by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Obama stood in a cricket stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, and said a lot of things that could, or should, get conservatives nodding in agreement. But as he offered a grim assessment of both modern American politics and the broader geopolitical scene, you had to wonder when, if ever, he would confront the fact that he had a lot to do with the shaping of modern American politics and the broader geopolitical scene. …
… [H]e took a shot at identity politics: “You can’t [change minds] if you insist that those who aren’t like you — because they’re white, or because they’re male — that somehow there’s no way they can understand what I’m feeling, that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters.”
Of course … this is the president who made Al Sharpton his “go-to man on race” and who said Latinos needed to “punish” their “enemies.” It’s great that Obama realizes that identity politics can be corrosive to civil society and that they can Balkanize a once-thriving, relatively harmonious society. It just would have been good to hear this wisdom from a president instead of an ex-president. …
… Later in his speech, Obama added, “In the West’s current debate around immigration, for example, it’s not wrong to insist that national borders matter; whether you’re a citizen or not is going to matter to a government, that laws need to be followed; that in the public realm newcomers should make an effort to adapt to the language and customs of their new home.”
How different would the Obama era look if he had emphasized that message at every opportunity?