand something and then someone says something that makes me …confused.
I have listened with interest …and confusion …to people who say that President Barack Obama has been the most divisive president in modern history. They are talking about issues including race, and say that he has divided the country along racial and economic lines. (http://theweek.com/articles/599246/republicans-say-obama-been-historically-divisive-thats-revealing).
Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl) said continuously during his campaign that Obama was the most polarizing president in history, and a recent article in Newsmax concurred. (http://www.newsmax.com/Politics/Barack-Obama-Gallup-polarizing-president/2015/02/06/id/623299/).
The country certainly is divided, but is it because of President Obama? Can it be said that those who vowed to oppose him on anything and everything he proposed to do have something to do with where we are today?
Certainly, the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made people furious. While millions of people now have health insurance who did not have access to it before, those who opposed it when it was on its way to becoming law still oppose it, and if a Republican wins the White House, the GOP still plans to repeal it.
The fight over the president’s landmark legislation did, in fact, pit people against each other.
But how else has Mr. Obama’s presidency divided the country? He has done some really good things, like, for example, pulling the country out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. He has said he didn’t know how bad things were, how the issues of Wall Street were spreading to Main Street, until he took office …but he worked on the economy and saved the country from a total economic meltdown. A lot of people were negatively impacted, and many are still trying to recover, but the president took the problem on and did the best he could do.
He wanted to be a president who worked across the aisle, but even before his inauguration was over, there were Republicans meeting to make sure that he would do no such thing; they wanted to make sure he was a “one term president” and they worked on a plan on how to best obstruct any and everything he tried to do.
I hear the subtle and often unspoken charges levied against him that he made the racial divide in this country worse, but that simply is not true. Obama has stayed away from “things racial” for the most part. America’s bubbling and diseased underbelly simply began to erupt to the surface as angry white people could no longer hold their resentment about a black man being in the White House.
The fact that the country is not so lily-white anymore, and that there are fewer jobs now for the masses than there were before is not, again, Obama’s fault. There are factors that “the angry” don’t really deal with, like who it was that voted in trade agreements that have resulted in the United States losing manufacturing jobs. “The angry” don’t seem to remember when “outsourcing” was going on like crazy, resulting in America losing its source of employment for so many people, especially white men.
Obama has supported trade agreements, as has Secretary Clinton, but he didn’t initiate them, right? He might have supported NAFTA, and he does in fact support the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), but has his support of those trade agreements been the reason America is so divided?
How about this: America has always been a divided nation. Romantic Constitutional rhetoric aside, America has always pitted the “haves” against the “have-nots,” and has not made it easy for the class differences it created to be overcome. Obama has had to deal with the normal antics of oppositional politics compounded by a Republican resolve to make him a “one term president.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/05/sorry-marco-rubio-obama-isnt-as-divisive-as-bush-lincoln-or-clinton/257483/) He has had his hands full, to say the least. America, in spite of its claim to be a democracy, is in fact an oligarchy and that system by definition divides people.
This is not to say that Obama should be pitied. He has found a way to get things done in spite of the cantankerous Congress with which he has had to work in a way that has made people spit-fire mad, but it feels like he did what he had to do because it was clear Congress was not going to take its foot off of his neck. He was elected to do some things and he worked hard to do just that.
He failed in unifying the nation, but really, who can? Donald Trump says he can do it, and all one can say to that claim is, “hardly.” Trump is dangerously divisive and everyone except his blind followers knows it.
In the end, all presidents cause some division because no president can please all of the people, but as I read it, Obama is no worse and no more divisive than some of the other presidents who have graced the White House. He has endured his time in office in spite of an openly and unreasonably stubborn Congress, and it feels like most of their opposition has been seeded in America’s garden of racism.
Nobody would ever openly admit that, though, just like few people are willing to admit that much of what Trump is doing is feeding that same garden, seeding it with pent-up resentment and anger. Trump’s divisiveness could throw this country into a downward spiral from which it might never recover.
It’s something to think about …and it is certainly a candid observation.