I used to love hearing President Obama speak, but it is hard for me to listen to him anymore. He voiced so much hope and optimism years ago and the results have been so limited I just have had enough.
I know. I know. The Republicans have done everything in their power to create a narrative of his being foreign and “other”, not a true blue American. Also, for starters, they left him a broken economy and two never ending problems called Iraq and Afghanistan. And they kept blaming him for not fixing these messes as well as they supposedly would. And called him feckless while blocking to the extent they could just about everything he proposed to Congress.
In the process of demonizing him they created such a negative sense of what we have become as a nation, that they spawned the rise of TRUMPISM. Trump is the un-Obama, the antithesis of the professorial sort, the contrasts so obvious I won’t bother to detail them. Want us to be great again? Just chose a president who is just the opposite of the one we have.
But when Trump goes on and on about making us great again, he not only blames Obama but Republicans as well (e. g. he said it was a mistake to go into Iraq in a book he wrote back then). And he says things that go against Republican rhetoric, if not actions, about being an inclusive big tent party. In short, he has gone off the rails, reminding me of Dr. Frankenstein and his creation.
The Republican establishment could have stomped him out years ago by laughing at him along with the rest of us as he pushed his birtherism silliness (according to polls 60% of his supporters still believe it), but he suited their purposes in raising doubts about Obama’s legitimacy, so they were mostly mum about those accusations, with some even acting as if they might be true. Now he question’s their legitimacy as well as the legitimacy of anyone who criticizes him.
You reap what you sew.
But so what. I still don’t want to hear more from Obama. It has gotten old. We must understand that we are in a political era when gut level feelings count much more than facts, largely because factual assessments can get pretty ambiguous and we seldom can even agree what the basic facts are, spun to suit individual agendas. Reason is overrated these days.
While I agree with Obama that the country is actually in much better shape than many Americans seem to feel, reasoning with Americans about this doesn’t work, especially as the Republican negative narrative has solidified our uneasy image of our nation.
The bottom line is while we remain the world’s strongest economy, have its strongest military and are less vulnerable than other countries to terrorists, we do not feel that we are in control of events as we at least thought we had been since World War II. In other words, while it can be argued we remain #1, we no longer feel untouchable, secure in our position.
In a rapidly changing world, we cannot control things the way we used to, and the American dream seems harder to fulfill for many and we just do not feel as safe now that suicidal terrorists are becoming home grown and, despite our best efforts, impossible to stop altogether. And we can not even seem to work together to deal with this slippage from our undisputed world pinnacle.
Obama had a dream for our future that hasn’t turned out so well, and Trump is trying to replace that vision with one of a reconstituted past, a return to Camelot. In the process, Trump has transformed a political race into a “reality” TV show and in that venue he is the star while the other candidates are mere extras, at least up until now.
I have said before I think of him as a snake oil salesman, but sales are good and unlike with Obama, his shows remain interesting to watch. One of the few lines of poetry I can recall captures my split reaction to Trump. As John Keats wrote two centuries ago: “What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the camelion Poet.”
My virtuous philosopher fears for our nation and wants Trump’s campaign to blow up, but my camelion poet continues to delight in the show.