I have been an apologist for Obama for several reasons, among them the unfairness of expecting our first non-white president — who was handed the Great Recession, two unwinnable wars, and the Tea Party — to engage in extensive reform of our corrupt institutions and redemption for our history of injustice. But I am not unsympathetic to the following view:
While Trump’s victory may have been unexpected, it didn’t come in a vacuum. It followed after eight years of disappointment in the high expectations among many that Barack Obama would bring significant change. But President Obama initially focused on bailing out Wall Street, with little or no relief to distressed homeowners or unemployed workers. His signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)—was a gift to the private health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.
Instead of stimulus spending on needed social services, Obama agreed to massive social spending cuts while maintaining most of the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich. He deported more immigrants than his predecessor; orchestrated a coordinated national police action to shut down the 2011 Occupy camps; executed thousands of people worldwide using unpiloted drones; failed to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp; upped the assault on whistleblowers; presided over the ratcheting up of oil and gas production, pipelines, and fracking; and did little or nothing to seriously address the racial imbalances in the criminal justice system or the epidemic of police shootings that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the end, I settle on the pointlessness of judging individual leaders, for they are but representatives of the system which we all follow. Obama did not give us Trump. Voters who thought we could be saved simply by electing Obama or Trump, or any leader, did.