In the wake of an Oval Office speech which went over so terribly that it has Politico openly wondering whether the entire form of presidential address is dead, yesterday’s announcement from Donald Trump that he believes the U.S. must block all Muslims from entering the country, “until our countries’ representatives can figure out what’s going on”, finally resolves the question about President Obama’s greatest political legacy.
It is no accident that President Obama’s America has given rise to Donald Trump. It is an America that is more tribalist, where people feel more racially and religiously divided; more politically correct, where people feel less free to speak their minds; and it is an America where trust in the nation’s elites, whose skills are credentialed but unproven, are at historic lows.
These are the wages of progressivism at the end of the day. Big government inevitably leads to government incompetence. That incompetence leads to growing and now dominant distrust – both in government’s basic competence, and in the values of the people who still insist upon it. Our modern elites respond to that rational distrust by smearing it as vile hatred, which further divides and toxifies our politics. And Trump is a perfect personality to exploit these divides, offering the promise of an authoritarian who represents the people in place of an authoritarian who represented the elites.
Consider the news that 965,000 migrants have sought asylum in Germany over the past year. Are jihadists using these refugee flows? Walter Russell Mead:
“Today’s Western elites, in the U.S. as much as in Europe, have never been so self-confident. Products of meritocratic selection who hold key positions in the social machine, the bien-pensant custodians of post-historical ideology—editorial writers at the NY Times, staffers in cultural and educational bureaucracies, Eurocratic functionaries, much of the professoriat, the human rights priesthood and so on—are utterly convinced that they see farther and deeper than the less credentialed, less educated, less tolerant and less sophisticated knuckle-dragging also-rans outside the magic circle of post historical groupthink. And while the meritocratic priesthood isn’t wrong about everything—and the knuckle-draggers aren’t right about everything—there are a few big issues on which the priests are dead wrong and the knuckle-draggers know it.”
In the presidential context here in America, Bill Schneider frames this as “the working class versus the educated elite.”
“Trump’s support for the Republican nomination is not defined by ideology or age or gender. It’s defined by education. Among GOP voters with a college degree in the latest CNN poll, Trump comes in fourth with just 18 percent. But he has a huge lead among non-college voters — 46 percent. No other candidate comes close.”
Republicans have spent much of the past three years wringing their hands over how to win the white working class – Donald Trump is showing them how: by confronting and rejecting the values and authority of the elites, and offering a vision of a presidency for a new authoritarian era, where the Commander in Chief rules by Tweet. This latest storm over his promise to block all Muslims will cast him again as the man who calls the elites on their bull, who promises to bomb America’s enemies or bend them to knee, to sweep away the pretensions of the elites who say what you are not allowed to want with a wave of his hand.
President Obama was supposed to be someone who unified us as a nation; whose eloquence brought us together in harmony and dialogue; he was supposed to be not just smart, but wise and capable. In all these aspects, the professor in chief has failed – and as his failures have increased, so have his inclinations toward anti-Constitutional authoritarianism. David Harsanyi:
“[I]t’s disturbing to witness so many people cheering and defending the circumventing of due process. On the one hand, some of this might be frustration liberals feel with the sluggish state of American politics — and we see it often in Obama’s contention that executive power (“doing something”) is necessary because the democratic process is moving too slow for his liking. A more concerning scenario, though, is that protecting progressive notions of “tolerance” is beginning to supplant the idea of protecting basic rights… When Donald Trump… advocated banning all Muslim immigration yesterday, most of the Republican Party rightly condemned the idea. There was no such reaction to Obama’s no-fly list gun ban.”
Obama was also supposed to be a historic leader when it came to reality-based foreign policy and the cause of peace. Instead, he has proven to be a blinkered strategist undeterred by facts on the ground.
“Even as the president reassured Americans that he remains committed to pursuing the strategy for the Middle East that he outlined more than a year ago, White House officials are quietly reexamining how to intensify the campaign against an elusive foe that has inspired homegrown terrorism in the United States. But the changes under consideration do not stray beyond a set of limited options, with the president reiterating his opposition to a large-scale ground force, which he said would only help the Islamic State recruit new foot soldiers.”
Keep in mind, President Obama would not be the president were it not for the fatigue of the American people for war in the Middle East. It is his core bias toward avoiding sending any more American soldiers to the region, at all costs. It is a testament to how much this approach is now viewed as a failure that a majority of Americans now say they favor sending ground troops to fight ISIS.
“For the first time in CNN/ORC polling, a majority of Americans (53%) say the U.S. should send ground troops to Iraq or Syria to fight ISIS. At the same time, 6-in-10 disapprove of the President’s handling of terrorism and 68% say America’s military response to the terrorist group thus far has not been aggressive enough.”
There is a marked frustration in the president’s lectures of the American people, an undercurrent that has only grown over the course of his tenure. At first he was frustrated with politicians in Washington not listening to him. Now he seems more frustrated with the American people for not listening, either. But they have taken a lesson from these lectures over the past seven years that is now very clear, and that is fueling the Trump phenomenon – the lesson that we were wrong about Obama, just as he is wrong about us.