The Inauguration of Donald Trump as President a few days ago was quite a spectacle. Apparently, many people were happy and many were upset. But the peaceful transition of power from one President to the other is something we all should be grateful for, no matter if you care for the new President or not.
Just ask the people of the African country of Gambia. Former President Yahya Jammeh was defeated in a December election by Adama Barrow. Jammaeh, who had been Gambia’s President for 22 years, challenged the results, and was refusing to step down. Military troops from several West African nations were sent into Gambia, threatening to make Jammach leave, if he was unwilling to step down. He finally did about the same time as our Inauguration, and is now in exile in another country.
So, it was good to see Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump standing together on the steps of the Capital, reviewing the troops during the Inauguration. It was another peaceful transfer of power in the most powerful nation on the face of the earth. Yes, we should be thankful for that.
But watching the incoming and outgoing Presidents standing together on those steps really highlighted the contrasts between the two. Their politics, appearances, and demeanors could not be more different. But they do have one thing in common. It’s the hope that each President’s followers had, or have, at the time of their Inauguration.
President Obama’s campaign in 2008 was one under the banner of “Hope and Change.” Millions of Americans, especially African Americans, based their hope in the first African American President, whom they believed would bring about change that would make their lives much better.
But, while there may have been some improvement, the change that many had been hoping for did not come to pass for many of those supporters. Black unemployment did go down during the Obama years. But, so did unemployment in the rest of the population, since we were in the heart of the Great Recession when he was first elected. But the labor force participation rate among blacks slipped 2.4 %. The number of black Americans living below the poverty line has increased, according to Census data, from 28.8 in 2009 to 26.2 in 2014. Real median income among black households has dropped 1.5 %, according to Census figures. The number of African Americans receiving food stamps increased over 50 percent during the Obama administration, and the percentage of black Americans owning homes went down almost 10 percent.
The above disappointing figures may parallel much of the rest of the American population during the past eight years. But it sure wasn’t what many of those who excitedly supported the candidate of “Hope and Change” expected, or hoped for. And maybe that disappointment has helped fuel some of the anger and frustration we have seen in the streets over the past couple of years.
Now there is a new President. And Donald Trump also has millions of Americans excited about his election. He has promised to make their lives better, that we will be “bored with winning.” His supporters are basing their hope on President Trump delivering on those promises. I wonder if many of his supporters will also end up disappointed and disillusioned. And how will they respond?
President Obama had a hard time delivering on his promises. There were legitimate reasons. There was an opposition party unwilling to cooperate, a changing economy and culture, and the fact that Washington just can’t fix everything. President Trump will face many of the same obstacles. And, while President Obama is a good man, he is just a man. And so is President Trump.
The problem is not about having hope. We all desire a better future for ourselves, our family, and our nation. The problem is the object of that hope, what it is based on. The writer of Psalm 146 warns, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.” If you do, you’ll probably end up being disappointed, disillusioned, and angry. But, as the Psalmist wrote a few verses later, “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.”
I appreciate the importance of Barak Obama being our first African American President. And I appreciate the emphasis President Donald Trump is placing on restoring the American economy. But the fact is that they are just men, and my hope is in God. And that “hope does not disappoint.” (Romans 5:5)
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org