America just wasn’t ready
Like many of you out there, I asked myself how we got to our current Trumpy situation. I’m not big on politics, so I set out to investigate just how it happened and I landed on a great two-part documentary by PBS’s Frontline called Divided States of America.
These bad boys are beefy at two hours apiece. In a short four hours, you can catch up on the last eight years in U.S. politics. Oh, come on! Don’t look at me like that! There’s worse things you can do in four hours. If you want an in-depth analysis of the rise of Donald Trump, this is a great option. I recommend watching it, but if it’s too much for you, I can summarize.
After eight years of George W. Bush, the nation experienced the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the War on Terrorism, and the Financial Crisis of 2007–08, among other things. As a result, Barack Obama won the Presidential Election of 2008 with a message of change and unity.
His campaign was so succesful that Democrats won the presidency, and a legislative majority in both houses of Congress. The resulting political environment allowed Democrats to pass the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration’s defining, polarizing, health care reform legislation.
Conservatives were not very happy about any of this. John McCain, Obama’s rival in the 2008 election, had chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate who gave the world a taste of the sort of populism we would see under Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The Tea Party rose as a result, rejecting verything Obama. From then, on Tea Party candidates began unseating establishment Republicans from office, and holding the GOP hostage to their demands.
Meanwhile, in Congress, Republicans decided to block everything the Obama administration proposed. Everything. They wouldn’t even bother to read the proposals. That was their strategy: “no.” Obama’s vision of unity was undone before it even began.
In 2010, Democrats lost their majority in the House of Represenatives (bigly), although they did retain their majority in the Senate. The electorate was as polarized as ever after the election of a black man with a foreign-sounding name who enacted a socialist healthcare law , an approach long perceived as something our enemies would do.
Despite this, Obama was able to win re-election in 2012. Meanwhile, somewhere in a dark corner of Trump Tower, the Donald quietly applied for a trademark for his now famous “Make America Great Again” slogan, just a few days after Obama’s re-election.
2014 would mark the beginning of the end for Democrats. In the 2014 midterm election Republicans would win a majority in both houses of Congress and the rest is recent history, fresh in our minds. Trump realized what most of us thought was not possible.
And that’s basically it. Four hours’ worth of PBS summarized in seven short paragraphs.
The question is, however, why did all this happen?
It happened because the U.S. was not ready for Barack Obama. First of all, he is an African-American and millions of Americans are not willing to follow a black man in the White House, even if they deny it. We all know it’s true.
Furthermore, Obama’s background didn’t help him with conservatives. His name alone sounds not only foreign, but from a particular place in the world we don’t trust. Barack Hussein Obama: it has elements from two of the U.S.’s greatest villains in recent history. Most of the redder folk in this country cannot seem tell the difference between three concepts: a name, a religion, and a political ideology.
Needless to say Obama’s ethnicity did not sit well with conservatives. His mere presence in the White House gave rise to the nationalism, racism, xenophobia, and the anti-muslim sentiment that Trump so shrewdly tapped to win his election. Then Trump wend ahead and magnified them tenfold.
Trump is the direct response to Barack Obama. He is his anti-matter to Obama’s matter. His Yin to Obama’s Yang. His white to Obama’s black. His direct opposite in every way.
This election revealed that the American people are not as modern as we previously thought. They were willing to elect a man unfit for the greatest, most respected office in the world and now we all have to live with it.
Oh, and go ahead and watch Frontline online before Trump defunds PBS and it disappears. It’s possible.