“There’s a mood out there,” said former President Barack Obama while stumping for Terry McAuliffe last weekend in the Virginia governor’s race. “There’s a politics of meanness and division and conflict, of tribalism and cynicism.”
I have always doubted whether Obama wrote the books attributed to him. But upon hearing the above, I began to doubt whether he even read them, especially his most recent book, “A Promised Land.”
The 2019 memoir is a tribute to the joys of tribalism. The same president who inspired the nation at the 2004 Democratic National Convention promising “there is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America,” has more and more taken refuge in his self-constructed “blackness.”
In September, biracial ESPN anchor Sage Steele made the mistake of noticing. “Well, congratulations to the president, that’s his thing,” said Steele. “I think that’s fascinating considering his black dad is nowhere to be found, but his white mom and grandma raised him, but OK. You do you. I’m gonna do me.”
For daring to say the obvious, Steele got a two-week boot from the exquisitely sensitive sports network. For the record, nowhere in “A Promised Land” does Obama identify as “biracial.”
If not before 2008, Obama learned during the campaign that he could insulate himself from criticism by wrapping himself in the tribal colors of blackness. He got his first real opportunity when videos of the racist, anti-American rants of his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, first surfaced.
As he does often in “A Promised Land,” Obama seems to accept responsibility for some misjudgment, but he attaches so many qualifiers that his confession ends up sounding like a boast.
“I knew the blame lay squarely on my shoulders,” he writes. “I may not have been in church for any of the sermons in question or heard Reverend Wright use such explosive language. But I knew all too well the occasional spasms of anger within the Black community – my community – that Reverend Wright was channeling.”
To convince African American voters that their community was, in fact, “my community,” Obama would need all the sophistry his white advisers and speechwriters could muster.
In March 2008, Hillary was still very much in the race. Tacking to her left, Obama loaded the Philadelphia speech with an unhealthy dose of tribal toxins.
Coming from a black man “married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters,” his words had a punch Hillary couldn’t counter.
When Obama reminded his audience that “so many of the disparities that exist between the African American community and the larger American community today can be traced directly to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow,” he identified with that community in a way Hillary never could.
As president, when it suited his purposes, Obama put tribal identification above his identity as an American. One young Florida man learned this the hard way.
The “White Hispanic” George Zimmerman lobbied for Obama, voted for Obama and believed in Obama until that rainy February night in 2012 when attacked by an out-of-control adolescent who looked more like Obama’s imagined son than he did.
In summer 2013, when Zimmerman was rightly acquitted in the murder of Trayvon Martin, Obama felt compelled to legitimize the post-verdict outrage. Expanding on his “If I had a son” remarks from more than a year prior, Obama once again identified himself with Martin, now even more intimately. “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” said Obama.
With Obama refusing to tell the truth about Martin’s death, a trio of activists formed Black Lives Matter. When Obama chose to identify with out-of-control Ferguson adolescent Michael Brown a year later – “My mind went back to what it was like for me when I was 17, 18, 20” – he empowered BLM.
In the subsequent months, BLM and its allies intimidated cops into pulling back from active policing. Thugs filled the void, and the murder rate shot up the charts with a bullet. Thanks to the so-called “Ferguson effect,” 3,000 more people, the majority of them black, were murdered in 2016 than in 2014.
Still, as hard as he has tried, Obama fails to convince anyone that he is an authentic black guy. When, in “A Promised Land,” he imagines himself as one of “four longtime friends, African Americans from the South Side of Chicago, eating chicken and listening to Stevie Wonder,” informed readers have to feel a little bit sorry for him.
They know, as Sage Steele knew, Obama grew up not in the South Side of Chicago but on the South Shore of Oahu with his white mother and grandparents.
More aware readers remember Obama as the biracial metrosexual who, according to college friend Phil Boerner, “enjoyed exploring museums such as the Guggenheim, the Met and the American Museum of Natural History and browsing in bookstores such as the Strand and the Barnes & Noble opposite Columbia.”
As the movement Obama helped launch lurches leftward, he struggles all the harder to keep up. To please the advance guard, he projects “tribalism” on to his political opponents.
“That’s one path,” Obama said of tribal conflict in Virginia, “But the good news is there’s another path where we pull together and we solve big problems.”
In 2004, that “pull together” stuff sold. It doesn’t any more. Caught between two worlds, Obama is now taken seriously in neither.
Jack Cashill’s latest book, “Barack Obama’s Promised Land: Deplorables Need Not Apply,” is now on sale. See www.cashill.com for more information.
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