Former President Barack Obama recently gave a speech in which he attacked the critics of identity politics.
At the Copenhagen Democracy Summit in June, he said, “I have little sympathy for reactionaries who cynically condemn identity politics or cancel culture when really all they’re doing is trying to preserve existing privilege or excuse entrenched injustice or bigotry. I mean, the original identity politics is racism and sexism and homophobia. That’s nothing if not identity politics, and it’s done a lot more harm than some tweet from an aggrieved liberal.”
Yes, that would be the same Obama who burst onto the national scene by giving a rafter-ringing keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention in which he denounced identity politics. Then-Illinois state Sen. Obama said, “There are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of ‘anything goes.’ Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America.
“There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. … We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”
Days before he announced his race to become the Democratic nominee for president in 2008, Obama gave his first “60 Minutes” interview.
Correspondent Steve Kroft: “You think the country’s ready for a black president?”
Kroft: “You don’t think it’s going to hold you back?”
Obama: “No. I think if I don’t win this race, it will be because of other factors. It’s going to be because I have not shown to the American people a vision for where the country needs to go that they can embrace.”
In a 2007 speech, presidential candidate Obama talked about the black struggle, how much had been achieved and what remained: “The previous generation, the Moses generation, pointed the way. They took us 90 percent of the way there. But we still got that 10 percent in order to cross over to the other side.”
This is the Obama the American people assumed they had hired in November 2008. Hopeful, positive, a liberal Democrat, to be sure, but a black man who could serve, at the very least, as a racial reconciler, keenly aware of how far America has come.
When he entered the Oval Office in January 2009, his approval rating approached 70 percent. An ABC News poll from the time found that 58 percent thought race relations would improve under Obama. But by October 2016, one month before the presidential election, a CNN/ORC poll found 54 percent thought race relations had worsened under Obama, including 40 percent of blacks and 57 percent of whites.
As president, Obama peddled — with little evidence — an ever-growing list of race grievances. The list included “the Cambridge police acted stupidly”; racism is “still part of our DNA that’s passed on”; “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon [Martin]”; holding up Ferguson as a microcosm of racial strife in America; inviting race-hustling incendiary Al Sharpton to the White House over 70 times; and embracing the Black Lives Matter movement, an activist organization based on the false narrative of police “systemic racism” against blacks.
Obama rarely missed an opportunity to be the conciliator Americans thought him to be. He knows that racism has never been a less significant factor as an obstacle to American success. His very election and re-election stand as a testament to that truth.
Obama won the presidency based on a lie. He entered the presidency as an articulate, even-tempered racial unifier and left as an articulate, even-tempered racial incendiary. Today he plays the race card from his $12 million bunker in Martha’s Vineyard.
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