Over two terms, there would be no specific agenda aimed at curing social maladies most predominant in black and poor neighborhoods. No war on poverty, no comprehensive criminal justice reform, no radical new approach to public education and no wholesale effort to staunch the flow of illegal guns. No substantial attempt to wage a fight for environmental justice, to clear the toxins pervading the water and soil in poor neighborhoods.
Preferring deliberation over aggressive policy positions, the administration moved delicately, if not ineffectually, in what we now know was a failed attempt to assuage the fears of an “us vs. them” electorate. This presidency favored reconciliation over recompense, even when the latter would have served both.
Obama’s election, eight years ago, was heralded as prima facie evidence that we were better. His two terms in office—replete with government shutdowns, filibustering partisans, racial brickbats and constant threats to repeal his signature healthcare legislation– proved that we were not.
The political calculus proved too weighty to effect real and lasting reforms. No Wall Street bankers went to jail for plundering whole communities. Police violence in non-white neighborhoods went unchecked by federal prosecution. While Chicago shuttered dozens of public schools and sent the cash to build new prisons, the administration remained painfully silent.