People turn so quickly from weakness or the shadow of it. To get away from failure—even the mere suspicion of it— that seems to be a subconscious feeling with the average man and woman; we all avoid non-success as though we fear that it may prove contagious.
Theodore Dreiser – Jennie Gerhardt (1911)
Amid the outraged howling over Donald Trump’s presidential victory, it is worth reminding ourselves that Obama’s tenure led to Trump’s. If Trump is politically deplorable then this is how a large number of American voters have reacted to eight years of Obama. To explain Trump we first have to explain the divisive reign of Obama.
From this side of the Atlantic it is not easy to identify with political passions obviously stirred up by both men, but it is worth remembering that Obama began the stirring. He was there first, setting the agenda, crafting the narratives and the tone of his presidency which clearly riled so many Americans. He was the catalyst for Trump. He created the political vacuum which Trump spotted and exploited.
In which case, Obama must have been disliked and admired by the American electorate in approximately equal measure. In other words he was divisive. Trump is divisive too, but his election and his political tactics suggest he inherited a divisive political reality from Obama. He didn't create it because it was already there. Millions of words have been written about the election and no doubt they will be followed by millions more, but to my mind the core issue is as much Obama as Trump.
From this side of the pond Obama seemed weak, sequacious and too fond of virtue-signalling. He look down on half of the electorate and made his disdain far too obvious. Not from a position of strength, but from a somewhat messianic and politically correct pedestal he did nothing to earn from a host of absurdly uncritical followers.
Hillary Clinton gave the game away with her reference to ‘deplorables’ because she was speaking from the same bubble as Obama. Many educated middle class people in the developed world appear to see a world of deplorables beyond the narrow reach of their politically correct comfort zones. They look down on people who do not share their views. They also seem to fear them - the political atmosphere reeks of it.
If you do not share a politically correct outlook then you are an outsider, no better and no more welcome that barbarians at the gate. It isn’t a new situation - it arises from weakness and Obama was weak in ways Trump seems to understand. No doubt we’ll find out if he knows how to exploit his insights in the real world beyond the rhetoric.
Now the deplorables have a leader who in spite of his reported deficiencies seems to understand well enough why he was elected. He was elected to be stronger than the poseur he replaces. Perhaps that is where the fear comes from - from a whiff of testosterone. How deplorable.