Obama the Most Divisive Ever

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.

 

 

Wanting America Back

I was in a high-end restaurant, waiting to have a meeting with a friend, and arrived before he did. I was led to our table, which had already been reserved.

Our table was next to one at which four white women were already sitting. They were older, looking to be in their late 70s and/or early 80s. It felt like they were engaging in a “girl’s day out” kind of time. They were laughing and sharing, talking about their husbands, their children and grandchildren, their charity work, and their professions, from which they had all retired.

I couldn’t help but hear everything they were talking about, and found myself chuckling from time to time at some of the things they shared. Privacy was not an option or a concern for them.

So, when they started talking about politics and the current slate of GOP candidates, the fact that they were sharing their views for all to hear was not surprising. They were Republicans, committed Republicans, that was for certain, because they said so, out loud.
The GOP candidates were interesting, they said. Carly “what’s her name? Is she still in the race?” Fiorina didn’t impress any of them, nor did Jeb Bush. They never mentioned Ben Carson, and kind of skated through their opinions of the candidates who have now left the race, including Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul.

But then they got to the meat of their discussion: the top three candidates, according to the polls, plus Chris Christie. Trump, they said, was OK. Rubio was not; he was in favor of “bringing all those immigrants, or letting all those immigrants” come into or stay in this country. “Oh no, no immigrants,” said three of the women in response to the now-emerged spokeswoman for the group. One woman weakly tried to say that the immigrants who have been working here should be allowed to become citizens, but she was shut down.

Chris Christie should not be president, said the “louder-than-the-rest” woman because “he hugged Obama. That did it for me. He hugged Obama after Hurricane Sandy.” She said it in such a way which indicated she wanted everyone to know that yes, she said it, and yes, she absolutely meant it.

Obama, she said, was evil. Someone mentioned that Obama had visited a mosque, and had reported that Muslims were “good people.”

“Of course,” the ringleader said, “he would say that because he is a Muslim. Everyone knows that. He doesn’t go to church. He…is…a…Muslim.”

There was a pregnant pause while everyone pondered her pronouncement of “truth.,” but then the women got back to the other GOP candidates. With Trump being a little too over the top, and Rubio being in favor of keeping immigrants here and letting more come in, the only viable candidate, said the ringleader, with the other three women nodding their heads in agreement, was Ted Cruz.

“He is honest and loving and believes in the Constitution,” said Ringleader. “He is our only hope.” And then she said, quietly, “We have lost our beloved America. Our children’s children will never know the America we knew.”

Ah, the “give us our country back” sentiment took center stage. If Cruz could help bring sexism and racism back, and put all of the “isms” back in their places on the shelves of  American values, then he would have to be elected president. If Cruz could get rid of Obamacare with no thought of how millions who now have health care would feel or survive, then he would have to be elected president. If Cruz could make it so that police could have free reign with arresting and brutalizing people, then he would have to be president. If Cruz could get the military up and running like a good American military should run, and “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” as Donald Trump has said, then Cruz would have to be elected president.

I sat there, not surprised at what I was hearing, but a tad irritated that they talked so loudly so that everyone would have to hear their political discourses. They were bemoaning the threat they and many white Americans feel from forces larger than them and their remembrance of an America where bigotry and privilege went unchallenged. They were bemoaning the fact that being “politically correct” means respecting people of different religions (Islam) and colors and nationalities. They were tired of it. They wanted the voices of white people to be heard again, loudly and clearly, putting everyone and everything that wasn’t white in their proper places.

To heck with this being the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” They were not interested in living into that pronouncement and they sure were not interested in nurturing the American value called pluralism.

I heard that in their discourse. I don’t think I was wrong. I wish I were…

A candid observation…