HOW THE US TURNED FROM BARACK OBAMA TO DONALD TRUMP
©Wendell Griffen, 2017
Justice Is a Verb!
Perhaps you and other people you know may be trying to understand how Donald J. Trump will succeed Barack H. Obama as President of the United States on January 20, 2017. The answer to that question is multi-faceted and straight-forward, but not pleasant.
The electoral answer is that Donald Trump received more votes in the Electoral College than did his chief opponent, Hillary Clinton. While Clinton received millions more votes than Trump did overall, the President of the United States is determined by whoever receives the largest number of Electoral College votes based on choices made by voters in each state.
Donald Trump is unlike Barack Obama. Trump has a reputation for personal and commercial racism, sexism, xenophobia, bullying workers, and acrimonious dishonesty. Obama has a reputation for thoughtfulness, concern about justice, equality, inclusion, and collegiality. The people who voted for Mr. Trump obviously prefer policies consistent with his reputation and character than that of Mr. Obama.
In other words, the 2016 presidential election contest showed that people in Southern, Western, and so-called Rust Belt States (in the Great Lakes region of the United States) went to the polls determined to elect someone known for being everything President Obama has never been or wanted to be. It will be interesting to observe how Trump supporters will respond when his presidential conduct resembles his overall personal history.
White Christians who self-identify as “evangelicals” and self-styled white nationalists were key constituency groups for Mr. Trump. These voters have supported politicians like Donald Trump for generations. In 2016, the difference was that these groups voted in larger numbers in the states that mattered most in deciding the election outcome.
The United States will soon enter a period where national policies will be driven by a narcissistic white male supremacist with a known propensity for dishonesty, disrespect for people who are different, and idolatry of self. It is telling that Mr. Trump received support from so many people who profess to being followers of Jesus, a Palestinian Jew who included women among his closest followers and treated them with respect, someone who was an immigrant refugee as a child (and probably undocumented at that), and a social progressive who was put to death by the Roman Empire based on false testimony fabricated by his religious enemies.
The truth is that Donald Trump resembles more people in the United States than many people thought were around. Some of us, however, have always known that the talk about the United States entering a “post-racial” era was hogwash. We knew what people were really saying when they embraced the Tea Party and signed on to its rhetoric about “wanting my country back.” Our elders warned us that “smiling faces tell lies.”
White Democratic politicians in the South distanced themselves from President Obama from the beginning of his presidency. Democratic office holders in Arkansas, Louisiana, and other southern states, who counted on help from Senator Barack Obama to win their elections in 2006, refused to campaign for his policies after 2008 even when those policies resulted in healthcare becoming more available and affordable for their constituents.
As the nation prepares to observe the holiday marking the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the last time during President Obama’s presidency, we should remember what Dr. King wrote about racial and social inequality in an essay published after his death. In that essay, titled A Testament of Hope, Dr. King termed the problems of inequality and injustice as being “so tenacious because, despite its virtues and attributes, America is deeply racist and its democracy is flawed both economically and socially.”
Remember those words from Dr. King as the nation marks the King Holiday for the final time before President Obama leaves office.
Remember those words from Dr. King next week as the nation begins a new era defined by the presidency of Donald Trump.
And from now on, whenever someone asks how the US came to be led by a President named Trump after having been led by a President named Obama, quote these words from Dr. King: “Despite its virtues and attributes, America is deeply racist and its democracy is flawed both economically and socially.”
Donald Trump is proof that Dr. King was a prophet.