Obama vs Trump

On the occasion of Obama’s farewell Trump, Ezra has a really nice appreciation that also paints the stark temperamental contrasts between Trump and Obama:

ll this can obscure what I think will, in the coming years, be most missed about Obama: his decency. His scandal-free administration. The seriousness with which he approached his job. The faith he had in the American political system, and in Americans.

Hope was the basis of Obama’s politics. It’s the basis, in ways I did not truly appreciate until the end of his presidency, of Obama’s personality. His political career is built on a vision of who we could be, and the absence of that vision will be felt as he is succeeded by a man whose politics are built on a nostalgia for who we were.

Obama’s chief political adviser, David Axelrod, has argued that presidents tend to be replaced by their opposites. Donald Trump is Obama’s temperamental opposite — reckless where Obama is restrained, intuitive where Obama is technocratic, insulting where Obama is respectful, and scandal-ridden even before he assumes the presidency. Shortly before Obama took the stage, Trump tweeted:

You can no more imagine Obama sending that tweet than setting the White House on fire.

But Trump is Obama’s opposite in a yet more fundamental way. Obama’s politics are based on a hope of who we will become; Trump’s politics are based on a fear that we will lose who we were.

 It feels bizarre that the same country that elected Obama elected Trump — and did so despite the fact that Obama remained popular to the end of his presidency. But it’s core to Obama’s idea of politics that America contains multitudes, and we are different, and act differently, depending on what is being asked of us…

But he did prove, at least, that the kind of country we want to be exists within the country we are, even as the country we fear we will become lurks as well. There is an America that sees its growing diversity as a strength, that refuses to believe in the limits set by its own past, that yearns to be less divided than it is. It’s not the only America. But it’s a real America…

There is much to be said of Obama’s record, of his ideology, of the decisions he made and the ones he didn’t. But as we enter the Trump era, I think Obama will be missed by many Americans who didn’t agree with his policies but agreed with his sense of hope about America, and his daily efforts to be worthy of the country he saw before him.

Well worth reading Ezra’s whole post.  I think, though, that last sentiment is a little optimistic.  The vast majority of Americans who don’t agree with his policies don’t agree because they are Republican.  And, as we know, Obama’s approval and various ratings are abysmally poor among Republicans.  Sadly, that prevents almost all of them from recognizing the fundamental decency he has brought to the office.  Alas, Trump and “fundamental decency” aren’t two phrases you will often hear together.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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