Today, President Barack Obama conducted his end-of-year news conference before leaving for his Christmas vacation. In it, he tackled a variety of subjects. He was concise. He was erudite. He lambasted the GOP and the media for the parlous state into which they've brought the Republic.
What he didn't do, to the consternation of some, was whip out a pen, wave it in the air, and declare the November election null and void.
I may be being unfair, but only out of the deep respect in which I hold the man. When a man of such excellence is to be followed by a cretinous mass of protoplasm such as Donald J. Trump, it hurts one's soul. It's inconceivable that we are going to descend from an Apollo to a rutting satyr. We expect that once more—as with the Affordable Care Act, as with the government shutdown, as with bringing justice to Osama bin Laden—he will work some magic, create a miracle, save us. He's done it so many times before, surely he can do it again.
This is where we dishonor him.
Barack Obama is a man. One of the greatest to hold the office of president, but in the end a man. There will be no deus ex machina in which he descends from the heavens, the instruments to save us from pain in his hands.
Moreover, he is a patriot. He passionately believes in this experiment we call America. He is, indeed, its apotheosis. One hundred and fifty years ago he would have been chattel to a plantation owner; he is about to exit and join the rarefied college of living ex-presidents. As such a person, even though it gores him to the core of his soul, he is going to hand power over to a buffoon, because that buffoon won the presidency by the dictates of the Constitution which Pres. Obama serves.
The Constitution—indeed, our entire society—functions only as well as citizens allow it to function. The more work, effort, and concern you put into anything, the more it will flourish. The same obtains for our Republic. Citizens who are active, informed, and aware of the issues can make it blossom. That's not what we have now. It's why we have Donald J. Trump as president-elect.
Former KGB goon Vladimir Putin conducted a not very elaborate intelligence operation. The emails hacked from the DNC and John Podesta contained nothing in them. But being a former KGB goon, and being an observer of the American condition, he knew that in a country as divided and apathetic as the US, with a media only a shade more respectable than his own state-owned organs, he could use them to stoke disaffection, resentment, and apathy. Those who hated Hillary Clinton would be confirmed in their disdain; those who were on the fence might decide to stay home, since surely she wouldn't lose to the orange buffoon. Couple that with voter suppression, and we have Donald J. Trump as president-elect.
Oh, and yes. Voter suppression. This is where everything began. Everything began in 2010, in the great Tea Party uprising, when all those hopeful voters who ushered Senator Obama into the White House and strong Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress decided that things hadn't moved fast enough, or in a direction exactly of their liking, so they stayed home. And the result was across-the-board Republican victories, which set up 2014, where those victories were solidified due to more pique from a fickle electorate, leading to the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters, which, then, led to the margins in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The base of the Obama Coalition turned out in 2010 and 2014; the fellow-travelers stewed in anger over their unicorns not being delivered.
Donald J. Trump won the presidency according to the Constitution because too many people have abdicated their responsibility for self-government. We can't pin this on Pres. Obama, or the Democrats. The forces which have led to this state have had long gestations. The removal of civics from school curricula, the dumbing down of the electorate, the creation of a media chasing after spectacle, and a major party which flourishes only when voting rolls are minimized all contributed to these forces.
Pres. Obama has never posited any wonderworking powers in himself. He has always said we are the change, not he is the change. He never said what Trump has said ad nauseam, that only he can fix things. Barack Obama tried to give agency back to ordinary people, to have ordinary citizens take ownership of their lives and their country. He didn't fail the people; the people failed him, and now we have Donald J. Trump as the president-elect.
Pres. Obama continually told the nation what was at stake. He continually warned what were the consequences of handing power to a party which had no regard for the common good. And time and time again people ignored him.
Now, once the full horror is beginning to become clear, the cry goes out "Save us Obama!" But he won't be able to save us. This is what those who voted for Trump, or Johnson, or Stein, or stayed home chose. And we will all have to live with the consequences. As a private citizen I have no doubt Mr. Obama will be in the trenches. But there is no easy fix. Democracy is hard. Life is hard. You only get out of it what you put into it. And for too long we've put far to little into it. We expect easy fixes and instant gratification. We shun hard work, we abjure struggle, and we will now pay the price.
Only truth's cold light can guide us out of this dark thicket. And the truth is that we failed. But out of the ashes a phoenix can rise. Remember: hope is what we have to hold onto, and turn that hope into work.