As someone who voted for Barack Obama twice, self-identifies as a feminist and as a Bernie Bro (a label I’ve reclaimed), I’m having some mixed emotions about our, gulp, last president.
Barack Obama was complex, complicated, and provoked extreme and disproportionate responses. The Right despised him so much, they started reactionary The Tea Party movement. The Republicans hated him so much that they stated, out loud, that their most urgent priority was obstructing him. Their open embrace of stymying any legislation is just disturbing, and more surprising, than their actually doing it. At the same time, many on the Left, myself included, gave him a pass on things we would have criticized in a different president.
I know that I personally responded to the racist vitriol hurled at and overlooked or ignored some of his most objectionable positions and policies. Part of this was an overprotective defensiveness. Part of this was being distracted by the attacks on him. Part of this (for me, at least) was being disarmed by his nerdy swagger and an uncanny ability to effortlessly and cooly deliver comebacks which slayed.
What we should have done was chew gum and walk at the same time, as Gerald Ford couldn’t do, and “go ahead and make [him] do it,” as FDR (may have) said. We needed to both defend him from unprecedented and unwarranted demonization while also holding his feet to the fire. The Left could have pushed him more than we did. As president, he would never have been the progressive we would have wanted. But he could have been nudged into being more progressive than he was.
A more anecdotal example of Obama’s ability to elicit strong and contradictory responses can be find in Reverend Jesse Jackson. Who, besides Obama could inspire a moved Jackson to cry at his inauguration and an unaware-his-mic-was-hot Jesse Jackson to whisper that he wanted to “cut [Obama’s] nuts out” for “talking down to Black people.”
While my response was nowhere near as epic as Jackson’s I too was moved by Obama… to do rewrite and cover Rihanna’s hit song Stay and reenact the legendary its bath-tub-based music video.
You can even sing along thanks to the subtitles I provided and copied and pasted below. And yes, I wrote the lyrics and recorded the song and filmed myself in the bath, in case you’re curious about “the process.” If you haven’t seen the original music video, please do, in order to better enjoy mine.
a skeptical hopeful believer.
I threw my hands on the lever pulled it two times for Obama
I knew he wasn’t perfect but that I thought that he’d be bolder.You droned and deported and bailed out the banks through Tim Geitner
but at least you gave us DACA and finally protected some Artic Water….CHORUS #1
but Something in the way you move
makes me feel like I can’t live without you
and Trump is really scary.
And I want you to stay
But it helped young people & those who live with preconditions.
On and on Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan go.
Tell me know, tell me know, tell me know when will Guantánamo close?CHORUS #2
You slowjammed TPP and you are corporate
but something in the way you move
makes me feel like I can’t live without you
and Trump is really scary
I want you to stay
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