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Posted by on May 16, 2016 in 2016 Elections, 2016 Presidential Election, Politics | 20 comments

Obama didn’t birth Trump’s movement


WASHINGTON — Blaming President Obama for the rise of Donald Trump is popular among Republican leaders. They don’t want to take responsibility for the choices made by their own voters or their complicity in tolerating and even encouraging the extremism Trump represents.

They also don’t want to face the fact that many Trump ballots were aimed at them.

It should be said that many conservatives are resisting the Blame-Obama-First temptation by trying to come to terms with what has happened to their cause. National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru offered an admirably sober assessment of his side’s role in Trump’s emergence that included this observation: “We have come to reward the expression of resentment and anger more than the mastery of public policy.”

This is an accurate and powerful critique of a movement that once claimed to have all the new ideas.

Now their main insight is that Obama is wrong about everything. The Wall Street Journal drew on dialectical thinking to editorialize on the Obama-leads-to-Trump concept: “Every thesis creates its antithesis.”

Just last Friday, Barry Sternlicht, a big-time investor, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that “Obama basically apologized for us” on the world stage, and that Americans are “tired of apologizing.” Trump, he explained, has tapped into a “deep vein,” the desire of the United States to win.

Now it’s true that every president ends up with responsibility in some way for everything that goes awry on his (or, someday soon perhaps, her) watch. And you can make a case that Democrats, in the brief period under Obama when they held a filibuster-proof Senate majority — they lost it, remember, in January 2010, after Ted Kennedy’s death — should have done more to stimulate the economy, lift working-class incomes and thus reduce the level of anger in parts of the electorate.

But what’s maddening here is not just the incongruity of indicting Obama for the success of the man who denied his very right to be president. It’s also that Obama has consistently stood for the things that conservatives say they want liberals to stand for — starting with a robust patriotism.

No one who heard Obama’s 2015 speech in Selma, Alabama, could doubt his belief that the United States is a special place, “strong enough to be self-critical” and thus capable of extraordinary moments of self-improvement and self-correction.

But it goes beyond this. Obama’s commencement address earlier this month at Howard University, which has received less attention than it deserved, was a compendium of arguments that conservatives have wanted to hear.

Conservatives worry that liberals, on university campuses and elsewhere, are inclined to shut down speech they disagree with. Well, Obama is worried, too.

“There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally,” Obama said. “Don’t do that — no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths. … If the other side has a point, learn from them. If they’re wrong, rebut them. Teach them. Beat them on the battlefield of ideas.”

Don’t conservatives want to argue that to deny racial progress is to ignore what’s happened over the last 50 years? Obama thinks this, too.

“Let me say something that may be controversial, and that is this: America is a better place today than it was when I graduated from college. … If you had to choose a time to be, in the words of Lorraine Hansberry, ‘young, gifted, and black’ in America, you would choose right now.”

“To deny how far we’ve come would do a disservice to the cause of justice, to the legions of foot soldiers … your mothers and your dads, and grandparents and great grandparents, who marched and toiled and suffered and overcame to make this day possible.”

Conservatives regularly criticize self-righteous moralism on the part of progressives. Well, Obama insisted that “change requires more than righteous anger. It requires a program, and it requires organizing. … In particular, it requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise.”

“Listening to those with whom you disagree.” Now there is a bracing idea at a moment when the politician getting all the media attention is famous for attaching nasty adjectives to the names of his opponents and urging his followers to strong-arm dissident voices out of his rallies.

Blaming Obama for that guy is like condemning someone who’s trying to stop the fight for starting it. It’s sad. Very weak, too.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected] Twitter: @EJDionne (c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

photo credit: No Wrong via photopin (license)

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  • timothywunderly

    $89 an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…And i get surly a chek of $1260……0 whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids.
    Here is what i did


  • Slamfu

    Hearing Republican leaders bitch about Trump, specifically as Reince Preibus did recently:

    Just makes me laugh. It’s like hearing Al-Queda bitch about ISIS. That bit quoted from the National Review author is indeed a nice summary of one of the many issues that have resulted directly from the GOP’s actions over the last 8-16 years. And even if they got rid of Trump, who was their #2? Ted Freakin Cruz of all people, the next most disliked option from the laughably named “Deep Bench” fielded by the once respectable Republican Party.

    It is really scary watching the wheels come off both parties at once.

    • KP

      “It is really scary watching the wheels come off both parties at once.”

      I like your honesty. Always have.

    • Brownies girl

      Slam writes: “It is really scary watching the wheels come off both parties at once.”

      It *IS* really scary – but if the wheels come off BOTH parties, how long will it be before the wheels come of the entire USA *as a whole*? For me, that’s the scariest part. Because, if it does, it’s not just USians who will be affected, it’s the entire world — folks in my country included.

      John Donne wrote “no man is an island” …. well, these days, no COUNTRY is an island, operating on it’s own — not anymore. What happens in the US impacts all of us. Scary times indeed. BG

    • SteveK

      Empires come and go. The Roman Empire lasted 400 years +/-; Spanish and English Empires lasted about 200.

      And each one in their ‘heyday’ knew that they were different… That they were special… That they would last forever.
      o purple finch
      please tell me why
      this summer world (and you and I
      who love so much to live)
      must die
      – e e cummings
      Could have (should have?) been the lament of many a dying empire.

      • Bob Munck

        Too bad you don’t have EDIT; you could change that capital-I to lower-case (i checked with the published version).
        — Mehitabel

        • SteveK

          Well caught Bob. 🙂

          It’s also too bad almost all blog commenting software was written for a 1200 baud twisted pair world and doesn’t allow ‘unnecessary’ spaces… a lot of cummings poetry was visual.

          Once again with the proper ‘i’

          o purple finch
          . . . . . . . please tell me why
          this summer world (and you and i
          who love so much to live)
          . . . . . . . must die

          if I
          . . . . . . . should tell you anything”
          (that eagerly sweet carolling
          self answers me)
          . . . . . . . “i could not sing
          – e e cummings

          And pardon the periods where blank a space belongs

          • Bob Munck

            Let’s see if   works:

            “o purple finch
                          please tell me why
            this summer world(and you and i
            who love so much to live)
                          must die”

            if i
                          should tell you anything”
            (that eagerly sweet carolling
            self answers me)
                          “i could not sing”
            – e e cummings

            How’s that look?

          • Bob Munck

            There you go. I substituted   — the HTML encoding for a “non-breaking space” — for every period in your text.

            (Also made a couple of other edits.) I first encountered this kind of thing in 1967 when we were using an IBM system called TEXT/360 to make a WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) for the Hypertext document system at Brown. So I know a few tricks by now.

          • SteveK

                          Thanks Bob…
            ¡You make it look easy!

          • Bob Munck

            ?????s `??o?l?? ??,no?

          • Bob Munck

            Well, that one didn’t work. ☮ 🕷

      • Brownies girl

        Oh Steve, thank you so much for this lovely verse … have always loved e e cummings. I haven’t seen any purple finches this year (or last) but every morning for the past three or so weeks, when I leave to go down to Cherry Beach to walk the dogs at 7:45, there’s a cardinal in the back yard who sings his heart out. Traffic in this deep inner city is light at *that* time and I hear him clearly – have only spotted him once – so beautifully red and pert, he is, hopping from branch to branch. His song is beautiful and gives me hope and a surge of happiness. His song sounds exactly like this:
        I hope to hell the US is not a “dying empire”, but I do fear for it, especially these days, and for all the people in it. At the same time, I think my little cardinal’s voice is the voice of hope, and will continue to think positive. Hugs to you, dear man …. so glad to see you back here, I missed you.


        • SteveK

          Hi Brownies girl… I was lucky to be introduced / exposed to e e cummings poetry at a young age. His regular use of the small case ‘i’ when writing first person singular struck me as an important life lesson.

          We all tend to live our lives in a large case capital “I” mode, always trying to be front and center and hogging the stage but it’s the small lower case “i” that helps us find a balance with the world, ourselves, and those around us.

          Today’s political landscape shows us where the capital ‘I’ capital ‘Me’ has gotten us, Maybe it’s time to let the small ‘i’ to take over and see what they can do… Eh?

  • KP

    The US will no longer exist in 50 years?(!)


    We may keel-haul some of congress and maybe even an entire party, but the ship will right itself.

    • dduck


    • Brownies girl

      Well, KP, maybe the US *will* still exist in more than 50 years — but my bet is that it’ll be a totally different country by then. If just 30 to 40% of your people were a little more generous and less angry, you might even turn into what Canada is like, these days. Which would be good, IMO. Not that I’m bragging — we still have a pant-load of probs, but they’re over-comeable.

      You all down your way may have to keel-haul more than *some* of Congress — maybe all of it, both sides of the political spectrum — but I share your hope that the ship will right itself. Eventually. Of all the countries I carry in my heart — my country is first, but the US comes a close second. I just wish to hell I actually had a vote. I had the chance and didn’t take it — darn it all to hell!

      • KP

        Your vote is probably more influential up there, eh?

        Things are going to be okay.

        We do all we can to help our communities (large and small), live the highest quality of life possible, pass the torch and go.

        Life is good.

        • dduck

          At least we keep trying, if the oligarchs give us a break. 🙁

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