The Backstabbers

President Obama now appears as a pariah, a lone wolf.

Hillary Gotdamn Clinton is smiling a little slyly to herself these days; she relished each time she took the stage to stump during the midterm elections knowing she’d been chosen over her old nemesis President Barack Obama.

Just how truncated are our memories?

Wasn’t so long ago Hillary was putting Barack — then America’s “Magical Negro” — in his place whenever she uttered infantilizing phrases like he should “wait his turn.”

My student Will Kendrick reminded me that, like Uncle Remus in Disney’s Song of the South — now so far buried in Disney’s vault of shame, there’s no sign it ever existed — Barack Obama’s appearance was meant to help us all, but to especially help white people, dig out of our post-Bush leadership funk. And he did so like all Magical Negroes do: with a soothing, uplifting song and dance rife with promises of better days.

Soon, we were all hypnotized by the New Car Smell of a first-ever black president, made even more intriguing and beguiling because he was traditionally accomplished; his bootstrap narrative couldn’t have been any more inspiring if it’d been written by Booker T. Washington himself.

Now, however, President Obama is some kind of Negro Non-Grata. The weak-spined (white) Democrats who grinned and bore his meteoric ascension are now re-born as lukewarm losers and near-losers who sold out to hang onto what political shelf life they had left.

They can all take lessons from Hillary Clinton, who once famously renounced the “stand by your man” woman.

That never angered me.

I’ve always seen Hillary for whom and what she is: a patient survivor who ultimately looks out for herself.

You can bet accepting a cabinet position after Obama trounced her in the primaries was short on political salve and long on the revenge fantasies of a woman now about to reap the rewards of waiting her own turn.

Hillary has since grabbed the backstabbing baton from any number of Democrats across the nation who either refused to admit/pronounce their prior support for Obama (Alison Grimes in Kentucky) or who’ve now become frightened centrists (the entire Democratic Party). Regardless of whether the Obama Back-Turn gained momentum because individual politicians turned away — which led to widespread abandonment — President Obama now appears as a pariah, a lone wolf.

It’s quite fitting for a black man, actually. Black men in America have always assumed they’d eventually be back on that long walk alone despite how much support, adoration and attention they’d gotten at any prior point on their journey.

For a president this Green Mile manifests in approval ratings, and Obama’s are ridiculously low. Some of this I blame on the media, some I blame on Obama himself and the rest I’ll lay at the feet of ignorant Americans who suffer political fatigue and who think in absolutes, assuming they have to dislike a man because group think tells them to.

Republicans claim the American media has a liberal agenda, but if it did, it’d report that Obama’s numbers do not match his presidential achievements and that he’s far more than merely a brainiac in a suit who’s distracted by his own intellect (though I think he sometimes is).

According to Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, himself a former strident Obama critic, there are at least six areas in which we could and should be giving Obama his due.

“In Defense of Obama,” Krugman’s level-headed deconstruction of Obama’s faults and triumphs in the Oct. 23 issue of Rolling Stone states that the talk of Obama’s “rudderless, stalled administration, maybe even about a failed presidency” is misguided, focused on all the wrong things and water-logged in cross-party hatred in which neither Democrats nor Republicans ever have anything fair or complimentary to say about the other.

And while Krugman, like many of us, felt Obama was initially too naive and focused on the Candyland dreams of transforming party politics thorough mutual respect, collaboration and transparency, he rightly gives Obama props in health care, financial reform, the economy, the environment, national security and social change.

That last one — social change — can be a mind-blower if we all stop and think about the implications of giving a man credit for something as obtuse as guiding us to becoming a “more tolerant, open-minded nation,” even if it is mostly theoretical in the wake of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. But, hey, gay marriage has been largely accepted or at least apathetically ignored. Krugman doesn’t give Obama all the credit here, but instead credits him with being a smart follower behind the nation’s wishes.

All told, social change under Obama’s watch has finally usurped power from the hardcore religious right, who’d been given more power than they actually had under prior Democratic administrations, Krugman says.

All this made me think closely and deeply about Democrats and I am concluding that Democrats — as a monolith — are some of the most frightened, reflexive and defensive people who haven’t yet learned to stand stiff-backed.

This is a lesson they could surely learn form Republicans.

Republicans, even when they’re dead wrong as a party, stand up straight, firm, pious and correct in their collective wrong-headedness. Further, they are slow to completely kick out or abandon the dead weight; they also allow in the fringe element (Hello! Tea Party!) if for no other reason than to gain ideas, potential supporters and talking points.

There’s no louder, sometimes disappointed or frustrated a supporter of President Obama than I. But even I have the good sense not to abandon the man when times are just a little tough.

Outright, thoughtless abandonment goes against my DNA as an American, that code written in my very blood that says hang in there, stick it out, chin up, stay convicted, stay open, have some stamina, for God’s sake.

Now if the president could only call bullshit on his own party for its stupid cowardice.

What, after all, does he have to lose?

Certainly not support.


CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: [email protected]


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