The need for change

To the Editor:

Who needs to change — team Trump or team Obama too? Liberals nationwide can take a cue from our area.

As reported in this paper, at a forum last month, the Obama Foundation’s Chief Engagement Officer declared, “we can’t let cynicism turn into fake news.” Yet he was referencing his own critics, and their coalition to turn private Foundation promises into public City policy. They of course propose a “Community Benefits (Agreement) Ordinance” to fight Obama-Center neighbors’ displacement.

Then, at a forum the following week, all nine aldermanic candidates supported the ordinance. This in the 20th ward, adjacent to the Obama Center’s (5th) ward and the nearest open race.

Hurting from Trump, no one wants to be a pain for Obama. More than any particular plank or target, this is what escalates debates about the Obama-Center Community Benefits Agreement. It’s what makes such a basic proposal so hard.

Yet healing will not come from more Trumpism, from rebuffing difficult views as fake news. That is cynicism, and it does not seem to be drawing South Side votes. No, healing will come from doubling down on Obama’s own ideals, not least, defending tough voices (e.g., McCain’s), distinguishing them from empty ones (e.g., Trump’s), and ignoring neither.

Busy with its international leadership summits, Obama’s team can overlook the local upcoming generation. It can downplay the finding of the very forum hosting Obama’s engagement officer, in the largest study of Woodlawn now: “Absent preemptive public policy, this neighborhood is poised to join other gentrified American communities where displacement may have been contained.” Then Obama’s team will inevitably be shocked by an election again.

But if Obama’s team wants to be part of the solution — for its community and for its party — then they had better defend the voices raising difficult problems and proposals. Starting with its neighbors headed to City Council, and their Community Benefits Ordinance.


Dominic Surya