“What I think is indisputable is that I signified a shift in power. Just my mere presence worried folks, in some cases explicitly, in some cases subconsciously,” Obama said. “And then there were folks around to exploit that and tap into that. If a Fox News talking head asks, when Michelle and I dap, give each other a fist bump, ‘Is that a terrorist fist bump?,’ that’s not a particularly subtle reference. If there’s a sign in opposition to the ACA in which I’m dressed as an African witch doctor with a bone through my nose, that’s not a hard thing to interpret.”…

The threats to American democracy—and to the broader cause of freedom—are many, he said. He was withering on the subject of Donald Trump, but acknowledged that Trump himself is not the root of the issue. “I’m not surprised that somebody like Trump could get traction in our political life,” he said. “He’s a symptom as much as an accelerant. But if we were going to have a right-wing populist in this country, I would have expected somebody a little more appealing.”

Trump, Obama noted, is not exactly an exemplar of traditional American manhood. “I think about the classic male hero in American culture when you and I were growing up: the John Waynes, the Gary Coopers, the Jimmy Stewarts, the Clint Eastwoods, for that matter. There was a code … the code of masculinity that I grew up with that harkens back to the ’30s and ’40s and before that. There’s a notion that a man is true to his word, that he takes responsibility, that he doesn’t complain, that he isn’t a bully—in fact he defends the vulnerable against bullies. And so even if you are someone who is annoyed by wokeness and political correctness and wants men to be men again and is tired about everyone complaining about the patriarchy, I thought that the model wouldn’t be Richie Rich—the complaining, lying, doesn’t-take-responsibility-for-anything type of figure.”