President Obama is Out of Excuses; Must Act on Standing Rock
12/3/2016 by Dylan James Harper
Winning elections means making tough choices; sacrifices have to be made. Difficult or controversial cultural issues need to be delicately handled, and many groups of varying ideologies and interests need to be pandered to. Win or lose, it’s always a frustrating road. The election, however, is over, and on key cultural issues like Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, Transgender Bathroom Bills, and several others, President Obama has no excuse for remaining relatively silent.
The protest at Standing Rock feels like the most glaring example of Obama’s apparent unwillingness to even voice a legitimate criticism to the treatment of property belonging to indigenous peoples at the hands of an energy company, several investment companies, the Army Corps of Engineers, and North Dakotan police and lawmakers. Some may argue, somewhat accurately, that Obama’s hands are legally tied. There’s little he could do to directly force a company to move its pipeline to a location that won’t potentially poison a Native American water supply (if that’s a phrase that sounds like it’s out of the 19th Century, I’ve got bad news for you). However, nothing is preventing him from taking a firm vocal stance in support of the protestors at Standing Rock.
It’s unclear what impact the President’s endorsement of the protests would be. Similarly, it’s hard to judge what he could legally or culturally accomplish by voicing concern over state legislation (ten states, to be exact; that’s one fifth of the union) that prevents transgender individuals from using the bathroom of their gender, or supporting Black Lives Matter. However, with a Trump presidency on the horizon, after an election with extremely low voter turnout (even for the United States), and several moderates seemingly begging to be told how to feel and what to do in the wake of surge of Nazi and White Nationalist groups becoming a cultural force, it’s hard to imagine what possible consequences President Obama is envisioning that’s preventing him from openly, and continuously, vocalizing his support for the several groups fighting blatant and systemic civil and human rights violations.
With his legacy already in jeopardy, and his signature legislation in the form of Obamacare soon to be gutted, it’s possible Obama feels like he needs to save whatever political capital he thinks he’ll lose for the last several weeks of his presidency. That’s just speculation. If that is the case, however, the president ought to look hard at all his failures and try to find the common denominator: his inability or unwillingness to communicate to the American people what needed to be done, and how to do it. With that in mind, he should amend this as best he can in the rest of his session, starting by telling North Dakota he’ll take away any federal funding they get if they don’t remove the police presence from Standing Rock, or at least verbally support the protestors. At this point, there’s really no excuse not to.
Dylan James Harper is Chief Political Editor of CSuiteMusic.com
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