Obama Should Focus on Healing Families, Not Partisan Bickering

Former President George W. Bush set a classy precedent of riding off into the sunset and letting a new administration run its course. Bush stays above the fray and has become an icon for unity, artistic appreciation, and hidden talents. He has even forged an unlikely friendship with former First Lady Michelle Obama, sparking iconic photos that have gone viral for their moments of unexpected grace and candor.

Sadly, former President Barack Obama is reportedly choosing a different course. The Washington Post reports he is “throw[ing] himself into the highly partisan issue of redistricting, with the goal of reversing the electoral declines that Democrats experienced under his watch.”

According to reports, Obama plans to fixate on redrawing state districting lines, failing to understand that it wasn’t faulty districts that led to Clinton’s shellacking. As pollster Scott Rasmussen suggests, it was people who gave Obama a chance twice who wanted something different by voting for President Trump.

As Rasmussen reports, there are 3,088 counties in America, and only 206 of them—what he calls “Pivot Counties”—voted for the winner in each of the last three presidential elections. These 206 Pivot Counties voted twice for Obama before switching sides to vote for Trump in 2016, and the Pivot Counties punched above their weight in election results. They comprised just 5 percent of the national vote total in 2016, yet they accounted for 51 percent of the popular vote shift toward Republicans.

Pivot Counties punched above their weight in election results.

The mark of an introspective, mature adult is to accept blame and change course. Obama seems to blame the rules of the game rather than his flawed policies. He seems unwilling to accept the reality that Americans wanted something different than a sprawling expansion of government. That’s why Obama saw a 43 percent drop in Democratic governorships during his tenure from 28 to 16 and a 48 percent drop in Democrat-held state legislatures (both chambers) from 27 to 14. He also helped usher a 65 percent drop in trifectas (states with a Democrat governor and both legislative chambers) from 17 to 6.

Obama could use this valuable opportunity as an elder statesman to build and heal the country. As it stands, he risks further polarization and electoral irrelevance. Obama would do better to fight for causes that are universal and unifying, like his My Brother’s Keeper initiative to empower young African-American and Latino boys, many of whom struggle for lack of father figures. For all his political missteps, Obama, by all accounts, is a loving and attentive father—expanding this role modeling would be exactly the antidote for the breakdown of families in many low-income homes. And this role modeling would be a cultural play—the sort of post-partisan big-heartedness that would yield lasting results for the most vulnerable Americans.

Obama could use this valuable opportunity as an elder statesman to build and heal the country.

As the Manhattan Institute’s Jason Riley brilliantly outlines in his book Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, black voters have increased their political power, but this hasn’t translated into economic power or societal advancement in large part due to the culturally-based collapse of the family. Riley points out that black unemployment has risen under Obama, as has the black/white unemployment gap. Black homeownership fell under Obama, and the black/white homeownership gap grew to the widest point since the 1960s. And the income gap between the wealthiest and poorest African-Americans has grown at a faster pace than gaps between whites, a trend academics call “income segregation.” This indicates society’s most vulnerable members are falling further behind in spite of massive subsidies and welfare programs.

The family is the basic building block of society. As we show by highlighting people rebuilding their lives in our Comeback documentary series, “As the family goes, so goes the community.” By healing families, not bickering over political redistricting, Obama can truly move America forward.

Carrie Sheffield is a senior contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @carriesheffield and on Facebook.