President Barack Obama is catching hell from all sides-some deserved, some not. It is clear, however that white conservatives are viciously working to destroy his credability and that increasingly, erstwhile supporters, including many Blacks, are complaining that he's not the same guy they helped win the presidency.
Campaign rhetoric that resonated throughout America has lost its luster amid constant political pressure; Obama has already back-pedaled on principles and promises, an ominous sign. The aura of hope, audacity and vision has diminished substantially, even among Blacks, Obama's steadfast supporters-although they saddled him with unrealistic expectations, including mythical power to save the race. (The election's close popular vote was a signal America's ethos was not altered and that race remains a dominant factor in this society.)
Conservatives' campaign to discredit Obama is using his election, as Dr. Maulana Karenga notes, "as a shield against social claims......and portraying (demands for justice and equity) as out of touch and time, lacking awareness of the massive changes that have been made." Dr. Karenga also notes that, "As the irrational reasoning goes, Obama's presidency proves Blacks can do anything if they work hard and that America is an open society, long rid of its racist past and ready to receive at the highest levels, those with ambition, ability and appropriate historical amnesia and social blindness."
A prime example of conservatives' calculated pushback on Obama's agenda is their strategic attack of his healthcare reform proposal at town hall meetings across the country. Planned disruption quickly emerged, challenging Obama's motives and credibility. Not only were participants urged to condemn the president's reform efforts, gun-carrying vigilante types punctuated conservative's attack. Similar campaigns by past presidents to inform and lobby popular support for legislation and/or programs never even remotely generated the venom and disrespect displayed at the town hall meetings; race was the unofficial elephant in the room at those meetings.
Another recent example of conservative angst was the furor over Obama's scheduled nationwide talk to school children earlier this week. George W. Bush, his father and other presidents made similar appeals urging children to do well in school and presenting their education program with no significant pushback. (George W. was speaking to elementary school kids when the 9-11 attack rocked the nation.) Increasingly, the argument denying the primacy of race is being turned on its head for political gain lead by extreme right wing elements.
White progressives are also displeased with Obama's performance. Their beef includes the president's back-pedaling on government transparency, wiretapping, reversals on terrorism, Guantanamo and gay and lesbian rights, and awarding mega corporations exorbitant incentives to essentially continue operating as they have all along.
Black progressives, in particular, but discerning Blacks, too, are disappointed in Obama's penchant for over accommodating. Muted dissatisfaction began with widespread concern over his needlessly harsh denunciation of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and continues with reversals and an apparent reluctance to address specifically Black issues.
A notable exception was Obama's impassioned speech at the Centennial Anniversary of the NAACP on the state of the race, "his race." Journalist Erin Aubry-Kaplan points out in an Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, Black Like "Us?," that despite the audience's euphoria over Obama's victory and his empathy for the commitment and victories of the historical NAACP, "The fate of Black folk is far from certain and is, in some ways, less secure than at any time in the last 100 years... Obama understands that his singular success , far from pointing to a post-racial America, illustrates collective Black failure like nothing else....As usual, leadership on the crisis in Black is up to us. Now all we have to do is figure out who "us" is.
Los Angeles Sentinel Columnist Eric L. Watree, Sr. personally suffers Obama's shifting. Initially, he grieved criticism of Obama, but later felt far left pundits hadn't gone far enough. An Open Letter to President Obama expresses Watree's disappointment with Obama's, "failure to counteract the GOP's mindless aggression through kindness....You are cowarding (sic) in the corner while they are encouraging insurrection........They're ignoring your accomplishments, portraying your assets as liabilities and you're too busy trying to make friends to fight back."
Barack Obama's conundrum is Blacks' conundrum as well. Many, only now realizing Obama's no savior, worry that he may turn out to be an exceptionally charismatic, brilliant politician who, like most others, did not accord Blacks' concerns deserved priority. The worst case scenario is that Obama's leadership fails to reflect the hope and vision he so eloquently articulated and rendered him a breed apart.
Obama's (and Black's) conundrum-the disconnect between "then and now," will persist until there is a profound shift in values and behavior. Collective strength is the true basis for Black's sustainable group progress.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail