What Sullivan misses is that Trump wasn’t possible without Obama. You didn’t have to be a white, male, working-class voter to be stunned by Obama’s unprecedented assertion of executive power. Obama’s argument time and again was that he had to bypass Congress because he was in a hurry. When he claimed that things needed to be done quickly, he promised to govern with his telephone and a pen. He not only refused to enforce America’s border laws; he also claimed the right to legalize undocumented workers by executive action. He forged an international agreement with the Iranian mullahs by winning approval for the deal with the U.N.—bypassing constitutionally required support from the Senate. Obama unilaterally revised Obamacare’s rules without any pretense of seeking legislative approval.
It was Obama who showed that ignorance was no obstacle, and sheer demagoguery worked. When Obama spoke of the Austrians speaking Austrian, talked of 57 states, and referred to a naval translator as a “corpsemen,” it produced barely a murmur. When he met at the White House with the “activists” who incited those who laid waste to a section of Ferguson, Missouri, he instructed them “to stay the course.” That produced but a faint rustling.
Our postmodern president, a good friend of mine points out, has proved that facts don’t matter. The weakest economic recovery in post-World War II history has been sold as a rousing success. We increased our troop levels in Iraq, but miraculously we still don’t have any “boots on the ground.” The man who told his supporters, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” was sold to America by the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the networks as a post-partisan—one who somehow found a way to blame Republicans for all the country’s ills. Obama also showed that bullying the Supreme Court—calling them out for their Citizens United decision in a State of the Union address—could pay dividends down the road. An intimidated Chief Justice John Roberts used pretzel-like logic to redefine the Obamacare mandate as a tax, though the administration had insisted that it was nothing of the kind.