Professor David Tabachnik, writing at The Hill, suggested that the antecedents of Donald Trump’s campaign lie in the rhetoric used by President Barack Obama. He suggested that Trump’s hiring of Steve Bannon to guide the campaign reconfirms the role of social media and radio personalities such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh in Trump’s success heretofore despite opposition from Republicans such as House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate leaders Mitch McConnell.
“But, this displacement of the GOP establishment by formerly fringe elements would not have been possible had they not been elevated and given credibility by their favorite target: President Barack Obama,” wrote Tabachnik.
Tabachnik, who teaches political philosophy at Canada’s Nipissing University, wrote that Obama predicted Trump’s constituency in 2008 while campaigning for the presidency when describing working class voters who when they “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Interestingly, Sen. Bernie Sanders made tremendous headway against Hillary Clinton with an economic nationalist approach that flouted both Democrat and Republican ideas about globalism. In this, Trump was consonant with Sanders.
Obama’s “prescient description of the nativist and populist ideas” of angry working class voters, said Tabachnik, “inspired the insurgent Tea Party in 2010 and ultimately propelled Donald Trump to the top of the party’s ticket this year.”
Trump was among those who had questions about the place of Obama’s birth. The launch of the so-called “birther movement” was assisted by talk show hosts, too, and was a reflection of an overall dissatisfaction among many Americans – both Democrats and Republicans – that the country was off course.
Rather than ignoring Trump, Obama paid him plenty of attention. At the 2011 White House Correspondents roast, with Trump in the audience, Obama joked, “Donald Trump is here tonight! … no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald."
Trump is now within reach of the White House while Hillary Clinton continues to face nagging questions about her ethics and the role played by the Clinton Family Foundation and the Clinton Foundation in US diplomacy while she served as Secretary of State under Obama.
Tabachnik said that Obama’s “shout-out” to Trump back in 2011 may have given Trump just the push he needed to run for office. The New York Times appears to agree: “That evening of public abasement, rather than sending Mr. Trump away, accelerated his ferocious efforts to gain stature in the political world.”
By ridiculing Trump, Obama effectively galvanized Americans who have not benefited from downsizing and globalization and who have come to oppose a political establishment that crosses partisan lines. The foreign policy and economic nostrums offered by Republican wannabes during the primary and averred by Hillary Clinton is being ground between the stones of economic disparities and stagnant growth.
Obama’s mockery of Trump, and of Americans who do not share his globalist and statist vision, is the challenge Hillary Clinton must defeat. But it must also be addressed by Republicans who appear to have forgotten about Main Street while catering to Wall Street and K Street.