From an Illinois state senator to a failed campaign for the House of Representatives, to a successful campaign to become a senator, to running and being elected the first African-American president of the United States, one word has come to characterise Barack Obama: hope. Along with one phrase: “Yes we can.”
So the question is, did hope materialise, and did “Yes we can” become “Yes we did”, especially with respect to race relations?
Obama believed politics could be conducted on a high moral plane, with dignity, rational discourse on ideological differences, and bipartisanship. He soon learned that 15 Republican leaders had conspired in a Washington DC restaurant on his inaugural night to undermine his administration by opposing everything he supported – even Republican ideas. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said his priority was making Obama a one-term president – not jobs, education, healthcare or housing. During a state of the union address, South Carolina Republican congressman Joe Wilson called out “You lie!” in the middle of his speech – then raised over $1m for his campaign on the back of it. Welcome, Barack, to US racism.