A few reasons for social workers not to join in the gushing adulation of Obama

December 5, 2020

Joe Biden may be president-elect, but it feels as if his former boss is drawing at least as much attention from a fawning press. Surely, there’s a certain logic to a “return” of a triumphant former president Obama in face of the current president’s defeat. After all, Trump long despised Obama, and a major driver of the Trump presidential agenda seemed to be reversing as much of the Obama legacy as possible.

But is Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, right in referring to Obama as “the most admired man in the world”? And even if he is right, as a matter of fact (though I’m not aware of a universal poll being conducted on the matter), should we social workers think quite so highly of America’s 44th president? Here’s just a few reasons that should give pause:

Obama failed to follow through on campaign commitments to support the Employee Free Choice Act, which could have been a major boon to labor organizing.

Obama backed bailing out Wall Street’s big banks after they’d brought on the 2008 financial crisis, while allowing millions of working class homeowners to go underwater on their mortgages, and millions more to joint the ranks of the unemployed.

Obama sacrificed the “public option,” supposed to be a central component of the Affordable Care Act, because the highly profitable medical insurance companies just weren’t having it.

Obama set a record for the number of immigrants deported from the U.S., and started the practice of jailing migrant children (yes, sadly, Trump is right about this).

Obama’s Justice Department cooperated with local law enforcement to break up the spontaneous grassroots “Occupy” movement that challenged the gross and (still) growing inequality on a national and global scale.

Obama barely moved on long-simmering racial justice issues, punctuated most acutely by the 2014 Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri, which in turn prompted the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Obama failed, again repudiating campaign promises, to extract the U.S. from Guantanamo (Cuba), Iraq, and Afghanistan. Instead, he embraced a lead role in the “global war on terror,” assuming personal control of the drone program targeting suspected terrorists, including at least one U.S. citizen, any place in the world he chose.

When he’s not giving interviews or promoting his new book, the erstwhile president seems fond of giving advice to progressive Democrats on how to prevent their idealism from hampering success in the “real world” of politics. We should all think twice about heeding his words, or those of obsequious corporate media hacks.

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