Before becoming the nation’s 44th president, Barack Obama served in the Illinois State Senate from 1997 to 2004. From 2005 to 2008, he was the Junior Senator from the state of Illinois in the US Senate. These facts are not in dispute. One can easily verify them online or by scouring old newspapers or other paper sources. Yet the narrative that came out of the 2008 presidential campaign by the McCain/Palin camp stated that Mr. Obama was “only a community organizer.” They focussed on this work and ignored his legislative experience. The facts vanished.
Similarly, I remember wondering, in days long before Google and Wikipedia, if Toni Morrison had really won the Nobel Prize for literature. Why? Because news stories that referenced her never cited this award; they often called her a Pulitzer prize winner. She did win a Pulitzer, for Beloved in 1988, however she won the Nobel five years later. Didn’t matter. For years, I saw her name in the papers not as “Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison” but “Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison.” Her most prestigious award vanished.
I cite these two examples as typical of the type of erasure that occurs for African-Americans or anyone who is not straight, white, and male. Society, more often than not, allows “others” a certain level of accomplishment, but no more. For those who pioneer into hitherto forbidden territory — first female African-American Nobel Laureate, first male African-American President — friction occurs. Friction, what am I saying, all hell breaks loose. They get labeled uppity, contentious, troublemakers, know-it-alls, etc. This happens to African-Americans and women in nearly all social strata. Everyone has their place, our society dictates, and you stay in your place until we (society, made up of straight, white male norms and values) deign that you can assume a different place.
For this past eight years, we have seen this philosophy in practice. President Obama has endured some of the most demeaning and humiliating treatment of any person ever to hold the nation’s highest office. Some white folks, particularly white Republicans, have been in a state of apoplexy during his entire tenure in office. I’m not talking about disagreements on policy. That’s cool. I’m talking about the birtherism bullshit and the “You lie (boy)!” moments of which there are too many to recount.
Some folks blame President Obama for the rise of racial tensions in the US. Kathy Miller, former Trump campaign chair in Mahoning County, Ohio, believed that racism did not exist before Mr. Obama became president. She further opined that blacks who can’t succeed have only themselves to blame. I’m sure that’s comforting news to Trayvon Martin. Except, of course, he’s dead.
President Obama’s presidency has only magnified that which has always existed. The racists have basically lost their shit over the past eight years. Hence, for the 2016 presidential race, they have turned towards a candidate whom they believe will reestablish their values. Donald Trump.
Trump has no political or organizing experience at all. Even Ronald Reagan had served as chair of the Screen Actors Guild prior to becoming Governor of California. Trump can’t even claim something like that. What he does claim, repeatedly and loudly, is that he is a successful businessman.
Now we get to experience the erasure in reverse. Rather than erase Trump’s credentials, folks have, dare I say, trumped them up. By any measure, Donald Trump is not a successful businessman. Successful businessmen pay their workers and contractors and don’t file for bankruptcy multiple times. They do not cover their losses by misappropriating charitable contributions. True successful businessmen, in particular Mark Cuban, have made a cottage industry out of calling out Trump for his lack of business acumen.
Robert Reich recently posted on his blog a conversation with a Trump supporter. During the talk, he explained to the supporter that if Trump had better invested the $200 million his father had given him, today he’d be worth around $12 billion, or nearly three times his current, purported worth.
Trump is a master of legerdemain. He knows how to work the system to his advantage in a way that brings him modest profits and mounds of publicity. But that’s all. This is far too modest a skill set for becoming the 45th president of the United States.
Monday’s debate provided further proof that Trump lacks any of the skills necessary to succeed as US president. He answered questions with babbling word salads, rich in verbiage, low in substance. Sort of like a salad of Ding Dongs, filling, but made up of empty calories. His opponent, on the other hand, demonstrated a depth of knowledge and understanding on a wide range of subjects, and kept her cool while on stage with a word salad spinning knucklehead prone to childish, ad hominem attacks.
The true problem facing his opponent, Hillary Clinton, is her gender. And I mean problem in the same way that President Obama “caused” the race problem. Her candidacy magnifies the country’s problem with women in general and with women in positions of power in particular. Look at the language used to describe her. She emasculates. She frowns. She wears pants suits too much. She speaks with a strident voice. Complaints against her policies, as in the case with President Obama, are fair game. The rest is sexist bullshit. Sadly, I fear that a lot of the Clinton bashing is informed by the latter more than the former.
Should Hillary Clinton become president, she will no doubt face the same type of obstructionism that President Obama has endured during his entire presidency. This close race is just a taste of things to come, because there is no way a qualified candidate like Mrs. Clinton should be in so tight a race with a buffoon like Donald Trump.
© 2016, gar. All rights reserved.