The Future Failed Presidency of Barack Obama

On this, the last good day this country will see for a long time, I don't want to write a tribute to the accomplishments of President Barack Obama. I don't want to list all the shit that he got done, much of it despite unrelenting and unprecedented fuckery by the Republicans. I don't even want to complain about the things I disagreed with, like the drone war and mass surveillance. Because almost all of it will be wiped away by the Trump administration, as a good many of those accomplishments are going to be undone or cut to nothing. It's not that Obama failed now. It's that his presidency will be a failure in the future because it's going to be tossed in the trashbin by the same motherfuckers and nutzoids who tried to stop him in the first place. They are waiting like slavering dogs for tomorrow to come because then they will savage everything in their path.

You can point to lots of reasons for the future failure of Obama's presidency. The laughably bad messaging of the White House and the cowardice of the Democrats in not proudly proclaiming success in things like health care are big ass contributors. Indeed, you could say that Donald Trump is the diametric opposite of Obama: all message and no policy. At the end of the day, though, the American people are fucking idiots who want to be told what to think. Obama seemed to believe that, say, a Kentucky resident who got health insurance through the Affordable Care Act would be able to connect two and two and see that Democrats enabled her to get those moles checked and for her to the melanoma taken care of before it spread. But fucking idiots don't make those connections because they're fucking idiots.

Americans like their world Manichean. They like to pick heroes and villains. They want to know which team to root for. They don't like gray areas. They don't want to point out that both teams played a good game. Obama believed that Americans were smarter and better than they actually are, even as every election except his in 2012 proved that they aren't. This was Obama's fatal flaw: the belief in the better angels of our nature, a phrase he used several times throughout his presidency. We don't have better angels, Mr. President. There are no angels. There are only humans, and, god, we are fucked up.

Because of that belief, Obama couldn't see that his 2008 election wasn't just about hope and change. It was about destroying an old order. I've said this many times in the last eight years, and I'll say it again: Obama's greatest failure was in not taking out our domestic enemies right after he was elected. The Justice Department should have gone after the torture-approving members of the Bush administration and the bankers and financial con men who dicked over the economy. The message would have been loud and clear: there is some shit we won't eat. Instead, Obama let Republicans know that working together was his priority, and those sons and daughters of bitches exploited that every chance they could, constantly saying that because Obama wouldn't give in to their every whim, he was the one refusing compromise, undermining and outright lying about what he was doing.

Now, you might say that it would have "set the wrong tone" or some such bullshit if Obama's DOJ had gone after the criminals of the Bush years. But you are forgetting what the country was like in 2008. We were fuckin' done with the GOP. The election showed that, just as it had in 2006. And we wanted them punished for what they had done to the nation, to our sense of ourselves, to our economy, to our American soul. In one sense, electing the first black president with a filibuster-proof Congress was that revenge, but it wasn't enough. We wanted those bastards to suffer. However, like Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon, Obama gave them a pass so he could move on with hoping and changing. But you can't rebuild your house if you leave the termites alone. Those little dicks will gnaw it to its foundation no matter how nicely you decorate the rooms.

By not punishing Republicans, by not making their message toxic, Obama left the door open for them, and they bulldozed their way through almost immediately, with the rise of the Tea Party and the disastrous 2010 midterms.

And that gets to the last thing I want to say on this last good day: We fucked it up. We, the American voters. No, not you, in particular, you who went out and voted Democratic in 2010 and 2014, you who pay attention to who is running and what it means. But, in general, we all have to own the future failure of the Obama presidency. The voter turnout in 2010 was disastrously low in some groups who supported Obama, especially young voters.

Yes, turnout was on a par with other midterms, as was 2014. But that's the goddamned problem. It's one of those things that is so fucking frustrating about these last 8 years. It was as if most of the country acted like a plumber who replaced one giant pipe and decided, "Fuck it. The job's done" without replacing any of the pipes that go in and out of that giant one. This shit takes effort. And we got so pissy about things that we didn't make the effort. You can argue that you weren't inspired, that Obama fucked up by not getting his election volunteers to become an activist army of sorts, you can say that Obama dropped the ball on a few things. But, ultimately, voters have no one but themselves to blame.

That imaginary Kentucky Obamacare recipient? She's responsible for her own stupid. As we all are.

There are lots of things this didn't get into: The racism that was an intrinsic part of Obama's opposition. The media's complicity with the GOP. The standards that Democrats are held to that don't seem to matter when a Republican is in power. The genuinely good things that will be sustained as we head into Trump's America, like marriage equality. The dignity and humanity that Obama and his family imparted in their relationships with each other. The genuinely surprising lack of scandals.

Christ, I'm gonna miss having a cool, competent, smart president who actually gave a shit about the country.

But nearly everything else we can celebrate about Obama's terms in office is about to go out the window. That is on him and that is on us.