We need to begin this discussion with the unfinished Presidency of Barack Obama.
Some said it was because of his race. Others said it was his deliberative slowness as he explored every possibility and probability to its end before making a decision. Some said it was because he just could not “get along” with Congress. Others said it was because he was bent on bringing into American society too much federal government.
Some saw him as a deep thinking intellectual. Others saw him as a dangerous black Kenyan Muslim foreigner.
None of these observations gives us a clear picture of the man and reason for what might be called an “unfinished presidency.”
Many Americans do not like deep thinking intellectuals. Many do not like Ivey League graduates, especially Columbia/Harvard graduates with names like Barack Obama. Many do not like those of other religions. Many do not like those of color. All these “others” make them feel uncomfortable.
When the country was founded, the majority of Americans were not like Barack Obama. They were poor white uneducated immigrants. Now, many of their descendants remain the same; poor, white and uneducated.
Then there was another group, separate from the poor white and uneducated. They were from a white educated European aristocracy. They came with family wealth. They had social status. In the South they owned large and valuable expanses of land and lived in beautiful homes. They had slaves. In the North they were wealthy merchants. As their new American government formed, many assumed positions in that government.
Over time as the population expanded, the progeny of these wealthy white intellectual elite continued to rule in both the North and South. Most graduated from Ivey League colleges in the North and the great southern institutions in the South. Then with the depression of 1929 their hold was partially broken. Traditional American political and economic power changed. Also, the makeup of the presidency changed. But not totally. Power still rested with an American aristocracy; some from the old guard, some from the new. It was a mix of the old elite and an elite of newly minted powerful multimillionaires.
The overall societal structure in America today continues to be very much the same as it was at its founding; a nation split in two with a small number of white privileged individuals holding the reins of wealth and power and a very large number of poor and dispossessed living outside of the reins of wealth and power. There was a middle class, but in recent years it has eroded.
As a result, tensions are boiling under the surface. Socially the country is adrift as if it were a boat; its anchor being dragged at the mercy of the wind. The disenfranchised are stuffed into the hold of the boat. They remain marginalized. On the deck is a captain. He is a white “elite” billionaire. His name is Donald Trump. He said he would make American “great again.” In the recent election he became their hero.
In their confusion, the poor white uneducated and marginalized keep looking back to the time of the country’s founding fathers. Some identify themselves as the “Tea Party.”
But this raises a confusing question. What was America’s greatness then? Jefferson was in fact a privileged intellectual aristocrat; as was Washington. They were in reality wealthy white slave holding aristocratic pseudo European elitists. Jefferson in fact spoke about a natural aristocracy, based on talent and virtue. His New England rival Hamilton envisioned America’s leadership to be a rich and well-born aristocracy, based on birth, wealth, and status.
21st century economic and social stratification has left many disenfranchised Americans in a state of confusion and frustration. Preoccupied with tensions related to their failure to gratify their economic needs and unable to define clearly how they are to fit into the American framework, they decided to vote for a new president. He told them he was going to make America great again and they were to be a part of that greatness.
But now after just a few months in office, many are growing suspicious. They are finding that their new president has filled the government with the rich and well-born; those interested only in increasing their own wealth and that of their families. They are also finding that these “elite” Americans will be taking away from them even the little that they had.
How did these poor white uneducated Americans go so wrong? For one thing; they could not understand that the deliberative Columbia/Harvard graduate who sudden appeared on the scene nine years before was in fact on their side.
They could not understand that Barack Obama was representative of a new generation of Americans envisioning a renaissance of thought as to the country’s purpose, a person who saw the need to put in place a 21st century foundation that could meet 21st century world challenges both internal and external, a president who saw that new ideas needed to be debated with the same discipline and intellectual framework he experienced as editor of the Harvard Law Review. (He was the first person of color ever to hold that position) Barack Obama was a president who saw that the decayed and decaying structures not just in American but in the world needed to be carefully examined and where necessary reevaluated and restructured.
But, he had a problem. By his presence as a “liberal” African American, many in America on the Right side of the spectrum, rich and poor not just opposed him, they vilified him. Some accused him of not even being an American. Whatever he proposed, they rejected; health care, gun control, infrastructure, the right of gay Americans to marry, passage of fast track trade authority (to move US influence into the Chinese geographical orbit), Family Planning, the opening of normal diplomatic relations with Cuba, an international agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear weapons program; and the list goes on. Case by case, he was met by constant negative hateful sclerotic rat-tat-tat response from the American far right and their faux trash media. Return to the America of 1776 they insisted. Yet, he kept coming back; like a lawyer never giving up or giving in. This made them all the angrier.
From the start, this solid block of revisionist revanchist Americans had decided to say “no” to anything and everything the President tried to do. There was no way that they would open their minds and give this black Columbia/Harvard graduate a chance.
So, we can honestly say; whatever was not accomplished and should have been accomplished was not his fault. Yes, bridges and roads are crumbling. The middle class continues to evaporate. American society is experiencing a growing stratification between rich and poor. Students are in debt. The drug companies charge exorbitant prices. Medical care is in turmoil. The deficit builds and builds. Many of the inner cities are in chaos. Prison incarceration exceeds that of all other industrialized nations, homicidal gun violence too. CO2 continues to be spewed into the Biosphere.
And now with their man Donald Trump in charge and Barack Obama not only gone but all vestiges of an American government with its liberalism gone too, these poor white uneducated Americans thought that they could just sit back and enjoy their great nation. They thought that the anchor thrown out there in 1776 was going to hold firmly. And at last they could get out from the hold of the boat and get into the fresh air. But lately some are noticing that they may not be able to get out. Also they are noticing that the boat is beginning to drift. And they have the feeling that they may remain trapped in the hold of the boat. Also they are beginning to notice that the heavy winds from their twitter obsessed new President are beginning to rock the boat. They are also beginning to notice that the wealthy Media Monguls who had been feeding them the anti Obama anti Hillary news are not coming up with answers as to their plight. So a horrifying thought is beginning to rise in their minds.
How far can the boat drift before it hits the rocks? And what then as the water begins to pour in?
David Anderson brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; theology, history, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, and economics.
He has written three books. A fourth is near completion. It can be seen on
David is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Hawaii (Harvard Asia Pacific) Advanced Management Program. Over a thirty year career he was an international risk manager and senior executive at several of America’s premier multinational institutions. During that period he became increasingly aware of the underlying cultural, institutional and religious causes of past and present civilizational dysfunction and conflict.