The first Presidential
Debate took place this week (after deadline). But the “hype” started two weeks
ago. Hopefully, the debate lived up to the hype (analysis next week), but the
“set up” is worth some space because of the diverse motives that are served
here. It is true that one debate does not make a campaign…unless it comes to
Obama. President Obama has been in this position before, running a near perfect
campaign against a weak Republican opponent, and a media waiting to pounce at
his first falter, thus giving his opponent the opening he needs to upset him. Only
this time around, the expectations seem to be even more unreasonable, given the
environment and the realities of the nation’s economic and social indicators.
People forget it took 10 years and three terms for Roosevelt to turn the nation around.Only so much is going to
be able to be done regardless of
who is President. The debate is simply a subterfuge to position
supporters and detractors as to whether the President addressed the issues they
care about. The detractors won’t support him no matter how well he does, and
those who claim to support him do so based on a “conditional reality,” setting
the President up to chase red herrings that legislated with this Congress
and can’t win him the election.
Everybody has their
issues, but everybody doesn’t draw context in the same political reality.
President Obama knows he won’t be able to please everybody, and governing from
the center (as a moderate) allows for the best engagement for pragmatic
politics. Only Congress, and segments of the public, is not pragmatic anymore.
Congress is literally useless as it tries to government from the fringes. The
right wing can’t even reach the middle anymore. Segments of the public, are calling
for solutions to historical problems, which can be resolved if the government
is functioning, and if the policy environment (Congress) is conducive to
addressing these problems, which it is not.
Yeah…I’m talking about both
poverty and immigration reform…and tax reform…and budget reform…and Middle East reform…and entitlement reform…and education
Okay, you can see where
this can go…how unreasonable it becomes once the “piling on” begins. One
hundred years of outdated institutional systems and ignored social realities
dropped in the President’s lap with smart-mouthed remarks, “You said you were gonna’ change sh*t, change this!!!
Where’s the change?” How come things haven’t changed?” To quote Mitt Romney’s
wife when he was queried about his lack of accountability on his 47% comments:
“STOP IT. This is
The impracticality of
doing many of these things is only met by realities of policy practicum and the
subversiveness of the motives of those doing the
talking. If they really wanted those things to change, the conversation would
have been more rational and placed at the feet of Congress. There are realities
to a society in decline (which America
refuses to admit), the real-est of which is that everybody
has to work to save the society - not work against each other.
Policy change has to be incremental and political will has to be present and affirming.
Policy change has to be
incremental and political will has to be present and affirming. Neither existed
for this President, and to expect he would have solved all these problems in
his first two years, when he had a Democratic controlled Congress, is simply
impractical. Remember how volatile and nasty this country got on the health
care reform debate - people being spat upon and called the names we said we
were past in our “post-racial” period? And health care reform helped as many
whites as people of color.
Poverty and immigration
are highly racialized policy initiatives that
would have torn the country apart and assured Obama’s defeat. Race is the third
rail of American society, and plenty of people, even in our community, are trying
to get the President to step on the rail - because they know what the outcome
would be. Do you think the President wouldn’t have addressed poverty if he
thought he could get it through Congress? That was also the case for
immigration reform and tax reform. People can’t be simple in their
understanding of how government really works. Congress has to do its part, and
President Obama has governed with the lowest rated Congress in American
You can’t be genuine about
winning if both sides don’t try in earnest. The Olympics in London suspended athletes this summer who did
not compete in earnest, for undermining the integrity of the games. Who do the
American people suspend for undermining the integrity of the government to
govern? The conversation can’t be elementary, nor can the rationale for
critique be sandbox. How can you critique Obama and not mention Congress’
obstructionism or the subtleties of racism that disrespect this President - like
no other in American history? You can’t, unless the critique is a set-up for
the failure of this President.
The attempt to take
advantage of Obama’s populist message that drove his election (along with eight
years of anti-intellectualism fatigue), gave people - who would have never been
heard in previous administrations - an opportunity to be heard. And I don’t
recall all these “demands” being made of either Bush or Clinton. A plane full
of black people went to Africa with President
Clinton and “hoped” he apologized for slavery. He didn’t…and nobody said SH#T!!!
He also signed welfare reform that created much of the poverty (and
homelessness) we see today. Still silence. But they wanna’
be “big, bad and bold” with the black President.
expectations seem to be even more unreasonable, given the environment
and the realities of the nation’s economic and social indicators.
The expectations placed
at Obama’s feet in the face of financial collapse, in the worst economy since
the Great Depression, were false and disingenuous because those that placed
them there knew they couldn’t be addressed in the scheme of the current
environments - both financial and political. People talk about the Great Depression
without drawing proper context to the time or political circumstances. Herbert Hoover
was FDR’s George W. Bush. People forget it took 10 years (from 1930 to 1940)
and three terms for Roosevelt to turn the
If this period is similar
to then, why would the expectation for this President be any different than
what history has taught us and what President Clinton reminded us at the recent
Democratic Convention, that “nobody, not even him, could’ve turned this
economy around in four years.” That’s the political reality. Mitt Romney can’t
offer specifics to his plans because he has none.
Romney doesn’t know what
he’s dealing with, anymore than Bush II knew, and though he’s mentioning
“poverty” (because it was handed to Republicans by detraction), he’s never
dealt with poverty in his life – neither living it nor governing it. Though he
wears spray tans and panders to Latinos, he’s never dealt with immigration
reform in his life - preferring them to “self-deport” (go back on their own), which
is non-sense…and is a nonstarter in policy practicum.
Regardless of how
President Obama or Mitt Romney did during the debate, we know the anti-taxation
movement can’t continue and Congress, regardless of who is
President and what party holds House and Senate majorities, must engage in
rational, practical policymaking.
Otherwise, it’s a
Obama can’t be all
things to all people, nor should he try to be - but he does need a partner in
government to do this dance - to come to the middle of the dance floor, which
the Republicans haven’t done. Hopefully, that’s what these debates are about…
Fixing a broken
government and fixing unreasonable expectations?
Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad,
is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban
The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is AnthonySamad.com. Twitter @dranthonysamad. Click here to contact Dr. Samad.