On the day that Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the United States of America was still recognizably the same country it had been for a very long time – arguably, from its very inception. Yes, the Civil War was a monumental disruption, and the social policies introduced by FDR and LBJ ushered in permanent change. So did the upheavals of the 1960s. But whereas the histories of some countries have been marked by one revolution after another, the history of America has, to a remarkable extent, been a tale of gradual reforms during which a single Constitution has remained firmly in place.
Many Americans saw the ascent of Obama to the White House as the proud culmination of a long and painful process of gradual reform – one that began with the abolition of slavery and included the indignity of Jim Crow and the advances of the civil-rights movement. For many of those who cast their votes for Obama on Election Day, and who cheered the results of the tabulation that evening, his election confirmed that the country had put racial division behind it once and for all. In the 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention that introduced him to most of his fellow Americans, Obama had declared: “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.” Now the election of Obama himself seemed to have proven him gloriously right.
And then, of course, our glamorous new Commander in Chief set about trying to tear it all down.
In his smart, no-nonsense new book, Racism, Revenge, and Ruin: It’s ALL Obama, Scott McKay recounts in detail the ways in which our golden god and his sundry henchmen managed, in a remarkably short period of time, to transform the City on the Hill into what McKay calls a “dystopian nightmare.” To be sure, some of us have been following this sad story all along, and might think that we don’t need to be reminded of all the depressing details; but it’s striking, while reading McKay, to discover just how many of those details one has forgotten (the human mind, after all, being remarkably good at suppressing traumatic memories). And to re-encounter all those details one after the other is to see one’s anger over Obama’s manifold perfidies not only revived but intensified.
Anyway, it’s all here – from the closure of the Keystone XL pipeline to the wokification of the military; from the federal government’s deliberate refusal to control the southern border to the demonization of ordinary Americans as “white supremacists; from the weaponization of the CIA, FBI, and Department of Justice to the madness of gender ideology. It was all ultimately Obama’s doing, and it was all done with one clear objective: to destroy the middle class and thereby make possible the replacement of the America we know with – well, with what?
To answer this question, McKay leads us into the sordid place that is Obama’s past. There’s a chapter on his relationship with Stalinist writer Frank Marshall Davis, who may or may not have been Obama’s biological father, and another chapter on his close friendship with Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers, who’s probably the real author of Obama’s uncharacteristically lyrical (and, demonstrably, largely fictional) Dreams from My Father. Also making appearances in these pages are Obama’s Jew-hating Columbia professor Edward Said, one of the leading founders of postcolonial studies, and Obama’s mentor Derrick Bell, who invented Critical Race Theory.
We glimpse Obama the college student, who, according to a classmate, parroted classical Marxism; Obama the Chicago community organizer, who was so wed to leftist dogma that he was incapable of conceiving of practical solutions to ghetto problems; and Obama the 1996 candidate for Illinois State Senate, who won the Democratic primary by using political connections to have the ballot petitions of all of his opponents invalidated. Then there are the gay rumors, which circulated in Chicago Democratic circles back in the day but that have only recently been revived. Most of this material was familiar to me, but I don’t remember ever hearing about the gay church choir director who was close to Obama and who “was found dead in his hotel room of multiple gunshot wounds” on Christmas Eve 2007. Move over, Hillary! Of course there’s no proof that Obama had anything to do with it, but the victim’s mother thinks he did.
Whether Obama had the choir directed taken out or not, McKay makes one thing clear: Obama, utterly belying his cool, above-the-fray image, was, from the beginning of his political career, one hell of a ruthlessly ambitious piece of work. McKay even maintains that he “brought to national politics a new rapacity to win at any cost” – although, having recently read Roger Stone’s The Man who Killed Kennedy: The Case against LBJ, I’d be prepared to argue that that’s not strictly true. And let’s not forget Hillary Clinton, who by 2007 had for years been practicing the distinctive brand of slimy politics for which she is so beloved. It would be downright sexist to deny that, even though she failed to win the presidency, she certainly broke the glass ceiling for women when it comes to sheer, grasping unscrupulousness.
Then again, even LBJ and Hillary, for all their egomania, would never have dared, as Obama did, to declare, at the convention at which he was nominated, that that very nomination would someday be remembered as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” No, when it comes to public vanity on that scale, Obama did indeed set a new record. And what’s remarkable is that he got away with it – and is still getting away with it. McKay quite rightly poses the question: “How could such a sleazy Chicago pol emerge from the ooze of his Alinskyite South Side agitation and bad-faith political campaigns, as this supposedly soaring, untouchable figure?”
Part of the answer, of course, is that the corporate media has his back. But then that’s also been the case with Biden, the Clintons, and most other Democrats. No, Obama has – and had from the beginning – something else that none of the others had. And it’s not just that he’s black, either; so are Jesse Jackson and Maxine Waters. No, Obama had something special. Biden recognized it when, in 2007, in his unvaryingly elegant way, he described Obama as “the first mainstream African-American” in American politics “who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” TV pundit Chris Matthews was reacting to that special something when he listened to a 2008 Obama speech and, as he admitted on MSNBC, “felt this thrill going up my leg.” And New York Times columnist David Brooks was responding to the same thing when, upon meeting Obama in 2005, he noticed Obama’s “perfectly creased pant” and decided instantly that “a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.”
Exactly what is it that all these buffoons were picking up on? McKay cites the film critic David Ehrenstein’s observation that Obama fits to a T a cinematic trope known as the “magical negro.” The term refers to the kind of black character who “exude[s] wisdom and quiet nobility” – many of the men played by Sidney Poitier come to mind – and who, in Ehrenstein’s words, serves “to assuage white ‘guilt’ …while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.” Sometimes the “magical negro” really is magical – think of Morgan Freeman as God in Bruce Almighty or the black mortician in Final Destination or the chef played by Scatman Crothers in The Shining. For many starry-eyed voters, Obama had his own kind of shining: when they saw him, as Ehrenstein put it, they saw “a comic-book superhero” who was “there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand.”
McKay might also have cited Shelby Steele, who divides black celebrities into “bargainers” like Louis Armstrong, who “make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America’s history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer’s race against him,” and “challengers,” who, like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, try to advance by manipulating white guilt. Needless to say, Obama the candidate – who insisted that “[t]here’s not a black America and white America,” and who, when the truth about his own ideological loyalties threatened to damage his electoral chances, threw his Marxist pastor Jeremiah Wright under the bus with inimitable finesse – was a bargainer par excellence.
If more of us had paid more attention to Obama’s personal history, what happened after his election wouldn’t have come as such a surprise. In fact, if enough of us had paid attention, he’d never have been elected in the first place. But the American electorate, in its naivete and trust and hopefulness (“Know hope!” was the unvarying mantra of blogger and blind Obama-worshiper Andrew Sullivan), was drawn to the bargainer, and pulled that lever. And then it happened. “The very moment Barack Obama took office,” writes McKay, “the soothing tones of the campaign rhetoric, the placating centrism of his speeches, the hagiographic portrayal as America’s healer … all of it went away.”
Obama had promised “radical transformation.” But the “radical transformation” that ensued was decidedly not the kind that most of his supporters had thought they were voting for. It began with his inaugural address, which McKay rightly describes as “an outright paean to collectivism.” This was followed, on the homefront, by his “stimulus” bill, his auto bailouts, Operation Fast and Furious, Obamacare, his use of the IRS to destroy his political enemies, and his appalling response to the jihadist massacre at Fort Hood (his administration called it “workplace violence” and expressed the usual bogus concern about an “anti-Islam backlash”).
Abroad, there was his apology tour. In Turkey – which, as McKay notes, is “one of the most genocidal nations in world history” – Obama apologized for American slavery. Believe it or not (somehow I missed this story at the time), Obama actually planned, during a visit to Japan, to apologize for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And guess who talked him out of it? The Japanese. Even as he sucked up to Castro and opened an embassy in Havana with great ceremony, he went out of his way to insult Netanyahu and embolden Hamas, all the while exhibiting a fierce hostility to Israel that (in a stunningly dramatic reversal) spread quickly throughout the Democratic base – the consequences of which were on horrific display in the Holy Land on October 7 and throughout America in the weeks that followed.
Obama had two terms, but when they were over, he didn’t go away. He stayed in Washington and was the central figure behind the concerted attempt to bring down his successor. The group Organizing for America, founded in 2013 by Michelle Obama and described by McKay as “Obama’s Red Guard,” played a major role in promoting the Russia hoax; other Obama operatives pushed the claim that Trump voters were all “white supremacists,” the “both sides” lie about Charlottesville, and the sanctification of George Floyd. They used COVID as an excuse to utterly revamp election rules, and they covered up, with spectacular efficiency, the spectacularly damning contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop. So successfully, indeed, did Obama and his crew continue to advance their cause, during Trump’s presidency, of creating a new America that, as McKay suggests, it wouldn’t be outrageous to describe the Trump years as Obama’s third term.
In any event, it’s become increasingly clear during the so-called Biden presidency that it’s Obama who’s really in charge – making this, depending on how you count, either his third or fourth term. In the name of our feeble faux leader, policies have been put in place that are patently part of the Obama agenda – and that bear no relation to the lifelong politics of Biden himself. “Racial equity,” for example, has been thrust upon every office of the federal government. And for many young Americans with no memory of pre-Obama America – Americans who’ve been brought up to view Obama as a saint and Trump as a Nazi – all this creeping socialism is just plain dandy. If earlier generations saw America, quite properly, as the world’s last best hope, all too many of today’s young Americans see it as a force for evil that was founded on racism and whose power must be restrained by such benign international institutions as the UN and the WEF. Ultimately, every bit of it can be traced back to the efforts of Barack Obama, who’s still only 62, as ambitious and beloved as ever, and manifestly determined to persist in doing all he can to reshape America into a nation of which his Communist mentors would be proud. And what’s standing between him and his objectives? Only you and me.