The Age of Obama: a period of progress and regression

Today’s third graders only know of a black man as president. If Hillary Clinton is elected president, these same students won’t know a white man as president. Let that sink in. This country, built on the superiority of the white man over the female and racial minorities is far from the group of thirteen colonies that broke from the Crown in the eighteenth century.

While the tides of change have been sowed since the birth of our nation, the forty-fourth president of the United States has catapulted this nation into an open and welcoming period of change. The political activism we see among today’s youth, the excitement among his supporters, disdain among his rivals and the polarization that has since ensued are all, for better or for worse, parts of President Barack Obama’s polarizing legacy.

“Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us — the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of “anything goes.” Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America”. When the young state senator from Illinois gave his rousing call to action at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, his political movement began. When he began his run for president less that three years later, he elaborated on this message. After four years of a costly war he pledged to end it responsibly. A newcomer to Washington, he didn’t carry the baggage his competitors were forced to reckon with. His youth, charisma, and multiracial upbringing galvanized a younger generation. Most importantly, however, was the sum total of all these changes signaled a change to the status quo, a signal of change and hope that propelled him to the highest office in the land.

From the fight against Wall Street in the Occupy movement, to the Gay Rights movement, to the fight for Planned Parenthood, it is no question that this country has moved drastically to the left. What was once unthinkable just five years ago such as the right of same-sex couples to marry or the containment of the big banks’ reckless spending has now been achieved under this president. From his administration’s long awaited support of marriage equality that helped pave the way for the Supreme Court’s decision this past summer to the passage of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Bill, this administration has made a concerted effort to make this a more democratic, just, and representative nation. While the Democrats have made true progress in the last eight years, the Republicans have made every effort possible to try and halt their progress.

It is no secret that racial tensions are at a high akin to that of the 1960’s and 1990’s. While caused by a variety of reasons, this unrest is undoubtedly linked to rise of President Obama. Swept into office in a tidal wave of new younger, more diverse politicians, the conservative wing in politics became galvanized in their opposition to what they saw as the deterioration of our nation. I saw firsthand at conservative rallies and Tea Parties I attended with my grandmother the outright hatred and racism thrown at the President and the Democratic Party. In the midst of finding my political identity, I was confused by their labelling of the President as a socialist dictator, his wife as ugly, a man in disguise, and his supporters as naïve and stupid. Through gerrymandering, the repression of voting rights, cuts to social spending the conservatives have aimed to electorally and socially disenfranchise the very electorate that gave rise to President Obama. As police brutality has become an issue at the forefront of the national conscience, the GOP likens those involved as thugs who have been empowered by the Obama administration. The administration’s efforts to get young minorities off the streets has gained him the moniker of a friend to the thugs. “if only they’d stay calm and not ask for too much” say the pundits.

This country has seen dramatic change in the past eight years. We have seen a war end, then pick back up again. We have seen society at its best, like during last June’s Supreme Court ruling or the deferral of action for undocumented immigrants, as well as the worst in society. Sights like the Confederate Flag flying in Charleston after the church shooting or the rise of super PACS have been steps back in our move to progress and reminders that there will always be detractors in our pursuits to a more just and fair society. President Obama’s agenda has indeed played a part in the extremist wing’s rise to power, something seen today in the form of a bumbling orange buffoon. Through all the negative that has occurred, during the past eight years I have become passionate about public service and hope to spend my life continuing what President Obama set forth to do: make this a more just country for all its citizens.

“The arc of the moral history is long but it bends towards justice”

— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

At Obama’s 2010 rally. The President is standing beneath the blue banner in the background.