The Task Before Us

Was he appreciated in his time?

When Barack Obama leaves the Oval Office in twelve days, he would be well within his rights to depart from the White House as a bitter man–bitter over the level of unjustified hatred he received from the right, bitter over the mainstream media’s refusal to comprehensively cover his successes for fear that right-wingers would complain, bitter that his achievements weren’t always appreciated by some progressives. Yet, in all likelihood, he will not leave bitter.

He’ll be relieved that his work is over, and concerned that the new president will try to destroy almost all of it. He will leave cautiously optimistic that this country will survive.

It will be up to the rest of us to defend Obama’s legacy, and make permanent his achievements in the face of withering opposition. The unifying goal of the American progressive movement should be to complete Obama’s unfinished work: to ensure that every single resident of this country has full access to high-quality, affordable health care, that every child receives a high-quality education, that every woman makes one dollar for every dollar a man earns, that every human being on this earth enjoys a stable, pollution-free atmosphere. These goals can be achieved if progressives are unified. Donald Trump and the Republicans can’t defeat the left if the left doesn’t defeat itself.

Think about all the hatred the right wing directed at Obama from the moment he stepped off the podium at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. They’ve attacked him as incompetent and ignorant, someone who’s not even a citizen of the United States, an effete elitist, an uppity you-know-what. They say success is the best revenge…so if progressives managed to secure Obama’s achievements, would that not be the most successful way to stick it to those who have abused Obama and his family all these years?

Right-wingers have been trying to make permanent Ronald Reagan’s agenda ever since the 40th President left office 28 years ago. Why shouldn’t progressives try to do the same with Obama’s agenda?

I don’t quite get the argument that the Democratic Party and the larger progressive movement is bereft of any sense of direction in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s Electoral College loss. Obama has provided a sense of direction for the party; Democrats and progressives just have to follow it.

Donald Trump and the Republicans will overreach. They always do. Remember what George W. Bush and the Republican House and Senate did in the two years following Bush’s re-election victory over John Kerry? Democrats and progressives have to prepare themselves to seize upon the Trumpublican Party’s errors, and holding nothing back in terms of tying every last member of the GOP to Trump.

Democrats and progressives have to make it personal with Trump. This is a man filled with palpable loathing for anything progressive, anything positive, anything civic-minded. Destroying Trumpism is vital for progressive values to survive in this country. It will require an all-out political and cultural assault.

Imagine how much more Obama could have accomplished if Republicans had not stood in his way for virtually all of his two terms. What Obama was not allowed to accomplish, Democrats and progressives should be determined to implement by any political means possible. As the old saying goes, a setback is a setup for a comeback–and if they maintain their focus, Democrats and progressives will come back from the setback of November 8.

Barack Obama built the foundation for the future of the Democratic Party–and despite the derisive attitude of the mainstream press regarding the party’s current status, it remains a solid foundation. The 2018 midterms, the 2020 Presidential election, the 2022 midterms and the 2024 Presidential election are four golden opportunities for Democrats and progressives to protect and expand upon the advances Obama made during his administration. What will the Trumpsters do if Democrats and progressives take advantage of all of these opportunities?