An America I Do Not Know

9 Nov

November 9, 2016

I awoke this morning to an America I do not know—an America that just elected as its next president a man whose only qualification for this high position is that he conducted a campaign that appealed to the basest instincts of our many of our citizens.

I believe it is universally agreed that Donald Trump has no other qualifications for the presidency. He has absolutely no experience in governing. He says he is extremely rich, a claim that could not be verified because he refused to release his tax returns. He is best known by the public as a reality TV star. Many of his statements lead many to believe he is a racist and an anti-Semite. He is a misogynist, as demonstrated by his vulgar comments about a variety of women during his campaign. To some, he is a failed businessman, capitalizing on three bankruptcies that stiffed contractors and employees in the process. I could go on, but I believe there is a solid case that Trump’s election is a monumental departure from electing someone with the qualifications and characteristics that defined nearly all of his predecessors in the office.

Yet, 59,041, 250 Americans—47.53% of those who voted—voted for this man who by any reasonable person’s definition does not represent the best in what our nation purports to represent to the world.

The political pundits will now set out to dissect Hillary Clinton’s defeat and to explain why Trump’s victory defied the pollsters’ predictions and was based on a campaign strategy that bore no resemblance to the commonly held views of how a presidential campaign should be run.

The temptation will be to blame Clinton’s loss on her own character flaws, which seemed to get, for some unexplained reason, more attention in the media than did Trump’s, in my opinion, more egregious flaws, especially in the later stages of the campaign.

I suggest, however, that Clinton’s loss is more rooted in the election of her fellow Democrat Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. Those elections, especially the 2008 election, unleashed myriad forces in this country that had not been seen since the days of Jim Crow, forces that resulted in treatment of a sitting president in ways never seen before in this country.

Obama’s election precipitated the creation of the Tea Party, an ultra-reactionary movement that took control of the Republican Party’s right wing and is racist at its core. And, Obama’s election in 2008 prompted the majority leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell to state unabashedly that the Republican-controlled Senate’s main objective for the next four years was to vote “no” on everything proposed by the President. Other than the first two years of Obama’s presidency when his party controlled Congress, the Republicans in Congress lived up to this threat with its obstructionist strategy that earned the last three Congresses the dubious distinction of being called a “Do Nothing Congress.” Few can argue that this was not the major cause for President Obama’s inability to enact the majority of the agenda on which he ran for the office.

In his book The Black Presidency, Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson, quotes Chicago University law professor Geoffrey Stone, who has argued:

‘[N]o president in our nation’s history has ever been castigated, condemned, mocked, insulted, derided and degraded on a scale even close to the constantly ugly attacks in Obama…[Obama] has been accused of…refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, of seeking to confiscate all gun, of lying about just about everything he has ever said, ranging from Benghazi to the Affordable Care Act to immigration, of faking Osama Bin Laden’s death and funding his campaign with drug money.’[1]

Dyson also quotes former UN Ambassador, Atlanta mayor, and trusted aide of Martin Luther King aide Andrew Young’s description of the treatment of Obama:

‘Obama has faced levels of resistance that no president before him has confronted. No president has had his faith and education questioned like Obama. No other president has dealt with racial politics in Congress to the extent of being denied an automatic raise in the debt ceiling, causing the nation’s credit rating to drop. No other president has had a representative has been so persistently challenged that he had to produce a birth certificate to settle the question of citizenship.’[2]

Even more recently, Donald Trump continued to give life to the birther movement by continuing to question the legitimacy of Obama’s citizenship until he suddenly admitted that Obama is a natural citizen after Trump had won the nomination.

And, the racist rejection of Barack Obama continues even as his presidency is in its closing months. For example, a November 8, 2016 article in the online newsletter InsideHigherEd, reported that University of Wisconsin Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank apologized for the university’s inadequate response to the actions of two Wisconsin fans at a recent football game. The fans wore costumes and had props depicting the lynching of President Obama (see the photo in the referenced article).[3]

So, I have concluded that the fundamental cause of Hillary Clinton’s defeat was not that Donald Trump was better qualified but that Hillary Clinton finally was the avenue by which the racist and nativist elements of our country’s citizens could finally get to Barack Obama because Clinton was seen as his surrogate and, if elected, would represent a continuation of the Obama presidency, something the Tea Party and the AltRight and their racist/nativist instincts could not tolerate.

Rev. William Barber, chair of North Carolina’s NAACP and founder of Moral Monday said it best when he said (and I paraphrase): The problem with the angry old white men in this country (the primary element of Trump’s support) is that they could not stand the idea of two little Black girls having pajama parties in the White House.

Today, I am extremely depressed to live in an America that I do not know or recognize and of which I am truly ashamed.

[1] Dyson, Michael Eric. The Black Presidency, Barack Obama and the Politics Politic of Race in America (2016) New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, p. 5.

[2] Ibid, pp. 4-5.

[3] Scott Jaschik, November 8, 2016, https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/11/08/wisconsin-will-change-rules-fans-stadium

 

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One Response to “An America I Do Not Know”

  1. jameswcushing November 30, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    Reblogged this on judicialsupport and commented:
    Ken Kastle is a parishioner with me at our church St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Abington, PA. He writes a blog called “Looking at Things Through My Eyes.” Mr. Kastle has had a long career in education and often views his politics as I do, so I often find his blog posts compelling. Below is one of the posts to his blog, enjoy!

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