Yes, he tried: what will Barack Obama’s legacy be?

Barack Obama waving goodbye

Photograph: Getty Images

When Ohio fell on election night 2008, the President’s Lounge, a bar on the overwhelmingly black south side of Chicago, erupted in jubilation. Corks popped, strangers hugged, police patrolling the streets yelled the freshly elected president’s name from their loudhailers: “Obama!”

As I scanned the faces at the bar, one woman looked at me, beaming, raised her margarita and shouted:”My man’s in Afghanistan. He’s coming home!” Barack Obama had never said anything about ending the war in Afghanistan. Indeed, he had pledged to ramp up the US military effort there. But she had not misunderstood him; she had simply projected her hopes on to him and mistaken them for fact.

Obama had that kind of effect on people, back then. Often they weren’t listening too closely to what he was saying, because they loved the way he was saying it. Measured, eloquent, informed; here was a politician who used full sentences with verbs. He was not just standing to be the successor to George W Bush. He was the anti-Bush.

Post to Twitter

Republicans cede the mic to the mob

The assumption was that Trump would eventually implode under the weight of his own outsized personality and overt prejudice.

The assumption was that Trump would eventually implode under the weight of his own outsized personality and overt prejudice.
Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

As Republican crowds became increasingly rowdy during the 2008 presidential campaign, voter Gayle Quinnell made a memorable, if truncated, contribution. —I can‒t trust Obama,” she told Republican presidential hopeful, John McCain. —I‒ve read about him and … he’s an Arab.”

McCain began shaking his head vigorously and said “No, ma’am,” several times before relieving her of the microphone. “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, [a] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”

With Donald Trump’s victories on Super Tuesday, the Republican establishment has effectively ceded the microphone back to the mob and cannot figure a way to get it back. For years now they have leveraged the support of people like Trump to swell their coffers, staff their campaigns and enthuse their grassroots. They were an essential part of the chorus but they didn’t run the show.

Post to Twitter

© 2013 Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, website design by TLC Digital