Barack Obama leaves office to a chorus of tears from Saturday Night Live hosts, Starbucks baristas and self-important celebrities. A man trapped in unending self-adulation, President Obama spent eight years in a searing cult of personality. He fashioned himself as a celebrity president, with his routine appearances on late night television culminating without exception in a voluptuous hollering of applause from an audience who, except for their cold-hearted daddies against whom they were in perpetual rebellion, had never met a Republican in their lives. He became the darling of the press, whose “hard-hitting” policy questions to him were merely compliments followed by obligatory question marks.
With a chance to take a real step in finally closing the racial wounds of America, President Obama chose to enshrine Malcolm X’s tribalism as the default American racial position, tacitly scoffing at Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of an America where character and individual morality, not race, would be the bar of collective judgment.
All the while, he usurped authority and extended the power of the executive branch more than any president in modern history. In a bold act of overreach, in his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama brazenly declared to the American people that he was going to pursue gun control legislation, “with or without Congress.” Popular consensus, due process and constitutionalism it seems, were hurdles for President Obama to overcome. It was a meritorious venture, he felt, as he believed he knew better than America’s elected representatives. In 2012, he made it clear how he felt about those Americans that voiced opposition: “it’s not surprising then [that small town voters] get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
As an orator, President Obama was undoubtedly gifted and moving. He captivated critics and fans alike with his lofty rhetoric, with enough moral posturing on the bigotry of his political opponents to satisfy a teething peanut gallery of liberal polemicists. His speeches were hopeful and dismissive, with immutable moral clarity — America ought to agree with his policy prescriptions or they’d end up on the wrong side of history.
Barack Obama was an anthropomorphic Jon Stewart, capturing the fandom of millennials with his contemptuous treatment of the dissent of “bitter clingers” and his suave and genteel charm. For millennials, Obama was a president who gave a legitimizing voice to the theologies of group identity found in the annals of half-baked college classes on race and gender. No longer were the bra-burners and race baiters seen by their peers as extremists or radicals; America had a president who not only gave them credence, he readily used their language. Orwellian notions of “unconscious bias” and the doctrine of “intersectionality” littered decrees and speeches of the Obama administration, proving, to the chagrin of BuzzFeed, that President Obama was “woke.”
He plainly succeeded in remaking the office of the presidency in the image of a community organizer, his former profession. As famous progressive agitator Saul Alinsky coined in his seminal work Rules for Radicals, community organizers were to be “an abrasive agent to rub raw the resentments of the people of the community; to fan latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expressions.” He succeeded in massaging anger out of the populous, as a Rasmussen survey of Americans decidedly found that the perception of race relations since Obama’s tenure has become dramatically worse, as Obama’s constant berating of systematic racism from the police and white America fueled the flames of racial polarization. President Obama fancied himself as a voice of truth to power, railing against the unnecessary compromise of the American republic, ostentatiously lecturing Americans on Islamophobia in the wake of violent Islamism in the world and constantly apologizing for the United States on the world stage with a tone fetid with moralizing.
President Obama is beloved by many in the United States. He appears a decent, kind man, who is charismatic and witty on camera. His legacy, however, will be determined by his innumerable supporters throughout the ranks of the media syndicate. Critics of the man are routinely implicated in accusations of racism, assuring such voices will be excommunicated from adjudicating President Obama’s legacy. Most of his critics and all of his supporters realize Obama is and was a decent man. Often, one wished the former president held similar views about the “bitter clingers” who don’t share his politics.