In the tumult of processing last week’s election, someone at church asked me Sunday morning who in the world could be the next Martin Luther King — the person who takes the lead on the hard road to a more perfect union—and the answer seemed so obvious.
He leaves the presidency a relatively young man (hair notwithstanding, he’s just 55), with a stated desire to return to his community organizing roots and tackle the gerrymandering that distorts our voting like some fun house mirror. That’s noble.
Truth is, though, it’s more modest than what he is being called to.
With his unique gifts and immense platform, plus Michelle’s formidable intelligence, decency, and popularity, he is uniquely qualified to lead the justice movement of the next decade.
He knows Washington, he knows its restrictions, its inflexibility, and he must have on occasion thought about what he could accomplish if he didn’t have to be the leader of an aging, sclerotic superpower and could actually do the absolute right thing.
There is going to be much conflict around Obama’s record, especially after Trump undoes it (or will he? Watching Trump reel as he realizes the challenge ahead of him is vertigo-inducing). Obama will likely need to reclaim it, for himself and us, and doing it outside the government may actually be easier than being constrained by the most demanding job in the world.
Obama spoke Monday on a call with his post-presidential organization, Organizing for Action.
“I’m going to be constrained with what I do with all of you until I am again a private citizen. But that’s not so far off,” Obama said. “You’re going to see me early next year and we’re going to be in a position where we can start cooking up all kinds of great stuff to do.”
I find that prospect exciting. History, I think, is not done with Barack Obama, and that is a good thing for all of us.