Prejudice and Obama’s Politics of the Possible

Thank God for those who ask for too much!

This article in The Guardian highlights why it is so difficult for the left to support and sustain President Obama and the Democratic Party. It is the reason why liberals will often not show up for a party and a president who has clearly turned his back on his base—until election time when he applies soaring rhetoric to issues of social and economic justice just long enough to get our hopes up. Since 2009 the left has been left in the dark while President Obama exercises his “politics of the possible” strategy.

On one hand, this pragmatic strategy has fostered some significant gains, healthcare reform, finance regulation, a stimulus. On the other hand, experts agree that Obama’s accomplishments, as significant as they are, just don’t go far enough to level the playing field for the average person who is still experiencing falling wages and floundering prospects for the future while the one percent thrives.

More significantly, every compromise made by Obama and the Democrats to get something done—anything—has made it more difficult to take the next step and to build on small victories. Policy technocracy without vision has eroded the Democratic base, the faith of those who are desperately looking for a voice in what is supposed to be their government.

Sometimes, good enough is just not good enough.

So here were a group of people standing tall before the leviathan of state oppression, teargased, threatened, targeted, meeting with the most powerful man in the world and yet they had, “no faith in anything, church or state.” These are the people abandoned by the politics of the possible, standing on the wrong end of a badge and a gun with bloody examples of what can happen when someone, anyone, runs afoul of state power. Your body will be left in the street, you will be strangled to death, you will be gunned down in a retail store, a plastic toy next to your corps, you will somehow shoot yourself in the chest while handcuffed behind your back…and there’s not a damned thing you can do about.

Justice is nothing more than a slogan pressed into a blood-stained badge.

What does the most powerful man in the world have to say to people who are struggling against state tyranny and injustice for their very survival and for the prospects of their children? According to representatives of the many movements taking place around the country who met with the President, “He cautioned us against demanding too big and stressed gradualism. He counseled us that the wheels of progress turn sluggishly and reminded us of the progress that got us to this point: a room full of black folk in the Oval Office.”

The progress that got us to this point? Does he mean communities of color all over the nation who fear at the presence of the police? Is that what Obama is claiming as progress. That’s not progress. This issue was already put to the test and the good guys won. That’s what all the high school American History textbooks say! This isn’t progress. This is, at best, standing still; at worst it’s regression to the Jim Crow days and Black Codes that were supposed to magically disappear into the ether when good white people passed the Civil Rights Act.

What is this community asking for, what is all sympathetic people with any sense of humanity and justice throughout the world asking for that is “too much?” What are all oppressed people around the world demanding that has not already been determined as their right? It should not be considered too much to ask that my children not be gunned down in the street by representatives of the state.

That this gradual progress lauded by Obama can bring us to the point where a black man can get an Ivy League education and become president of the United States while at the same time leave communities of color living in fear while the death toll of black men to police issue ammunition continues to rise is proof positive that Good Enough simply isn’t good enough.

President Obama has proven to be a “good enough” president. I have personally defended him as such. Our times, however, require a great president, someone who is will to fight for what are universally recognized rights that used to be the foundations of the New Deal Democratic Party so long ago abandoned to the politics of the possible. Freedom to Speak. Freedom to Worship. Freedom from Want. Freedom from Fear. Nobody disputes the validity of these four freedoms, yet President Obama and our current political anomie, cynicism and poll counting, would have us believe that demanding basic human dignity is simply asking too much.

Thank God for those, like Martin Luther King, Angela Davis, Howard Zinn, Cornell West, Noam Chomsky and these good people who met with the President on this most pressing human rights issue, who have the wisdom and the courage to ask for too much.

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