January 13, 2017
Photo courtesy of Getty Images @The Hill
In a final assessment of President Obama’s impact on the District of Columbia, Mr Mark Plotkin, political analyst for the BBC, reaches the grim conclusion that the US President never took any interest in the right to political representation of the inhabitants of the city he lived in. Obama not once mentioned the District in any of his speeches and brushed aside questions on the topic, stigmatising the people’s struggle for basic equality as “controversial” and “partisan”.
Below is an article published by The Hill:
President Obama has been a president this country should have good feelings about as he leaves office.
Twenty million people have health insurance who did not have it before. By his actions, he restored stability to the economy and an economic disaster was avoided. Millions of jobs were restored and added. His appointments to the Cabinet and other high offices were first-class. They showed that he had a mission to make his administration reflect the dynamism and diversity of our nation.
To top it off, he was an excellent and impressive representative of the United Sates on the world stage.
But in one area, right in his own backyard, he was a total disappointment and a complete failure.
"Failure," though, implies that he tried. In this area, the truth is that he did not ever try.
I am talking about the place where he has lived for the past eight years: the District of Columbia.
Hopes were high when Obama was first elected. With his background, lineage and passion for human and civil rights, the citizens of D.C. truly thought we would have not only a friend in the White House, but a fierce advocate.
It was not to be. Not even close.
Even before he began his first term, he signaled to The Washington Post during his transition that the issue of voting rights and statehood for D.C. were issues he would not champion, but instead avoid. He described the entire subject as "controversial" and "partisan."
Those words were used deliberately and intentionally to indicate to the 670,000 residents of the District that they were not a priority to him.
He knew that in this town, they would be with him and for him even if he did nothing for them in return.
In the 2008 D.C. primary, he carried all 140 precincts. In the general election, he once again carried all 140 precincts with 93 percent of the vote. In 2012, he won every precinct as well.
In four elections, he never lost a D.C. precinct.
There is no other way to say it. From the start, Obama took D.C. for granted.
And there were plenty of opportunities to show his affection and advocacy for the District once in office.
Let's start with the license plate that proudly adorns his official limousine. The D.C. plate simply says "Taxation Without Representation." President Bill Clinton put the plate on his car at the end of his second term. The first official act of George W. Bush was to remove it.
Everyone thought that Obama would put it back on the presidential car as a clear and unequivocal sign of support and solidarity.
But it took him five years to do just that. It was not until right before his second inauguration that he got around to doing so. It took the urgent pleadings of D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh to accomplish that. (The original idea had been proposed by D.C. resident Sarah Shapiro.)
After the White House announcement that Obama would finally use the plate, then-Mayor Vincent Gray (D) urged the president to bring up the issue of our disenfranchised status in his second inaugural speech.
Obama did not. In fact, he has never brought the issue of voting rights and D.C. statehood in either of his inaugural speeches or his seven State of the Union speeches.
We don't even merit a mere mention.
The only time he seems to have initiated any interest in D.C. was during the 2011 federal budget negotiations. You will remember he said to then-Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), "John, I will give you D.C. abortion."
See, when it came down to it, we were the one entity Obama was going to bargain away.
We were expendable.
The license plate controversy actually has a revealing final chapter. Just recently, comedian Bill Murray was in the Oval Office and asked the president if he had "a good license plate." Reportedly, Obama turned to an aide and asked, "That's a good question, actually. Does the 'beast' have a license plate? What does it say? Is it top secret? Just a number?"
Unbelievable, but true. That says it all.
Obama's attitude has definitely influenced the behavior of his close aides. A prime example being top adviser Valerie Jarrett. She registered to vote in the District in 2009. Since that time, she has failed to vote in every local D.C. election. The only election she participated in was the 2012 presidential election.
Obama has never stepped inside D.C.'s City Hall. He was invited early on by then-Council Chairman Gray and senior member Jack Evans (D).
Tellingly, Obama has never given a speech to D.C. about D.C. in D.C.
How uplifting and supportive that would have been! Telling the nation and the world how we are truly the last colony and that our right to full congressional representation and statehood was a basic human right.
No, those words were never spoken by this leader.
In 2013, when directly asked whether he supported D.C. statehood, he weakly provided this lame and insulting response: "I'm in D.C., so I'm for it."
But when the D.C. Council asked him to at least send a letter in support of D.C. statehood legislation when it was being considered in September 2014, no such letter was ever sent.
Obama will soon be a full-fledged District resident. He will be living in the Kalorama section for at least the next two years.
The very first thing he could do to make up for his eight years of neglect and indifference is to register to vote in D.C.
The Obama family was cited in a recent survey as the "top choice for a celebrity neighbor in 2017." But the outgoing president will never be a good neighbor if he continues to disrespect his fellow neighbors in his newly adopted city by avoiding a fundamental issue of fairness and full American citizenship.
President Obama had a choice eight years ago. To him, though, we just weren't that important. To him, it seems D.C. stood for "didn't count."