AP Photo/Vincent Thian
Former President Barack Obama posted a blog post on Medium on Monday morning, offering suggestions and ideas for achieving “real change” stemming from the George Floyd protests.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times,” Obama wrote. “But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering.”
“But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands,” Obama said.
“When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government … But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.”
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Former President Barack Obama is speaking out again on the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests breaking out nationwide.
As usual, Obama did not mention President Donald Trump by name, and kept the focus on his post-presidency priority of helping young people get more involved in politics.
In a Medium post titled “How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change,” Obama offered suggestions and ideas for the protesters to get results from elected officials.
The post also included a link to the Obama Foundation’s “Anguish and Action” page to direct protestors toward organizing resources.
“I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time,” Obama wrote. “I couldn’t disagree more.”
“But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.”
Obama argued that the local level is a much more effective target than the federal one because of how consequential local elections can be in the makeup of law enforcement.
“It’s mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police unions,” Obama wrote. “It’s district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. Those are all elected positions.”
“Unfortunately, voter turnout in these local races is usually pitifully low, especially among young people — which makes no sense given the direct impact these offices have on social justice issues, not to mention the fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes.”
Obama’s post could be summed up in a modified version of one of his longtime campaign trail quips: “Don’t boo, vote.”
“So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics,” Obama wrote.
“We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”
Read Obama’s full post at Medium.
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