One of the most frustrating experiences for those of us on the left at the beginning of the Obama administration was seeing him continue to hold out hope that he could change the ways in which Washington politics work and move forward with both Republicans and Democrats working together.
Because of that, Democrats lost precious momentum in the first two years when they had control of both houses of Congress and the White House.
History teaches us that Obama’s strategy didn’t work.
Several authors such as Robert Draper and Michael Grunwald, and publications like The Huffington Post, Vannity Fair, and other sources point to a meeting that occurred on the evening of Obama’s first inauguration day to plan a strategy to stop the new administration from accomplishing anything and then running on that failure in the 2010 midterms and the 2012 elections.
Why would Republicans do such a thing? First, their wealthy donors do not care how much damage is done to the rest of us as long as they get what they want. But there was another dynamic — they knew that there was a demand for it among their constituents. And given that, it could be a way to make sure that the Obama presidency only went for one term.
In my home state of Oklahoma, Obama did not carry even one county in the 2008 elections.
The same thing happened in 2012 only with even more people voting against him. So I know and hear about the open hatred that some people have for him, and even for his family.
Currently, any politician in Oklahoma who thinks that they can’t do well campaigning against their real opponent starts campaigning against President Obama as though he is their opponent. “I will stand up to Obama!” The sad part is that too often it works.
There is a visceral hatred of our President that goes far beyond simple political disagreement.
Granted, people here in Oklahoma and in other red states hated President Bill Clinton with a deep passion. But that still had more to do with political disagreement than anything else. It is true that the same people who hated Bill Clinton and wanted him impeached are taking the same approach to President Obama. But I am hearing something more, and it is coming from a far deeper place in white culture.
There is a hatred that will not subside for any reason because President Obama is black and because he is the President of the United States. Nothing that he can or would do will change that hatred and fear of change.
It is good to remember the essential message of the award-winning Charles Fuller play A Soldiers Play, and the movie, directed by Norman Jewison, that came from that — A Soldiers Story.
Set during World War II where black soldiers served in segregated units of all blacks, the story is about the tension between the main character, WWI vet Sergeant Waters (portrayed by actor Adolf Caesar) and the young recruits who were under his leadership.
Sergeant Waters shows in many ways throughout the story to be someone who believes that whites will never accept blacks until the whole race shapes up and abandons the country, segregation-based black culture of that time, especially in the South. He is so passionate about it that eventually he drives one young recruit to suicide.
One night, grief-stricken, drunk, and staggering back to his quarters from town, Sgt. Waters is confronted by two of his own men who are on MP duty. One of them murders Waters out of his own hatred for what Waters has done and represents.
But before he is shot, Sgt Waters says this about trying to be acceptable to whites, “It doesn’t make any difference. They still hate you! [laughing] They still hate you!” Those were his last living words. That is what he had learned in his seemingly accomplished life.
And that’s what all of us should remember in all things that we do politically to bring our country forward into a new time. No matter what, many whites will still hate our President, no matter what he does or says.
President Obama, no matter what you do, “they still hate you”.
Remembering that will help us to not waste time on trying to convince those who will never be convinced.
Preserving the right to vote for all citizens and then winning elections for forward-thinking leaders is what will move us forward. Nothing else will work.