Whether or not President Barack Obama’s first term embodies the idealism of the 2008 campaign is debatable, according to interviews with nine prominent black academics in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.
The Root: What were your expectations of President Obama’s administration as that of the nation’s first black commander-in-chief? Does he embody today whatever you saw in him during the campaign?
Eddie S. Glaude Jr.: My expectations were pretty straightforward. I wanted him to undo much of President Bush’s agenda: End the Iraq War, close down Guantánamo Bay, repeal the Bush tax cuts and address fundamentally the inequality that threatens the health of the nation. I also wanted him to help us turn the corner on issues of race in this country.
He does not embody what I saw during the campaign. During the campaign, I perceived candidate Obama as much more progressive; what I have come to realize is that most of us “green-screened” him. We made him whatever we wanted him to be.
TR: Do you believe that Obama has adequately fought for the nation’s black communities?
ESG: I don’t think so. But I am not sure what has happened behind closed doors. What I do know is that the rhetoric of “lifting all boats” — a way of talking about race indebted to FDR’s capitulation to Southern Democrats — leaves the particular suffering of black communities unaddressed.
TR: What was your reaction to Obama’s rousing “stop crying” speech to the Congressional Black Caucus?
ESG: I didn’t make much of it. He got caught up in the moment. I also don’t think he would use that language with other groups. It is a reflection of his comfort and his expectations.