The President and History

Donald Trump is clearly unusually dangerous to the United States and to the World. He, his family, and his Republican allies are openly destroying important aspects of democracy. This is urgent. This is important. This can’t be said enough. 


However, some tweets this evening caught my attention and prompted a new line of thought: When people are exclusively or almost exclusively praised/worshipped or criticized/demonized, the people doing this lose sight of the broader situation and forgo some credibility. People generally either hold that Trump is all evil and Obama was all wonderful OR that Trump is heaven-sent and Obama was the Antichrist. Criticisms of Obama, generally speaking, can’t be understood without also considering racism, of course, especially because he generally acted and behaved as a conservative–evidence is clear on this.

Getting back to the point I set down to articulate:

Barack Obama never espoused the viral hate Donald Trump legitimizes and perpetuates daily. (Although some people think he did because they watch Fox News, a channel known for completely making up stories.)

But, both Obama and Trump are committed neoliberals. Neoliberalism is the brand of conservatism/classical liberalism that has dominated discourse since the 1970s and 1980s, an on-going era I call the Conservative Consensus. Neoliberalism promotes deregulation and privatization and the individual over institutions. Evidence across the board shows such policies and actions erode democracy, harm the public, and make the rich even richer. 

We must abandon notions of the Imperial Presidency and remember that Donald Trump is also being assisted by much of Congress and by his supporters, which includes 81 percent of Christians in the United States. We can’t criticize Donald Trump alone without also criticizing his enablers and the cultural that creates such situations and peoples. Like Obama and the other presidents, Trump operates within a very well established bureaucracy and institution of governments

From a broader historical framework, as numerous historians and social critics have said, the United States under Trump isn’t that different from most points in its existence. Usually, presidents and politicians are a bit less publicly vocal about their hatred of “the Other,” but the United States has always treated minorities poorly and created circumstances such that they are perpetually oppressed in its caste system. 

Please continue criticizing Trump–and his enablers–but thinking of Trump as “the Devil” overly dehumanize him and makes much need criticism more difficult to come by. And, as I have previously said on Facebook and Twitter, comments about his appearance are absolutely inappropriate. 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda