Obama and the state of American politics

After six years of watching the right wing in this country lose its head about anything Obama does, and simultaneously watch the left wing lament him not being progressive enough, here’s what I’ve come to conclude: the presidency is inherently a moderate position. It’s why everyone — Democrat and Republican — runs to the extremes to get the nomination, and then runs back to the middle once they get it. It’s also why it so hard to get anything done. The odds of having something a majority of representatives, majority of the Senate, and the president agree on are slim. So change at the federal level, and through the presidency in particular, is slow as molasses.

Why did this not occur to me before Obama? Because Republican presidents are inherently not threatening to the status quo, hence the definition of the word “conservative.” And because the only other Democrat president in my lifetime, Bill Clinton, was so good at being a moderate. He is so charismatic and likable, he held us together as a country. He’s an affable white man, and white men are the standard for the presidency.

But Obama, being an American black man, is inherently a political figure. Because to be a black man in America is by definition to be political, given this country’s history of horrific racist violence and policies, and continued refusal to acknowledge how white supremacy has affected race relations and how black people feel about this country, To be a black man in America is political because of what Americans project onto blackness.

Therefore, there has been a fundamental contradiction which Obama has tried to straddle his whole presidency – he’s a black man, a fundamentally polarizing force in a racist country, and the president, a fundamentally moderate position.

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~ by realsupergirl on November 30, 2014.

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