As a result of his time in office, Barack Obama, hailed as a messiah after his election victory eight years ago, has now handed the presidency of the USA to Donald Trump.
Last night, like so many others, I was gripped as I followed the results of the US presidential election. The coverage on ARD and ZDF, Germany’s major public broadcasters, was slow, boring and, above all, highly ideological. The contrast to what was happening on CNN couldn’t have been starker. Although CNN is by no means a friend of Trump, its viewers were at least provided with up-to-date information, such as the current status of the vote count in Florida. Switching back over to ARD or ZDF, the individual results were reported with a substantial delay, and the broadcasters instead prioritized a derisory report about a small German village where Donald Trump’s ancestors were born, alongside an interview with some of his extremely distant German relatives, all of whom professed their extreme embarrassment at their vague links to Trump. At 6 a.m., as CNN was reporting the latest, up-to-the-minute vote counts, German media was providing Bernd Riexinger, the leader of Die Linke (Germany’s left wing party), with a platform to interpret Trump’s election victory from a socialist perspective. So much for comparing the media coverage on both sides of the Atlantic.
From the very beginning, I took a decisively critical standpoint in relation to Trump. I have explained my reasoning, at length, in dozens of commentaries on this very site. Nevertheless, the coverage on ARD and ZDF really annoyed me, having little to do with serious journalism and more in common with East German television’s long-running “Der schwarze Kanal” (literally “The Black Channel”, a euphemistic reference to sewage pipes), a weekly propaganda broadcast, presented by Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, to ridicule the West.
But turning to the issue at hand: Why do I think that Obama is to blame for Trump’s victory?
Trump’s election is a vote against Obama’s social policies
The population of America has had enough of political correctness, and Obama has been its chief proponent. From the first seconds of his campaign, Trump positioned himself as a champion in the fightback against political correctness, and this was a decisive factor in his victory. A majority of white voters felt that they had been abandoned by the political establishment, and were tired of politicians only ever addressing minority issues (although the situation for many minority groups has not improved one iota, and African-Americans are in a worse position after eight years of Obama than they were before he took office). You only have to go back to March of this year, when Obama escalated the battle over transgender bathroom use. As soon as the government of North Carolina decided to legislate that men should use male toilets and women should use female toilets, Obama threatened to withdraw billions of dollars of education funding, arguing that the civil rights of transgender individuals had not been considered during the introduction of the “restroom use” legislation. This is just one of many absurd examples of what many Trump voters view as the hegemony of political correctness. Obama and his Democratic Party positioned themselves as lobbyists for socially marginalized groups and, above all, white, heterosexual male voters were left to feel that there was no one speaking for or acting upon their interests. Trump made them feel as if they finally had someone to take them seriously. His strategy, based on mobilizing the “forgotten white males” was ultimately more successful than Clinton’s attempt to build a coalition of women voters, minorities and marginalized groups.
Trump’s election is a vote against Obama’s foreign policy
Obama’s foreign policy has been a complete and utter failure. Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again”, was only successful against the backdrop of Obama’s failed foreign and security policy. Geopolitically, Obama’s presidency leaves disaster in its wake. Of course, George W. Bush before him had also delivered a litany of foreign policy disasters. But, in his eight years in office, Obama was no better. His intervention in Libya was a catastrophe, resulting in a second failed state in the region – matching the mistaken Iraq war pursued by Bush. Above all: Putin’s aggressive posturing on the global stage, along with his annexation of the Crimea, can only be explained by the fact that Obama is viewed as extremely weak by other international leaders. Any president of the United States of America who begins every speech by clearly explaining all of the things he is not prepared to do, will naturally be perceived by others as far too predictable. In geopolitical terms, it was not Obama, but Putin, who laid down the law. And this did not sit well with many Americans, who are convinced that their country should be Number 1 in the world – and also explains why Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan resonated so strongly with America’s voters.
Trump’s election is a vote against Obama’s economic and health policies
Obama’s economic policies were also a massive failure. Despite the fact that he took on more new debt than any other president in the history of humanity, a huge swathe of the American population is totally frustrated with their economic position. Obamas prime goal was to drive America towards the European welfare state model. His feeble attempts at healthcare reform (“Obamacare”) have been decisively rejected by a majority of Americans. This may be difficult for Europeans, many of whom worship the welfare state, to comprehend. But a large proportion of Americans, those who have now voted for Trump, have turned against what they view as the “Europeanization of the United States”. The European approach, i.e. trying to improve individual lives via social reform, has been roundly rejected by a majority of Americans. What a majority of Europeans view as “socially equitable”, a majority of Americans describe as “un-American”. They do not believe that America can be economically successful if it continues on this path. Trump promised to cut taxes, Clinton’s politics of envy set its target on “the rich”, for whom she promised to raise taxes, a less than credible position given the fact that her campaign was financed by “the rich” to a much greater extent than Trump’s was.
Americans voted for the anti-Obama
Obama was hailed by Germany’s media as a superstar and savior when he was elected eight years ago. The enthusiasm that greeted the election of America’s first black president was palpable. The German media had found an ideological kindred spirit in this high priest of political correctness, a fact that blinded them to Obama’s weaknesses.
America’s voters twice gave Obama a chance. He simply did not make the most of his opportunities. He may be a splendid orator, but he is definitely not a astute politician. Americans have a tendency to go from one extreme to another. In Obama, they elected someone who, with every fiber of his being, was the anti-Bush. And now, in Trump, they have elected the anti-Obama. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, four years from now, they are equally unhappy with their decision. If we are unlucky, that may well be the moment for a socialist like Bernie Sanders.