Saturday, February 27, 2016
HOW OBAMA GAVE US DONALD TRUMP - MATT LASLO
Just as Barack Obama was the reaction to George W. Bushin 2008, Donald Trump is looking more and mote like a reaction to Obama's presidency.
It may feel wrong to even utter the names “Obama” and “Trump” in the same sentence, but: there would be no ascending candidate Trump without President Obama. Trump is the anti-Obama. Sure, as the decades roll on, Obama will be remembered for helping usher through historic healthcare reform, salvaging the US auto industry, rewriting the rules that govern Wall Street and overseeing economic growth that hasn’t been witnessed since the Great Depression ended. But now that President Obama is starting to unfurl his sails and head towards the sunset, what’s being left in his political wake looks less like his soaring campaign promises than it does like Donald Trump and a bitter American electorate.
Trump has changed American politics. He is, as you may have heard, bombastic, vacuous (at least from what he’s produced when it comes to actionable policy proposals) and has used the billions he made in real estate to ensure Kardashian-like fame for himself in the living rooms of millions of Americans. Compare that to the cool, reserved, thinker-in-chief Obama. No comparison you say? Au contraire.
Don’t forget, in 2008 Obama was the anti-Bush. No one would deny that then-Senator Barack Obama’s rode to the White House was paved on the ashes of George W Bush’s presidency. Opposition to the second Iraq war became the wedge Obama used to separate himself from his Democratic opponents before his message of hope and change ignited a fire in Americans who previously felt locked out of the nation’s political system. Just as Wall Street was on the brink of collapse in the waning days of Bush’s watch, so too is a trusting, empowered national electorate on the brink on Obama’s. The housing market bubbled until it burst under Bush, which had roots in the illusory monetary and housing policies of the 1990s. That crisis pales in comparison to what we’re witnessing today.
Voters’ faith in government has withered away. Even if the contemporary, deep-rooted mistrust in government started decades ago under Nixon and then was fanned under Bush, we’re still on Obama’s watch.
Trump’s energetic, if disjointed, base exemplifies the American people’s disgust with the political class. The blistering battles Obama and his aides stoked with Congress, most recently in the form of bypassing Congress with executive orders, enlivened a sleeping part of the public.
It first reared its head in the form of the Tea Party, which many pundits dismissed as merely a racist reaction to the nation’s first black president. An unquantifiable part of the opposition to Obama has always been over race, but it’s deeper than that. People across the nation don’t feel represented in Washington – they’ve gone through a rough patch of joblessness, wage stagnation, being settled in debt, often in the form of student loans, and have been spooked by the specter of Isis. All the while, Washington politicians keep screaming past each other in order to bank roll their campaigns rather than speaking to the needs of middle America. And Trump has tapped into that vein of discontent.
Democrats rest in their assertions that the Republican party is to blame for the rancor that’s defined Obama’s presidency. But their party is going through its own convulsions: the rise of Bernie Sanders’s electrified progressive base further highlights the dissatisfaction with the status quo that’s spread across the nation under President Obama.
Remember when Obama promised to eradicate that mistrust? Well, the hope of election 2008 has turned into a newfound national fear in election 2016. Yes, Obama has ushered through his promised change, but it’s not rosy. Instead it’s a change in the tenor of Washington – bitter partisan politics have gotten petty, and the knives are out in both parties.
The forces – or a reaction to them – that gave us one historic first in Obama’s presidency have given us another, harder to stomach for many, historic first: an entertainer-in-chief. Where the evolution of American politics goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it feels like it can’t get much lower than the rut we’re all stuck in right now.
Who knows what Obama could have done to change the tenor of Washington. Maybe he could have consulted Congress more. Possibly he could have reshuffled his agenda to make the American public feel included. Maybe he could have carried through on promises to have a transparent White House, instead of the seemingly impenetrable fortress he and his aides erected. If any of these things happened maybe we wouldn’t have Donald Trump dominating the nation’s political conversation. Thanks Obama