Tag Archives: Saletan

The Question Is: Now What?

Will Saletan has a must-read essay at Slate. 

Saletan is responding to a bizarre accusation making the rounds on the Right to the effect that President Obama is really the reason for the rise of Donald Trump. (I notice that I use the word “bizarre” more frequently these days.) The American public, according to this “analysis,” is rejecting the extreme leftism of the Obama presidency.

As Saletan notes, this is bunk. In saner times, President Obama would have been a liberal Republican or, at most, a moderate Democrat. Saletan ticks off the policies of this administration and the place of those policies on the political spectrum, and forcefully rejects the thesis.

No, Obama didn’t cause Trump. What caused Trump was the GOP’s decision to negate Obama in every way, and thereby become the party of Trump….

If Obama had been a leftist, the GOP’s policy of negating him on every issue might have positioned Republicans in the mainstream. Instead, because Obama was a moderate, the GOP’s negation strategy pushed it toward the fringe. Obama was for fiscal responsibility and compromise, so Republicans were for absolutism and drama, risking a federal shutdown and a credit default. Obama was for respecting the Supreme Court, so the GOP was for defying judicial orders. Obama was for using sanctions to pressure Iran into a nuclear deal, so Republicans were for scrapping the deal and daring Iran to provoke a war. Obama, like Bush, was for drawing a clear distinction between terrorists and Muslims. So Republicans were for blurring that distinction.

In Trump, Republican voters have found their anti-Obama. Trump spurns not just political correctness, but correctness of any kind. He lies about Muslims and 9/11, insults women and people with disabilities, accuses a judge of bias for being Hispanic, and hurls profanities. Trump validates the maxim that in presidential primaries, the opposition party tends to choose a candidate who differs temperamentally from the incumbent. Obama is an adult. Therefore, Republicans are nominating a child.

You really should click through and read the entire thing–these few extracts don’t do it justice.

Here’s the conclusion:

So, yes, Obama led to Trump. But that’s only because the Republican Party decided to be what Obama wasn’t. And what Obama wasn’t—insecure, bitter, vindictive, xenophobic, sectarian—is what the GOP, in the era of Trump, has become.