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Labor Day seemed like an appropriate time for an observation. I rarely like to discuss politics directly – it is waaaayyy too eco-chamberish for my taste and I also don’t ever want to lure of piling on. Ignoring any of the President’s favored economic policies and programs or his rhetoric and attitude toward capitalism (in this my feeling is that many elected officials are closer to his view than to mine, so I did not view him as being particularly “bad” at the margin), I had the most hope that on two human/social issues he would have had a much more successful Administration. On one issue I am not expert enough to assess how well he has done, but will make a quick comment for you to discuss. On the second I feel like he has been a stunning disappointment (though perhaps understandably so).

First, I thought that the President would be able to follow through on his verbal suggestions early in his campaign that he would value and protect civil liberties more than it seems he has done. Again, I am not qualified to comment on drones, or spying, or detaining, but from what I read (in several places, not just the WSJ) it does not seem to be that there has been a major change in that climate in the U.S. What data might one look for to evaluate this anyway? Obviously, Gitmo is still open, and I distinctly remember several impassioned promised from the Candidate Obama about that being a priority. Or think about the drug war. Or the way that “illegals” are treated. Or the behavior of some cops in America. Or the conditions and population of the prisons.

Now look, no President is lord and master who with the stroke of a pen can change the world, but I do not see any progress on these very important fronts. And I would argue that making progress on some of these areas at least seem to not smack of partisanship either.

Second, and I think an awful indictment of the President, and one which I am most disappointed with, is what the President has said and done in the African-American community. Again, I am a political tyro, so maybe I’ve missed the massive coverage of the stuff somewhere, so correct me if I am wrong. I had hoped that the first African-American President in the history of the United States would have made it a very strong point of emphasis to set an example in the African-American community. Do you remember any speeches he has given, or bills he has supported, or initiatives he has started or blue-ribbon panels he has convened on the state of African-Americans in the US today? Has he used his considerable influence and his very excellent way with words and emotion to set an example for the African-American community? I know you might respond by arguing that, “isn’t just BEING President enough?” Well, sure it is something. But has he come to the heart of inner-city Rochester and talked about opportunity, his personal struggles and what he envisions as a bright future in a place that seems so hopeless right now? (Rochester being a stand-in name for the hundreds of similar places). Has he gotten behind new programs to expressly focus on the worst problems in America’s African-American communities? There are serious drug problems, single-parent problems, health problems, mentoring problems and more. Yes of course I’ve see public service announcements, but is there anything in the same stratosphere as ObamaCare? Heck, aside from the stimulus-related stuff, I don’t even remember a particular program that even tried to make it easier to provide the social programs that are operating in the inner cities today (no, bailing out the banks doesn’t count!).

I had great optimism on Inauguration Day 2009 that it would be a turning point for African-Americans in the United States. I am even tending to want to vote for his reelection this November because of the opportunity to address the major civil rights crises of our time, crises which get far too little attention from the rhetoric coming out of the White House and even in the MSM. It probably would have been politically difficult to make such things a cornerstone of his first term. But in thinking about a likely second term for the President (that’s how I see it anyway), and thinking about the way Presidents seem to want to leave a legacy, I again am optimistic that he might step to the plate on this issue. ObamaCare has already passed. The stock market is humming despite the slow recovery. It wouldn’t be very costly to do some of the things I envision would be successful and indeed they could even save money – which certainly would take attention and some pressure away from the big issue of the coming second term, the federal fiscal outlook and the aging population.

Happy Labor Day. Two official days into our semester and phew I really needed that day off!

3 Responses to “What I Had Hope for from President Obama”

  1. Dan says:

    Obama’s record on civil liberties is worse than that of Bush. Obama has come up with a raft of new initiatives besides escalating drone warfare, ramping up the drug war, and keeping Gitmo open. As a sampling, Obama has initiated a unprecedented effort to prosecute and shut down whistleblowers; deported more “illegals” in three-and-a-half years than in Bush’s eight; asserted himself as executioner-in-chief; redefined all men killed by drones to be militants; and rejected more FOIA requests than the Bush administration did. Glenn Greenwald has been keeping good track of these.

    It’s not clear to me who’s giving him this pressure. I don’t get the sense that his team is full of neo-cons after all, or that voters are really agitating for these. So, why?

  2. wintercow20 says:

    Great question. It has to be that “we” want it, no?

  3. Speedmaster says:

    I had great hopes with respect to the promise to close Gitmo, end current wars, not start new ones, and protect civil liberties at home. I am left disappointed on all counts.

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