Studies show that no matter what Obama proposes, Republicans will reject it (even when it was their idea to begin with). But when safe Senate Democrats not up for re-election won’t back a president who just dragged them kicking and screaming into another majority grumble that Obama is “asking for too much,” something else must be going on.
It’s clear now that Congressional responses to Obama’s policies seem to have less to do with policy, principle, personality and polls and more to do with plain ole’ prejudice. Which brings us back to what Hillary was alluding to way back in 2008. While voters were ready for a black president, the powers that be in Washington may not be.
This is not to suggest that Obama hasn’t made mistakes or that Hillary Clinton would’ve done a better job (if she couldn’t win over her own party I doubt she could woo the GOP) but my guess is that a white Obama wouldn’t face nearly as much trouble with his agenda as the current one. America faces serious problems that President Obama’s agenda would finally address; the problem is it’s nigh impossible that a black man with that agenda could be successful in today’s Washington D.C.
A white Obama wouldn’t have given rise to the Tea Party, a white Obama from the Midwest could’ve easily rallied support from working class whites for an infrastructure jobs bill, white Obama could hang out with Jay-Z and Beyoncé and the press would eat it up. In other words, you could wrap up every idea from Barack Obama into a white Obama package and the Democrats would get all of the policies and none of the messy racial aftertaste.
Obama, always the racial optimist, will tell his supporters to not give up hope just yet, that he can still close Guantanamo Bay, restore civil liberties and fine tune Obamacare — but I wouldn’t hold my breath. None of the wheels of power available to previous presidents seem to turn as easily for Obama and he cannot magically change bigots and conservatives into good-faith negotiators while America suffers.
So in the end, Hillary was right; she has as good a chance as anybody in 2016 to be the LBJ to Obama’s Martin Luther King (or Kennedy). She can become president and fulfill the unrealized dreams of Obama whose skin color, but not ideals, were way ahead of their time. The changes he promised in 2008 will come, it just won’t be Obama behind them, it’ll be a white person.
And while that certainly won’t be the change many believed in it looks like it’s probably the best we can hope for.
This article originally appeared online at TheGrio.com.