This election season, we keep hearing arguments over who’s responsible for the Trump Phenomenon. Is it, as leftists say, the concealed bigotry of many Republicans, stoked in recent years by the Tea Party and the election of the first Black president? Or is it, as right-wingers declare, the embrace of extremists by a Democratic Party that is tacking more and more to the Left? There isn’t going to be one simple answer–in fact, both arguments are true.
Even if you don’t care for President Obama’s policies or disagree with some of the things he’s done while in office, there can be no denying that much of the reason he’s received a lot of criticism or been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories (i.e., the Birthers) is simply because of racism. This isn’t to say that the GOP is inherently racist, or that you’re automatically racist if you criticize Obama. But the portrayal by many of the president and his family as monkeys or apes, the memes on Facebook of nooses around his neck or sayings like “Make the White House White Again” go beyond legitimate criticism of his policies. There can be no denying that much of what propelled Donald Trump forward in his campaign was an element of racism among some circles of his supporters. You can see it in David Duke’s endorsement of him, the slurs hurled at Black and Latino protestors outside of his rallies, the anti-Semitic threats Tweeted at a reporter who questioned Melania Trump’s past. While it is saddening, disappointing, and maddening to witness this occurrence, perhaps it’s for the best. It brings the bigots out of the shadows for all to see and cast aside. And it allows society to ask hard questions about our past, and what kind of nation we aspire to be.
On the other hand, the argument used by many Trump supporters (including those who loathe the billionaire and voted for someone else in the primary) for supporting his campaign is that President Obama has been a failure in his foreign policy; that Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was the architect of said foreign policy; and that she promises to continue and expand upon the president’s goals and achievements. These are also reasons that some Jews, including those who have long been loyal to the Democratic Party, are questioning the wisdom of voting for her. Her ties to self-hating Jews like Max and Sidney Blumenthal, her bragging about being a “designated yeller” at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for expanding settlements, and her repeated calls for a two-state solution (despite the Palestinians’ refusal to negotiate) turn off a great deal of voters who, like Clinton, count themselves as centrist moderates. Donald Trump may go too far in many instances regarding national security or sound like an ignoramus at international affairs, but he promises stability and “peace through strength”. This all is music to the ears of people who see the world as more dangerous in 2016 than it was in 2009, when President Obama took office.
President Obama’s promises and claims to end the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are nil. Troops are still stationed in both countries, and the fight against ISIS is accelerating as I write this. Obama’s failure to act more aggressively in Syria and Libya has allowed jihadist groups to metastasize. His “red line” in the sand with regards to the barbarous Assad regime in Syria was crossed, and he did nothing but continue useless “negotiations” with Russia. Moscow has seen an inept, incompetent, and weak American president and seized the opportunity to assert itself as a dominant foreign power in the Middle East for the first time since 1973. Obama also appears weak to the Iranians, with whom he struck a disastrous nuclear deal that will reward them for their human rights violations both in Syria and at home, and let Tehran fund terrorism at an accelerated rate. Unlike Trump and other Republicans, he stifles legitimate criticism of Islam and ignores and brushes aside human rights violations committed by the Palestinians, Turks, Saudis, Iranians, Pakistanis, and others, all while harshly pressuring Israel at a time of regional instability to give up “land for peace”. President Obama has abandoned the only useful allies on the ground in the fight against ISIS–the Kurds of Syria–to Turkish aggression, in a pitiful attempt at pacifying the tyrannical Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On the other side of the Asian continent, China is building artificial islands in the South China Sea in an attempt to assert its regional dominance over our allies in the region, and push American influence out of the Indo-Pacific. At home, he constantly speaks out against hate crimes against Muslims–rightfully so–but ignores the much higher figures for hate crimes against Jews. And his repeated calls for “tolerance”, “unity”, and “respect” within America–and internationally–fall on deaf ears, as he turns away from saving Syrian children being bombed and gassed to death by the Damascus regime. Given that he saved the USA from the Great Recession, killed Bin Laden, and brought about gay marriage, he is not a failure. However, he is a lame duck and a disappointment.
More than anything, what the president and his fellow Democrats get wrong is the public mood. Part of this can be evidenced by his visit to Britain earlier this year, when he encouraged Brits to remain in the European Union, lest they be “pushed to the back” in American trade deals. Hillary Clinton backed Obama’s speech. But Brexit occurred nonetheless. More recently, the president vetoed a bill that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, but Congress–including many Democrats–used an override. He, Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, and others keep telling Americans “not to give in to fear” by voting for a reality TV star and his controversial policies. But more than anything, Americans, and other people around the world, are angry. It’s not that we’re mostly fearful after attacks in Paris, Orlando, San Bernardino, and Brussels–we’re angry that it keeps happening, over and over again, and the only responses we get are empty promises and pitiful rhetoric around unity and tolerance. We’re angry that bad trade deals like the TTIP and TPP are still being pushed and encouraged, despite the disaster it is causing to the environment and national economies and the slave wages/work abuse faced by poor people employed by corporations that would benefit from them. We’re angry at the encouragement of political correctness that stifles legitimate debate about religious extremism. We’re angry about the hypocrisy of a “tolerant” Left-Wing that automatically dismisses those who disagree with them as “bigots” and starts to accept anti-Zionist/anti-Semitic rhetoric as “legitimate criticism”. Americans are not necessarily a stupid people, despite what many would say; we’re an emotional people. Angry and fearful at the worst of times, joyful and generous at the best. It’s why even when it appeared the Japanese would inevitably be defeated in 1945, we still dropped two nuclear bombs on them. It’s why after 9/11, there was overwhelming support initially for the invasion of Iraq, despite the lack of evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the 2001 tragedy.
The president’s term is not yet over. It’s not too late to prove naysayers wrong, or find some way to atone for mistakes made in past months and years. Taking a more aggressive stand against Assad, Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea would help. So would an increase in the amount of airstrikes that are pummeling ISIS and other terror organizations in both Syria and Iraq. President Obama should also make more demands of the Palestinian Authority to end its racist incitement, support for terror, and historically inaccurate narrative, and engage in direct negotiations with Israel, without trying to reciprocate and condemn Israeli “settlements”, which only legitimizes terrorism in the ears of radicals. If he and his Democratic allies truly want to stop Trump, show that the Democrats are a tolerant political party, and keep America strong, they need to change how they operate, who they associate with, and what they say, and they need to learn from history. If the excuses made by Republicans for supporting Trump are that Obama has weakened America’s standing in the world, and that Hillary Clinton promises to continue his policies, then it’s time to take action and delegitimize the argument. An argument–a debate–can only be won by nullifying the opponent’s claims. If Hillary Clinton wants to defeat Donald Trump in a few weeks’ time, she needs to stop clinging to President Obama and start making her own case–a case for why she’d be an improvement over him, and a better alternative against the real-estate tycoon. Fringe elements on the Left already criticize her for being hawkish, but in times like these, we need a hawk to deal with the numerous challenges facing America. Clinton needs to stop trying to be someone she’s not, and embrace her own ideas while making the case for why America needs them, now more than ever.