Political theater in the United States is a spectacle that is watched worldwide, because of our stature in the world. Whomever occupies the Oval Office is the star, the man (and so far that’s all it has been) who embodies the national character. What kind of a person is America? When Barack Obama was president, he portrayed Americans as a strong people who shouldered their responsibilities, and participated in world affairs with insight and compassion. His leadership reflected a people that collectively were committed to mankind’s highest values. We are, after all, the people who went to the moon. Obama was proud to be an American president just as we were glad to have his image of dignified strength reflect our identity as a people.
Now we have the other guy in there, Donald Trump. If Obama invoked an image of America’s broad shoulders, Trump proudly flaunts it’s broad backside. He trots out a freak show on the world stage, a combination soap opera slash Gong Show, with a dash of Jerry Springer. Where Obama’s oratory elevates and calls upon the better angels of our nature, Trump’s snarling debases, evoking the image of a vicious dog. He brays from the podium in the style of a cheap carnival side show barker, conning the ignorant into buying snake oil while assuring them it’s the Elixer of Life and they’ve never had it so good.
Which one speaks for the real us?
My understanding of "anomaly" is that it is a word that can connote positivity or negativity depending on context. If it's used to mean a fleeting and unsatisfactory abnormality, then I'm hoping that history will see Trump as the anomaly.
— Jeremy Kirk (@jkirkok) September 8, 2018
Trump and Obama are as different as night and day. Even visually they represent extremes, Obama’s clean cut elegance contrasted with the “flowey inescapable flouf of tousled blondness,” as Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale characterized Trump’s coiffure. Trump’s hair is a metaphor for his being, it can’t stand up to a strong gust of wind without being exposed for nothing but the phony artifice that it is.
Friday Obama sent a powerful blast of truth Trump’s way. As Politico put it, “Obama went hard and Trump hardly responded.” Trump claimed to have slept through Obama’s speech, but in all likelihood he was quivering because fundamentally Trump is not only scared of Obama, he is so envious of him that it’s surprising that his orange spray tan hasn’t turned green.
People close to Trump say he has long complained about the fawning coverage and adulation that he believes Obama has received, even after leaving the White House. The dynamic has only bolstered his deep-seated belief that he’ll never be treated fairly or given credit in establishment Washington.
But Trump also sees Obama as a much more formidable political opponent than Hillary Clinton, the one he actually beat, and Trump’s allies have privately worried that the 44th president could get in his successor’s head. Obama, while publicly dismissive of Trump, has been vexed by Trump for years, from the lies about his birth certificate, to the deliberate attempts to undo his signature achievements, to worries about how much he’s responsible for the backlash that helped Trump get elected.
It’s no new insight that Trump hates Obama. Trump is devoted to taking a chainsaw to everything that Obama ever achieved because it’s easier to destroy than to build. These two have nothing in common except golf. Trump has no policies of his own, never has, he just ran as the anti-Obama.
Bob Shrum, a Democratic strategist, said: “His only guiding principle seems to be to undo what Obama did. His driving motivation seems to be his animosity towards Obama. We know he has no deep convictions of his own so Obama became his negative reference point.”
Tommy Vietor, a former national security council spokesman under Obama, told the Guardian: “The whole thing that animates and unites his policy views is antipathy towards Obama. It’s fucking pathetic. He’s a vindictive person so there is an element of this that is about sticking it to Obama. He knows, probably better than anyone, how to find all the Republican erogenous zones because he spent years whipping people into a frenzy and telling lies about Obama.”
Obama has been quiet for the most part in the 22 months since Trump was elected. But that’s no more. He hit the midterm campaign trail full force on Friday and pulled no punches.
“Demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems,” he said. “They promise to fight for the little guy even as they cater to the wealthiest and the most powerful. They promise to clean up corruption, then plunder away. They start undermining the norms that insure accountability, try to change the rules to entrench their power further. And they appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all.” Obama did not say the words “Fascism” or “authoritarianism,” but his indictment of Trump and Trumpism was no less severe for it.
“We’re in a challenging moment because, when you look at the arc of American history, there’s always been a push and pull between those who want to go forward and those who want to look back, between those who want to divide and those are seeking to bring people together, between those who promote the politics of hope and those who exploit the politics of fear,” he said.
“If we don’t step up, things can get worse,” the former president told the audience at the Anaheim Convention Center. “In two months, we have the chance to restore some sanity to our politics. We have the chance to flip the House of Representatives and make sure there are real checks and balances in Washington.”
Meanwhile, Trump has retreated to his bubble and tweeting of his serial lies or alternative facts, as it’s been put, “We are breaking all Jobs and Economic Records…” and he cites none other than Fox’ Lou Dobbs as an expert source for the statement, “To this point, President Trump’s achievements are unprecedented.”
The cultural divide has never loomed larger and truth itself is under attack. This is no ordinary midterm election this is a fight for our way of life, and a referendum on who we are as a people. The one thing that Trump and Obama agree on is that getting out the vote is key. Obama says that Democrats and Republican voters should band together to vote against Trump and elected complicit Republicans and take our country back. Trump says that Democrats in office are a threat to America because they refuse to work with him. He’s touting fascism without using the word. Probably he can’t pronounce it.
Fasten your seatbelts and hang on tight, it’s going to be one hell of a choppy ride for the next two months. And when it’s over we’re going to find out whether we are still America or if somewhere in the dark we morphed into Amerikkka and that’s who we really are.