No president in our country’s history has been more concerned about his legacy than has Barack Obama. How ironic that people might someday best remember our first African-American Commander in Chief for having inspired the candidacy of Donald Trump.
Six years of Obama forcing unpopular policies down Americans’ throats; six years of lies and misdeeds by unaccountable bureaucrats; six years of lame growth and resulting wage suppression; six years of appeasing our enemies and facing down our friends; six years of dividing the country – they have all taken their toll.
People are angry and are willing to champion a bombastic billionaire best known for insulting people as our next president. Trump’s “campaign message” is vitriol unleashed – towards our enemies, undocumented immigrants and anyone else who crosses his path. His supporters see him breaking free of political correctness, or correctness itself for that matter, and they love Trump for voicing their outrage. They view him as the perfect antidote to President Obama.
Mainstream Americans feel marginalized – pushed to the back of the pack, while the plight of transgenders in the military or imprisoned blacks takes center stage. Worse, they have been lectured and held accountable for the country’s problems. Obama has hinted that white Christian Americans are racist -- indifferent to the travails of blacks and Hispanics and unreasonably hostile to Muslims.
The president has told them that “racism is in our DNA” while liberals have claimed “society itself is to blame” for the schism between blacks and police, as Charles Blow wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed. For a country that twice elected a black man to our highest office, that is an affront.
Meanwhile, hardworking middle class families see cities hauling out the welcome mat for people in our country illegally – while their tax dollars provide those immigrants free education and other services. New York City is issuing ID cards that include free membership to 33 cultural institutions and discounts on movie tickets and prescription medicines. For millions of city residents whose wages are stuck and whose rents are soaring, the largesse is provocative.
Under President Obama, Americans have become more polarized on race relations and immigration, and nearly every other issue as well. This is uncontestable. A poll this past spring showed that 61 percent of Americans think race relations are “bad,” the highest reading since 1992, while only 34 percent think they are “good.” In the summer of 2008, before Obama’s election, 53 percent of the country considered race relations good and only 37 percent considered them bad. That’s quite a turnabout.
On immigration, attitudes have hardened in lockstep with Obama’s drive to exert his will on an unwilling population. Last fall after he announced his impending executive action granting protection against deportation a CNN/ORC poll showed 43 percent of the country “angry” or “displeased” with this proposal, and only 31 percent “pleased” or “enthusiastic.” Some 56 percent disagreed with Obama using an executive action to change our immigration policy, while only 41 percent favored that approach. A new Rasmussen poll showed that 61 percent of likely voters think the government should be more aggressive in deporting people in the country illegally – up from 52 percent a year ago.
Nearly two-thirds of the country thinks we are on the wrong track, while only 29 percent think things are going well. Six months into Obama’s presidency, those lines nearly touched. The displeasure is not all about immigration; it is also frustration at the sorry plight of our public schools, the deterioration of our infrastructure, the weakening of our military, our bloated and unsustainable entitlements programs, our absurd 76,000-page tax code, stifling regulation, massive cybersecurity breaches and so on. Voters are fed up with our elected leaders, and who can blame them?
Republican voters are especially unhappy because in response to Obama’s agenda, they rallied to elect a GOP Congress and the policies they abhor continue. They have raged against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner for not standing up to Obama. But since the GOP does not have a veto-proof majority, and since so many of the president’s policies are being implemented via executive action, Congress can only do so much. As a result, they welcome Trump’s unorthodox voice and background, even though he has embraced many causes in the past that they oppose (gun control, higher taxes, and single-payer health care).
Donald Trump has given voice to the rage of the insulted. It doesn’t matter that he has no platform, no policies – not even the facts to make a coherent argument.
As the campaign season moves forward, The Donald will eventually implode. Is there another Republican who can attract his vocal and impassioned Trumpeteers? Senator Ted Cruz, who also brandishes an anti-establishment pitchfork and is a likely winner should Trump exit, recently upbraided his GOP colleagues for their “foolish” criticism of Trump. Others, like Senator Marco Rubio, have intelligently hedged their bets by refusing to comment on the billionaire’s behavior, saying it detracts from his own message (which it does.)
While some may court Trump’s fans, Republican candidates should keep in mind that the electorate generally prefers an upbeat, positive message. That’s how Obama was elected, as well as most of his predecessors. Trump himself has latched onto “Make America Great Again” as his most winning slogan. He seems to have no plan to accomplish that goal, but his confidence is inspiring. Let us hope that Cruz, or Rubio, or another of the GOP gaggle, can fill in the blanks.