Obama: We've got folks in office now who are trying to deliberately make Americans angry

First McCain, then Bush, now this guy. Three Trump attacks in three days from politicians whose best moments came in the previous decade. As a president whose popularity among his base depends upon being seen as anti-establishment, Trump couldn’t have asked for more than to be smacked by Maverick, Dubya, and O in succession.

A good line from McKay Coppins about last night’s rally for Ralph Northam in Virginia: “Just as in 2008, Obama never acknowledged the irony of equating support for his partisan cause with the embrace of unity.” Indeed, that’s been the core conceit of Hopenchange since day one and captures why O always presented himself to some extent as post-partisan (less so in 2012 than in 2008) despite being a dogmatic liberal. To vote for Obama wasn’t to vote for Democratic government or left-wing policies, it was to vote for progress and bringing people together. He never seemed to enjoy the job as much as when he was delivering a “that’s not who we are” lecture about the American character, which was, oh, every second or third day during his presidency. In that sense Trump is a perfect foil for him, just as he’s a perfect foil for Trump for different reasons. Trump has his own ideas about the American character but it’s almost impossible to imagine him unspooling an Obama-esque lecture on civics and the better angels of our nature. To Trump that would be mere cuckery. To Obama it’s everything — so long as we understand that civics and the better angels necessarily lead to electing more Democrats.

“Folks don’t feel good right now about what they see. Maybe they don’t feel as if our public life reflects our best,” Obama said. “Instead of our politics reflecting our values, we’ve got politics infecting our communities. Instead of looking for ways to work together and get things done in a practical way, we’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage.”…

And the kicker: “The question now, at a time when our politics just seems so divided, and so angry, and so nasty, is whether we can recapture that spirit, whether we support and embrace somebody who wants to bring people together,” Obama said. “Yes, we can.”

Stirring words about not demonizing people with different ideas from a man who once compared Republican critics of his Iran nuclear giveaway to Shiite fanatics. I hate to be the one to tell him but congressional Democrats have stood resolutely opposed to working together and “getting things done” with Trump so far, with the notable exception of a fragile agreement to legalize DREAMers. There’s strategy in that and revenge, strategy in the belief that congressional paralysis will be blamed on Trump and the GOP in the midterms and revenge for Republican obstruction during Obama’s presidency. As for deliberately trying to “make folks angry,” one House Democrat has already introduced articles of impeachment against Trump and tirades about his mental health or dictatorial aspirations are a staple in lefty media. Much of that may be heartfelt but it also “get[s] the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage” in mobilizing Democratic voters for the midterms.

Trump is a unique and worrisome presidential specimen in some ways, temperamentally and in his overt admiration for can-do strongman government, but his uniqueness doesn’t lie in “deliberately trying to make folks angry.” All partisans do that. He may do it in unusually heavy-handed ways, like picking a fight with NFL players for disrespecting the flag. But the Democratic message when Obama ran for reelection in 2012 was that the eminently decent Mitt Romney, whom Nancy Pelosi now wishes were president, was a heartless corporate monster willing to give people cancer to make a buck and also somehow a misogynist because he had “binders full of women” candidates for jobs at his firm. (Don’t ask me to explain how that was misogynistic. I still don’t know five years later.) Obama’s surrogates never had qualms about accusing his right-wing critics, or center-left critics in the case of Hillary Clinton 2008, of racism in opposing him. O actually said elsewhere at last night’s rally that a politician can’t govern people if he runs a campaign aimed at dividing them. Buddy, go look at your own “war on women” reelection effort

Eh, this is what he does, though, isn’t it? If you had to boil the Obama brand down to one core concept, it’d be “above the fray.” Trump makes that easy for him.

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Duane Patterson 2:01 PM on June 05, 2023