President Obama accomplished a great deal but not as much as he should have. One critical component was missing from Obama’s presidency: you. Us, to be more precise. We failed to raise hell and broadcast Obama’s shortcomings, in the same way we call attention to Trump’s missteps. We look for opportunities to jab the “other” side and hold them accountable but when our side falls short, we are dangerously silent. This would be a different country if progressives at large and black people in particular had sought out opportunities to correct Obama in the same way we now seek confrontation with Trump. Had that energy, fire and protest existed the last eight years, America–and especially black America–might have been made great again.
The phone lines are jammed at the offices of several senators because many are fighting to block Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Education. But where was the outrage when Obama appointed a friend of Wall Street to head the FBI, all but guaranteeing that no one responsible for the financial crisis of 2008 would be prosecuted? We scream in terror when considering what a Trump presidency will mean for “the blacks” economically but said not a word when the Obama administration closed all five regional Offices of the Minority Business Development Agency. Those offices existed to help minority-owned businesses in their region navigate the federal contracting landscape and become more competitive but to save $30 million, they were sacrificed and we said nothing. I guess it was because Obama was on our side of the aisle.
I am no fan of George W. Bush but he did more to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa than any President had before. Obama threatened that progress when he cut funds from a highly effective program aimed at combatting the HIV/AIDS crisis on the continent. Once again, we were silent. It is especially disappointing that people of African descent (like the author) raised no hell in response to this. Is it possible that we would have given “W” a pass if he’d done the same? Not likely. He’s a Republican, after all and we apparently think that being an engaged citizen means only protesting when the other side is in power. This brand of selective civic participation limited the prospects for “Hope and Change.” We had the opportunity of a lifetime and we failed to maximize it, choosing instead to blindly root for our team.
It is without question that Obama was hindered by a Republican opposition determined to see him fail. I would also argue, however, that a base of supporters unwilling to protest its own leadership is also a hindrance. Do we honestly believe that the same vigor in protest and democratic muscle we have shown thus far toward Trump, if pointed toward Obama for eight years, would not have produced better results? Black and white, Democrat and Republican, we are all guilty. We cheer for our team and remain silent when it fails to live up to its ideals. We watch the other side like hawks, hoping for any misstep. Perhaps if we gave the same hawkish glare to all power structures we would have a more perfect union.