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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Barak Obama at the crossroad of history

By Ardain Isma

CSMS Magazine Editor

Every president must be judged according to his legacy, and Barak Obama will be no different when he leaves office three years from now. Obama was elected to be different, to govern differently, and to be the heavenly prize destined for the people. However, he is beginning to look a lot like his predecessors—nothing substantial, just an ordinary American president managing a well-entrenched state bureaucracy born to cater one strategic client: the upper class. It is too soon, though, to say Barak Obama has missed the train of change the HE himself crafted at the height of his 2008 political campaign. Remember the unforgettable slogan Change We Can Believe In?

At the surface, it conveys a bitter illusion over which Obama seems to misunderstand the significance of his ascendance to the top-end of the world’s most sophisticated bureaucratic machine. It is just illusory, not real. Obama is extremely shrewd, with an acute grasp of the socio/political paradigm that ushered him to the presidency back in 2008. Then and now he also understands he cannot deviate from the mainstream of a continuum that will never reach the point of convergence where millions of Americans wait in vain each day for him bring the true synthetic change would empower their lives.

Perhaps Obama will wait after he leaves office to make his grand contrition through the pages of a gut wrenching manuscript that book publishers are already hard at work to get the publishing right through which he will once again enrich his own personal lot. The article that follows was a reflection I made about the historic uneasiness that exists between the president and many of his African American civil right leaders.


Distinguished Princeton professor Cornel West and Public television personality and political activist Travis Smiley have teamed up once again to lead a cross country bus tour they call “The Poverty Tour.” This latest move by prominent figures of the African American leadership underscores the frustration with the Obama Administration, especially on the hot button issues pertinent to African Americans. Although, polls show an overwhelming majority of African Americans still support the president, it is becoming more and more apparent that this support has lost all of its strategic reasoning. It is only being withheld by the simple fact there are no alternative to Obama—at least in the issue of black socio-economic empowerment.

Alfred Davis, a sociology professor at the University of North Florida, admits that Barack Obama’s support among minorities—noticeably among African Americans and Hispanics—is like a cheated love affair out of which the latter is the ultimate victim.

Since coming into office, Obama never takes a proactive approach to the plights of African Americans. Nor has he ever established a task force with a specific mandate to work to ease the hellish conditions upon which millions of urban poor are living daily. Across the country’s major metro areas—where most minorities live—the approval rating of Obama is maintained thanks to an obvious absence of a new choice.

A rocky relationship    

 The history of Obama and the African American leadership is one that can only be described as rocky at best or dubious at worst. There has always a sentiment of mistrust among many African American leaders. This sentiment was echoed by Jessie Jackson’s public rebuke of Obama during the 2008 campaign, although he later apologized. Some other black leaders, including Congressman Charles Rangel of New York, initially supported Hillary Clinton. Their public rebuke went underground with the Obama landslide victory in South Carolina, which effectively removed the fringe jacket off Obama’s back and ushered him to the top of the ridge of the political landscape.  

Barack Obama never espouses the idea of becoming the black president with all its pure political meaning. He has always wanted to become the historic president who happens to be black. The president obviously understood the conventional wisdom. He could not have run for president of The United states under a Martin Luther King straight jacket. Really, after 3 years in office, Obama has maintained this political creed—step-siding African American leaders. Few black faces are seen among the president strategic decision makers and, like the rest of the country, many African Americans feel their support was and still is being taken for granted.  

Adding to this is the president’s obvious capitulation to the Tea Party members in Congress. Since coming into office, the president has been preoccupied in rehabilitating the financial elite, investing billions of taxes payers’ money to bail out Wall Street financiers while the rest of the country, in particular the urban poor, is being greatly overlooked. “He’s rightly associated much more with the oligarchs than with poor people,” says professor Cornel West.

Travis Smiley shrugs critics who say that this poverty tour will add more trouble for the embattled president. “I don’t think the President would be hurt, necessarily—the country certainly would not be hurt—by a primary challenge that would refocus him on what really matters. It would refocus him on what’s happening to too many people in this country. It would refocus him on a more progressive agenda.”

The Smiley-West Poverty Tour has been named: A Call to Conscience. It is a 15-city tour. Last night, they were in Washington D.C. The tour comes on the heels of last week’s deficit agreement, which has been widely criticized for excluding a tax hike on the wealthy, as well as any measures to tackle high unemployment. “Any legislation that doesn’t extend unemployment benefits, doesn’t close a single corporate loophole, doesn’t raise one cent in terms of new revenue in terms of taxes on the rich or the lucky, allows corporate America to get away scot-free again–the banks, Wall Street getting away again–and all these cuts ostensibly on the backs of everyday people,” says Smiley.

That is the sentiment out there, and these protagonists are capitalizing on it to make sure the voices of the urban poor are heard.

Note: Dr. Ardain Isma is editor-in-chief of CSMS Magazine. He teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at the University of North Florida (UNF). He is a scholar as well as a novelist. He may be reached at: publisher@csmsmagazine.org

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