Speaking on Snapchat’s Good Luck America show, Barack Obama (above) called on progressives to ditch such inflammatory phrases which only serve to drive people away from supporting them
It’s an interesting read, though entirely typical of his eight-year presidency: very long (751 pages and that only takes us to the killing of Bin Laden in 2011!), extremely verbose though undeniably eloquent, massively self-promoting and sometimes ludicrously overly-defensive and deluded about his numerous failures.
I’ve never bought into the ‘Saint Barack’ nonsense.
Obama is a very intelligent and charismatic man who talked a great game, as he does in his book, and there’s no denying he was a very impressive public speaker and figurehead.
The guy deported three million immigrants in his tenure, more than any president in history. Indeed, his nickname in Mexico was ‘Deporter-in-Chief.’
His drone strike programme – he ordered more in his first year than George W. Bush in his entire presidency – was shameful.
The Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a human rights abomination where prisoners have been illegally tortured as they’re kept indefinitely without trial, remains open today despite Obama making its closure a key campaign pledge when he first ran for president in 2008.
Ocasio-Cortez fired of a raging Twitter thread on Wednesday, tweeting: ‘The thing that critics of activists don’t get is that they tried playing the ‘polite language’ policy game and all it did was make them easier to ignore’
He did absolutely nothing about gun control despite endlessly vowing to bring in new laws after the numerous appalling massacres that occurred on his watch including Sandy Hook and Aurora.
And he waged a ruthlessly cynical war on the media and freedom of the press that should have had at least as much criticism as Donald Trump’s ‘fake news’ outbursts.
So, no – I won’t be polishing Obama’s halo any time soon.
Nor do I think he was a particularly good president, and certainly nowhere near as good as he thinks he was.
However, there is one area in which he has been a consistently sensible voice of liberal reason, and that is in his repeated refusal to bow to the increasingly outlandish hard-left ‘woke’ mob as they try to cancel anyone and anything that doesn’t sign up to their narrow, uncompromising, joyless world view.
Speaking last year at his own Obama Foundation Summit, Obama said: ‘The idea of purity and never compromise and you’re always politically woke…you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are righting might love their kids. One danger I see with young people, particularly on college campuses…there is the sense sometimes of, the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people and that’s enough. Like, if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right, or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself. That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get things done.’
That wasn’t the first time he spoke out against the worrying new phenomenon of intransigent self-righteous young wokies on college campuses who simply don’t want to hear any opinion that deviates from what they have decided is acceptable.
In 2015, at a town hall meeting in Iowa, while he was still President, Obama said: ‘Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side. And that’s a problem. I’ve heard of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative. Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language in it that is offensive to African Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. Anybody who comes to speak to you, and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘You can’t come because, you know, I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say. That’s not the way we learn either.’
Of course, Obama was roundly attacked for saying all this, by the very woke liberals he was trying to educate.
But I have genuinely admired his refusal to be silenced by them and to continue speaking out about what has become a massive threat to democracy.
And this week, he did so again – only this time he directed his fire at the woke brigade’s incredibly self-destructive ‘DEFUND THE POLICE!’ mantra.
Speaking on Snapchat’s Good Luck America show, he called on progressives to ditch such inflammatory phrases which only serve to drive people away from supporting them.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley is pictured above tweeted: ‘The murders of generations of unarmed Black folks by police have been horrific. Lives are at stake daily so I’m out of patience with critiques of the language of activists. Whatever a grieving family says is their truth. And I’ll never stop fighting for their justice & healing’
‘If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly,’ he said, ‘I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like ‘DEFUND THE POLICE!’, but you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done. The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with. If you instead say, ‘Hey, you know what, let’s reform the police department so that everybody’s being treated fairly, suddenly a whole bunch of folks who might not otherwise listen to you are listening to you.’
He’s absolutely right.
Republicans have been very successful in weaponising the phrase ‘DEFUND THE POLICE!’ against Democrats, by telling people that crazy liberals want to get rid of the police altogether when in fact what most of them are calling for is a restructuring of police departments and a reallocating of funding to social services for minority communities to combat police violence especially against black Americans.
Many senior Democrats believe the ‘DEFUND THE POLICE!’ furore cost them seats in the House in the recent election, including Rep. Joe Cunningham who lost to Rep.-elect Nancy Mace in South Carolina.
But Obama’s comments drew instant fire from prominent progressives – led by members of ‘The Squad’, the four firebrand Democrat congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.
‘We lose people in the hands of police,’ tweeted Omar, ‘it’s not a slogan, but a policy demand’.
Pressley was even angrier, tweeting: ‘The murders of generations of unarmed Black folks by police have been horrific. Lives are at stake daily so I’m out of patience with critiques of the language of activists. Whatever a grieving family says is their truth. And I’ll never stop fighting for their justice & healing.’
Ocasio-Cortez fired of a raging Twitter thread: ‘The thing that critics of activists don’t get is that they tried playing the ‘polite language’ policy game and all it did was make them easier to ignore. It wasn’t until they made folks uncomfortable that there was traction to do ANYTHING even if it wasn’t their full demands. The whole point of protesting is to make ppl uncomfortable. Activists take that discomfort w/ the status quo & advocate for concrete policy changes. Popular support often starts small & grows. To folks who complain protest demands make others uncomfortable… that’s the point.’
Of course, that’s not the point Obama was making at all.
In a separate interview with CNN, he explained how he learned the hard way that using inflammatory language against the police doesn’t help effect change.
When President, he said the police ‘acted stupidly’ over a notorious case when officers arrested black Harvard professor Louis Gates Jr. as he struggled to get into his own home.
‘This became a big controversy,’ Obama said. ‘Just the fact that I was seen as questioning the police…really upset a bunch of folks and I think it indicated the degree to which the issue of police relations with minority communities, and the black community in particular, is always a hot topic. It is something that unearths or escalates fears within the white population that somehow the African American community is going to get out of control in some way or is not respecting authority.’
The Squad, and other progressives who scream ‘DEFUND THE POLICE’ should heed Obama’s warning that deploying anti-police language doesn’t help the cause of racial justice or encourage ‘good and fair policing.’ Squad member Ilhan Omar is pictured above
The Squad, and other progressives who scream ‘DEFUND THE POLICE’ should heed Obama’s warning that deploying anti-police language doesn’t help the cause of racial justice or encourage ‘good and fair policing.’
In fact, it’s more likely to harden attitudes the wrong way.
The singer Annie Lennox once told me that the best way for feminists to achieve true equality was not to spew men-hating rhetoric but to bring men with them, to include them in the conversation.
Obama gets this about racial inequality too: the best way to achieve it is to bring white people with you, not alienate them.
But this doesn’t mean he wants to cancel progressives or silence them.
Later in his Snapchat interview, Obama called for A.O.C to get more airtime.
I have genuinely admired his refusal to be silenced by them and to continue speaking out about what has become a massive threat to democracy. Rep. Rashida Tlaib is pictured above
‘The Democratic National Convention was really successful considering the pandemic,’ he said, ‘But, you know, the fact that A.O.C. only got, what? Three minutes or five minutes? When she speaks to a broad section of young people who are interested in what she has to say, even if they don’t agree with everything she says. You give her a platform, just like there may be some other young Democrats who come from more conservative areas who have a different point of view. But new blood is always good.’
Yes, it is.
But sometimes new blood needs to heed the advice of old blood that has fought the same battles and bears the wisdom scars to help make better decisions and win.
President-elect Joe Biden will have many challenges on his hands after he is inaugurated on January 20.
One of the most important will be ensuring he isn’t bullied by the likes of the Squad into making the Democrats the party of hard-left slogans like ‘DEFUND THE POLICE!’ that make America even more divided.
The former president, who discussed the Black Lives Matter movement in his new book A Promised Land, said that the black community is looking for ‘good and fair policing’