Jacobin Writer Demands Barack Obama Cut Out All That Black President Magic

White Nonsense

Liza Featherstone at the Jacobin is very disappointed in Barack Obama. I assumed as much when I saw this tweet:

Twitter

Yes, former President Barack Obama, who most of us have never met or know all that well, is not our friend. What an expose!

Featherstone goes on to declare Obama "one of the the worst ex-presidents ever." She concedes that unlike his successor, Donald Trump, Obama isn't actively undermining democracy, but he still places in the worst ever category because he had a birthday party, while "millions of Americans this year [are] worried about being evicted from their homes, catching the Delta variant, persuading recalcitrant loved ones to get vaccinated, or whether a COVID resurgence might keep schools closed in the fall." That does sound inconsiderate until you consider that even us common folk might've enjoyed a single evening devoid of unyielding misery since the pandemic started. How many of Jacobin's readers went to Lollapalooza?


The distinguished memoirist was too busy planning a ginormous sixtieth birthday party for himself on his vast and vulgar Martha's Vineyard estate, a sprawling 6,892-foot tumor on a beautifully spare coastal landscape, which the Obamas bought in 2019 for $11.75 million.

Obama's Martha's Vineyard house isn't just big. It's a tumor! Featherstone sounds very East Egg when she sneers at Barack Gatsby's “vulgar" estate and “appalling manse." When actual working class people see digs like this, they are more likely to exclaim, “Where's the pool?"

Barack and Michelle didn't even build this tumor. They bought the 20-year-old house in 2019. It's also nothing compared to Taylor Swift's 10,982-square-foot, seven bedroom, 10 bath mansion in Beverly Hills. Swift's almost $800 million fortune makes the Obamas' estimated $70 million look like cigar-lighting money. Maybe it just pisses off Featherstone that rich people exist. That's fine, but as long as Kim Kardashian is a billionaire, Nobel Prize winner Barack Obama can live in style. For fuck's sake, Carrot Top has a higher net worth than the first Black president.

It takes her a few paragraphs but Featherstone eventually gets to her point, which is that Obama's ex-presidency "has been strikingly bereft of public-spiritedness."

He's distinguished himself as an enemy of labor and friend of racist cops.

Obama is what now?

NBA players began to go on strike last August after Jacob Blake, a black man, was shot by police seven times in front of his kids, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Amid a national uprising over the shooting and many other acts of racist police brutality, Obama called LeBron James and players' union leader Chris Paul and urged them to get back on the court and finish the playoffs, which they did.

No, nope, and hell naw — this white lady doesn't get to take a paternalistic stance over how three Black men resolved a difficult issue related to the shooting of another Black man.

Like most people with way too much money, the Obamas own way too many homes for the health of the planet. [ ... ]

All this real estate necessitates an unconscionable amount of flying, sometimes on Richard Branson's private jet, at a time when many middle-class Americans and even corporations are cutting down on air travel because of its climate impact.

Fuck you.

The Obamas aren't the only rich people with multiple homes. There are white dentists in Alpine, New Jersey, with as many houses as the Obamas, and for all her proletarian fronting, Featherstone damn well knows this. Someone who describes Obama's Hawaii home as an “ecological monstrosity" has spent a lot of time around snooty-ass old money rich people.

Featherstone gives her ranking of the former ex-presidents, with Obama sorely lacking in her estimation.

With the obvious exception of Trump, who has used his ex-presidency mainly to whine about his personal grievances and fuel far-right conspiracy theories, Obama might be even less public-spirited than many other modern ex-presidents. All of them are war criminals who faithfully served the capitalist class when in power. But Ronald Reagan at least had the decency to retreat from public life into a tasteful (and sadly relatable) senility. Jimmy Carter built houses for poor people and defended democracy in Venezuela. George H. W. Bush declined to serve on corporate boards and engaged in humanitarian activities, raising funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Granted, Bill Clinton's business and foundation dealings in Haiti were a travesty, and he has, like Obama, amassed an indecent amount of wealth since leaving office, but he has also, more than Obama, spent time on humanitarian causes like disaster relief. Clinton also did work hard on his wife's effort to defeat Trump in 2016. George W. Bush has kept a tactfully low profile, becoming an amateur painter.

Ah, yes, George W. Bush is just a humble painter, who also hangs out with celebrities (Ellen DeGeneres technically counts) and has millions in his bank account. Like a common pauper, Bush has only two homes, one in Dallas and a 1,600 acre retreat in Crawford, Texas. Featherstone apparently thinks Crawford's ranch is not a tumor.

Look, most of Featherstone's college Marxist and socialist studies essay is bullshit, but still counts as her opinion. However, she's flat-out and insultingly wrong when she claims Bush kept a “tactfully low profile." Bush helped confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, even actively lobbying Senator Susan Collins, a key vote.

Even 2008 Obama wouldn't have been a Squad member, so I don't expect Jacobin writers to celebrate him. However, they can scale back the contempt, especially since he's no longer in office and already spent eight years absorbing body blows from both the Right and Left.

But, honestly, if it makes you this mad that a Black man made it to 60 and is happy, maybe deep down you need to find a Trump rally to attend.

[Jacobin]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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