By Harry Colbert, Jr., Managing Editor
The Twenty-Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution suppressed the will of the people.
It reads, “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once.” The amendment was passed by Congress in 1947, but not ratified until 1951. It was our nation’s first president, George Washington, who voluntarily declined to run for a third term who set a precedent of presidents serving no more than two years, but the framers of the Constitution never wrote that in the original document. And because no president had been elected to more than two terms, there was little need for a Constitutional amendment until Franklin Delano Roosevelt came along.
Roosevelt, a pragmatic Democrat, was elected in the throes of the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s New Deal, with its creation of several labor and housing agencies and policies, guided the country from despair to prosperity. Overwhelmingly popular, Roosevelt was elected to an unprecedented third … and an astonishing fourth term as president.
Proving that partisan shenanigans are nothing new, a Republican led Congress figured if you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em, thus they passed the 22nd Amendment. Damn the will of the people.
Fast forward some 50 or so years and the same deregulatory policies that led to the Great Depression were in effect under the leadership of Republican President George W. Bush and a Republican House and Senate. For those old enough to remember (which is pretty much anyone capable of reading these words), 2008 wasn’t the smoothest of times.
Economically we were in the throes of the Great Recession … the worst economic time in the U.S. since … you guessed it, the Great Depression. Unemployment was almost double what it had been in previous years. The American auto industry was on the verge of collapse. The pre-election price of gas was above $4 a gallon. We were also in the midst of a costly (lives even more so than the $2 trillion cost to American taxpayers) and unpopular war. The deregulated housing market was in chaos – in some cases with entire neighborhoods in foreclosure. Things were so bad that when on Sept. 29, 2008 the Dow Jones Industrial Average had a record-breaking single day drop of 777.68 points, Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain wanted to cancel the debates with then-Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama to focus on the national crisis.
Citing hope and change as the reason, Americans elected Obama over McCain in a landslide.
The election was historic … and would forever alter the course of America … both good and bad. With Michelle Obama at his side, Barack Obama would spend the next eight years as a Black man in the White House. For some it was the dream we thought would never become reality. For others it was their worst nightmare … and they would stop at nothing to ensure his political demise with a level of disrespect and obstructionism never before seen. Through all of it, President Obama remained stoic … presidential. But more importantly, like a trusted mailman in blizzard-like conditions, he delivered.
Our president delivered on saving the auto industry. Our president delivered on providing healthcare for all with the Affordable Care Act. Our president delivered on bringing down our national debt while at the same time raising our international image. Our president delivered on ending the war in Iraq, and even after the war was ended, our president again delivered in bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice. Our president … Barack Obama, did that.
By the way, the unemployment rate is at its lowest level in nine years. Housing is robust. The stock market has soared to all-time highs. The U.S. Supreme Court has added its first Latina-American to the bench. Gas dipped under $2; and until the election of Donald Trump, was holding steady.
To quote a popular social media meme, “Thanks Obama.”
First Lady Michelle Obama served as the perfect complement to her husband. Intelligent, poised, sophisticated and regal, Michelle Obama presented as a role model to children of all ethnicities. Her initiative to end childhood obesity will have lasting positive impacts for generations to follow. Her Democratic National Convention speeches will be remembered as some of the greatest speeches in American history. Her sense of style had forever changed the way we visualize a first lady. For many, there are dreams of a 2020 President-elect Michelle Obama.
Again, “Thanks (Michelle) Obama.”
If it were not for the 22nd Amendment, President Obama, whose popularity is the highest it has ever been, would most likely have sailed to victory in pursuit of a third term. It seems again that the Republicans have obstructed him … even if it was a pre-imposed obstruction. We knew going in that we’d get eight years at best.
But oh how we long for more.
When we talk about the legacy of our outgoing president, of course it will be properly noted that he was the nation’s first acknowledged African-American president (we’ll save the debate on President Dwight Eisenhower for another date), but in totality, that is not how we should remember President Obama. President Obama wasn’t a great Black president; he was a great American president. His body of work – in the face of fierce Republican obstructionism – is the story that should be told in history books to come. The fact he did it as a Black man – though a source of pride for nearly every Black person in America – should only be an aside to his amazing legacy.
If I may speak for all of us, on behalf of our entire nation … and the world, we say thank you to two great Americans, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.