In June 2008, the prestigious English journal The Economist celebrated the victory of then-candidate Barack Hussein Obama in America’s presidential primaries, triumphing over his rival, Hillary Clinton. In an enthusiastic and unusual editorial, the journal pointed out that in a country whose past is disfigured by slavery, racial segregation and discrimination by authority figures concerning the right to vote, “The act of choosing a black man as a candidate for the most highly esteemed post in his government, is an event worth of historical recognition as it confirms America’s ability to reinvent itself and to improve.”* Today this praise is beginning to diminish.
It’s worth noting that half of the American population did not support Obama’s victory, voting instead for the Republican candidate … to avoid a black man becoming president. Today society is divided, and this powerful and active extreme conservative has since expressed many political and social comments.
Within a few months of his mandate, President Obama faced the worst economic crisis that his country had seen in decades. The world economy felt the effects of the main international banks’ collapse, creating a wave of unemployment, recession and uncertainty that has still not been resolved. The American economy lost millions of jobs, and millions of families lost their homes and assets.
Several weeks ago, the murder of an African-American man at the hands of a white police officer, in a town of only 29,000 residents, fueled a wave of vandalism, protests and violent confrontations, thus revealing a hidden presence of racial conflict. Obama had to send his attorney general to the scene in order to calm the mood.
On the international front, loyal to his campaign promise to retract troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, he prohibited a series of somewhat questionable interrogation processes formerly approved by his predecessor. He also reduced the amount of prisoners in the disgraceful Guantanamo Bay prison, and promoted democratic elections in countries with authoritarian and repressive traditions.
Today the situation has turned against him. Iraq is suffering the impact of a new radical Islamic organization, more powerful and more terrible than al-Qaida itself, which has forced Obama to return to military action via bombings designed to prevent the Islamic State from taking power.
He also established a constructive relationship with Russia. To begin with, everything indicated that the relationship between these two powers was heading toward establishing stabilization and understanding. However, President Putin had other ideas — that the United States is not brave enough, nor is it decisive enough to initiate new warfare — and so he decided to invade and annex the Crimean Peninsula, an area of undeniable strategic worth.
Various other things have put the American president to the test: the military offensive launched by Israel in Palestinian territory, the civil war in Syria, the appearance of terrorist groups in Nigeria.
In terms of immigration, Obama proposed a reform of the migratory system from his very first presidential campaign. This generated hope and enthusiasm within the Hispanic community, who rushed to vote in his favor. The Hispanic vote was a deciding factor in ensuring Obama’s victory in the elections.
But the issue turned out to more complicated than expected. After the U.S. Senate approved the immigration reform bill, the House then opposed this reform, even refusing to discuss the new law. In a misjudged attempt to appease the Republican opposition, Obama authorized the mass deportation of immigrants, which earned him the nickname “deporter-in-chief,” coined by the leader of the National Council of La Raza, the most influential Mexican-American organization.
Faced with Republican refusal to pass such a law, Obama announced that this summer he would take measures in favor of undocumented immigrants in accordance with the power invested in him by the state. However, last Sunday he announced that he would not be taking any measures, at least not until after the next election, which will take place in November.
Critics are not wasting any time; Republicans and Democrats are accusing him of electoral opportunism, of once again not keeping his promises and of prioritizing an inaccurate political conjecture upon sacrificing millions of immigrants, who today live with the anxiety of being deported and separated from their families.
Being president isn’t easy, even less so when you’re ruling the world’s first major power. Obama made history simply by being elected, leaving behind his country’s dark past and generating hope and renewal.
Historical reality surpasses human desire for change. The president who managed to achieve an unexpected victory is now running the dangerous risk of being remembered in history as a failed hope. I only hope that I am mistaken.
*Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.