This Tuesday, a new book called The Chickenshit Club will hit the shelves that asserts Barack Obama’s failure to prosecute Wall Street executives responsible for 2008’s economic collapse is the main reason why Trump won the election in 2016. Author Jesse Eisinger believes that America lost faith in the government which ushered in a new wave of populism and disdain for politics as usual — a wave upon which Trump rode to victory.
Had Obama acted, the author claims, “We would think of the financial crisis differently, think of the Obama administration differently; there would be a sense that the government was legitimate. There would be a sense of accountability after the crisis, the reforms would be tougher.”
On the surface, it seems like a fair enough hypothesis. Still, it doesn’t take into account the context and environment surrounding the early days of Obama’s presidency. The main priority at the time was to get a handle on the crisis gripping the country. Once Obama did what he could to stabilize the situation, he dove into health care – a process that took two years to complete. When exactly was he supposed to take on the Wall Street executives? But more to the point – could he have done anything about it? The Republicans took over the house in 2010 and for the rest of Obama’s time in office they successfully coalesced in an effort to block him at every turn. Now, do I believe he could have been tougher – absolutely. But the truth is, Obama was not that type of executive. As we have editorialized here at The Z Review, being the first black president, Obama made a concerted effort to step on as few toes as possible. He made the decision that he would spend his capital on initiatives that would address the rights of Americans rather than litigating past transgressions.
To be sure, Obama made some mistakes that certainly didn’t help Hillary’s chances, most importantly the way he dropped the ball on Russia’s interference with the 2016 election. But to blame him outright for Trump’s victory for his failure to prosecute Wall Street sounds directly out of the Bernie Sanders playbook.
The only ones to blame for the election are the Americans who voted for Trump. And let’s be frank, their motivation had nothing to do with Wall Street, it was their blind hatred of Obama and Hillary Clinton — a hatred that was steeped in racism, xenophobia and misogyny. If you want to blame Obama for anything…blame him for running at all in a country that is still governed by its ignorance and prejudice.