Obama the Sanctimonious Lecturer Returns
His advice on political discourse isn't bad, but he led his party to do exactly the opposite.
Seems like the world of politics has never been more dysfunctional. While it’s always been a brutal affair, nothing today is off limits. Rather than merely pointing out where they differ with their political opponents, partisans from both sides now resort to name-calling, exaggeration, and blatant lying to make their case. There’s more shouting than listening, and many Americans are too quick to judge others and make assumptions about their beliefs. In short, we often bring out the worst in one another.
Now more than ever, we need our political leaders and elder statesmen to step up and remind us of the need for civility in our discourse — just like Barack Obama did earlier this week in South Africa. As so often is the case with our previous president, however, his words rang hollow.
When Obama delivered the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa on July 17, he extolled the virtues of listening to the other side, reminisced about the great strides the world has taken to overcome discrimination, and called on people to embrace objective truth in politics.
We need to “get inside the reality of people who are different from us,” he said, “so we can understand their point of view. Maybe we can change their minds but maybe they’ll change ours.” He went on to say, “You can’t do it if you insist that those who aren’t like you, because they’re white or because they’re male, that somehow there’s no way they can understand what I’m feeling, that somehow they lack the standing to speak on certain matters.”
That’s rich advice coming from the man who once told a Latino audience that they need to “punish our enemies”; the man who once said at a campaign rally, “I want you to argue with [your friends and neighbors] and get in their face”; the man who once infamously advised his supporters, “If they bring a knife to a fight, we bring a gun.”
Needless to say, some folks aren’t buying Obama’s recent change of heart. That’s because he was really lecturing the Right, not the Left.
Steve Berman rightly suggests, “It’s so easy now for Obama to be a uniter and a truth-speaker when he no longer bears the responsibility of it.” Berman adds, “Some of the things Mr. Obama uttered are positively shocking given where the Democratic Party has gone — straight into the looney dumpster fire of conspiracy, socialism, and identity politics. If they’d only be sane and listen to him (but they won’t).”
Indeed, the fact that Obama’s remarks in South Africa seem sensible and moderate shows just how deranged so many Democrats have become. It’s doubtful that Socialist phenom Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has any interest in understanding the hopes and dreams of small-town Americans. It’s not likely that Democrats who were once considered mainstream and moderate will stop accusing President Donald Trump of being a Russian agent or drawing parallels between the president’s press conference in Helsinki with that of — we’re not making this up — Pearl Harbor or Kristallnacht.
Democrats aren’t interested in Obama’s high-minded call to civility. They’re interested in destroying all who dare to stand in the way of a universal basic income, a cradle-to-grave nanny state, a country with no borders, and a society where the “wrong” kinds of opinions are met with political violence.
And how did they get there? By following Barack Obama.
It was Obama who played identity politics at every turn, dividing Americans by race, gender, sexuality, and class. Democrats are at best suspicious of white males, and that’s largely due to eight years of Obama making them suspect the worst of those “bitter clingers” holding on to their guns and Bibles.
It was Obama who changed the culture of the Left to one in which any opposing view on any issue is reflexively dismissed, derided, and demagogued.
Jim Geraghty writes at National Review that if “identity politics, cynicism, tolerance of corruption, hardline partisanship, shameless dishonesty, a shallow obsession with celebrities, an appetite for utopian slogans instead of serious and realistic proposals, demagoguery … if all of these forces play bigger roles in American politics in 2018 than they did in 2008, whose fault is that?”
Obama gave some good advice in his South African address, but Democrats aren’t inclined to follow it. Perhaps that’s because they know his words weren’t meant for them. Ultimately, its impact will be negligible.
Barack Obama helped to create the very monster that he now warns us about. And rather than reaching out and trying to understand the “deplorables” on the Right, Democrats remain keen on demonizing the current president, shutting down free speech, and sewing incivility.