Op-Ed: Obama’s Speech Fee

The Democratic Party is severely out of touch with its’ base, and the party’s leadership continues to widen this gap through both their personal and policy decisions. The Spectator recently published an editorial which discussed the recent announcement that former President Barack Obama will be receiving $400,000 from Wall Street giant, Cantor Fitzgerald, for a speech in September. I thought I would take it upon myself to provide some counterpoints to that article.

Firstly, I would assert that Obama is indeed a hypocrite, not only with his stance on Wall Street, but in a variety of other policy areas. He promised to take on Wall Street but refused to prosecute anyone responsible for the 2008 market crash. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay, and it remains open. He promised to scale back war in the Middle East and ended up turning two conflicts into seven. He promised to “stand up for the little guy” while trying to cut both Social Security and Medicare. If Obama was truly a president who sought to advocate for the poor and disenfranchised, he wouldn’t have sent police to crack skulls at Occupy Wall Street, he would have stepped in at Standing Rock and he would have done more in response to the absurd levels of police violence in our country.

However, none of that happened. Do you want to know why? Because he, much like the rest of the Democratic Party leadership, lives an ultra-rich lifestyle that is detached from the struggles of the Americans they claim to represent. I’m not saying that presidents need to take a vow of poverty during or after office, but you cannot deny that this has a detrimental effect on the ability of our elected representatives’ to relate with their constituents. We saw this disconnect play out in the 2016 race, and we can see it playing out in the party right now. Establishment/ corporate interests rarely coincide with the interests of the democratic base, or the left in general.

Despite the fact that this is an existential problem for the party, the establishment refuses to change course. By taking that speaking fee, Obama is perpetuating the stigma that is killing the Democratic Party. Obama may be out of office, he may not be the first president to receive speaking fees, and he certainly won’t be the last. This absolutely does not mean that we should be any less critical or cut any slack. Big money interests are killing our politics. Don’t just take it from me, take it from him: “Special interests dominate the debates in Washington in ways that don’t match up with what the broad majority of Americans feel”, Obama said during a speech last April. He was infinitely better than the president we have now, but we won’t see change until we hold our leader’s feet to the flames.

Lukas Kret, Junior, Political Science major, Spanish minor