In response to Donald Trump’s trending tirades, I offer this thesis: “If there was no Obama, there wouldn’t be a Trump.”
That statement will ruffle a few feathers, I’m sure, even among our most ardent activists in progressive circles – “blasphemous”, some may argue.
Let’s continue the irreverence just for the sake of provoking thought.
President Barack Obama’s soft-spokenness (“No Drama Obama”) is the core cause in this observation – the catalyst that creates the impending “effect”: the soon-triumphant tyrant.
In that vein, Obama’s 8 years may be compared to the Weimar Republic’s 14 (1919-1933) which paved the road to the Third Reich. The perception of Weimar’s weakness by a majority of Germans triggered them to seek a strong leader. Hitler filled that void. This could be the most relevant analogy of our time: comparing twentieth century democratic Germany to twenty-first century democratic America, but [most importantly] to what follows.
Trump did not sink Jeb Bush’s chances. Obama did, albeit unknowingly. Hillary may face Jeb’s fate in the general for the same reason. America craves a leader, a “Führer”. The candidate does not have to conform to strict evangelical social conservative ideology. He only has to radiate strength.
The “hypocrisy card” does not apply here either. It doesn’t matter how much political incorrectness, racial and religious bigotry, and profanity spews from Trump’s mouth; the religious right loves him, which is the only thing that counts, because they make up one-third of the electorate.
How can the Obama Administration be compared to the Weimar Republic? There are a number of parallels.
The Weimar Republic racked up several successes. (1) re-negotiated reparations from the Treaty of Versailles to where payments were reduced twice by restructuring Germany’s debt; (2) mitigated Versailles’ punishment of Germany by expanding its borders on the west via the influence of Gustav Stresemann through the Locarno Treaties; (3) stabilized hyperinflation; (4) improved economy that was devastated by WWI and hyperinflation; (5) organized railroads; (6) calmed disorder on the streets between right and left; (7) successfully negotiated Germany’s membership into the League of Nations in 1926; (8) enhanced culture and science to where the arts, music, innovation and invention flourished. (Remember Einstein?)
Unfortunately, the Republic lacked an effective spokesperson – a salesman or PR guru, like a Josef Goebbels or Karl Rove – or a medium like Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (RMVP) or FOX and Rush Limbaugh in the USA. Weimar went down, not only due to events of the time (WWI, reparations, Stock Market Crash), but from mis-perceptions. It had no Rapid Response Team or James Carville at its side.
I submit that the Obama Administration doesn’t either – despite the number of successes logged. Where was Joe Biden when the right spread vicious lies and distortions about his partner’s record / personal life? Where was he when Obama’s birth certificate was challenged? Vice-presidents used to serve the role of attack dog. He could have spoken up in fiery fashion at critical junctures and saved Barack a lot of heartache and political headache.
The astronomical losses in 2010 and 2014 were totally unnecessary and preventable. David Axelrod is no Karl Rove. Debbie-Wasserman Schultz is no Howard Dean. (She should have been fired summarily after the 2014 debacle. But now she is poised to poison the 2016 cycle as well.)
Obama’s “failures” can primarily be ascribed to perception, and that misperception can only be attributed to a weak Party and Administration – anemic of political fire-power.
Maybe it’s the nature of the Democratic Party that’s self-defeating. Perhaps their lawyerly ways get in the way. Obama’s easy-going persona is one factor, but couldn’t it have been minimalized by an aggressive staff? He was a constitutional lawyer by trade. Perhaps that background boosted the perception. Legalese slows progress to a snail’s pace. There also seems to be no sense of urgency or even a recognition that the other party is truly out to get them.
The democratic-socialist Weimar Republic was perceived to be ham-strung by its own democratic, legal procedures. Germans saw their government in gridlock and thus held low esteem for elected officials. Democracy is slow by nature, and so a “compassionate dictatorship” would seem preferable – especially in times of economic despair.
Weimar was weak, make no mistake. Not in just perception, but reality.
The effect of the current climate is the misperception by the American public that our President is an unaccomplished weakling at best, a foreign imposter at worst…which could pave the way to the next president being a bully. One thing leads to another.
The parallel includes the religious right’s support for a strong leader in both centuries. Adolf Hitler wouldn’t have risen to power had not the religious right of his time wholeheartedly supported him. Because the intellectual and artist classes sure didn’t. The same applies to this century’s USA.
Hate and fear for Muslims, Mexicans, and any other group called “others” (including liberals, progressives, non-Christians, Hollywood actors, scientists, and academia) goes with the package. The right must have enemies to justify its existence. And the parallel requires a misperception of the former government, which involves an effective propaganda tool to incite hate through creative lies, AKA FOX, right radio.
20th Century: “The liberal government, headed up mostly by Jews, sold us out; so, we must take our country back to greatness.”
21st Century: “The liberal government, headed up by a secret Muslim born in Kenya, sold us out; so, we must make our country great again.”
20th Century: “Tear up the Treaty of Versailles and make Germany great again.”
21st Century: “Tear up Obamacare and make America great again.”
There are no effective communication directors on the left, only hirelings who love the sound of their own voices – whereas, conservative communication specialists are passionate, loud, clear and concise. They don’t waffle, whereas liberal consultants are all over the map hedging their words to fit.
Why is that?
It’s all in the motivation of the speaker. Does he/she want to get a point across or just look “intelligent” to the listener? His/her focus must be the audience to be effective. The speaker’s main drive should be to inform the audience. With no evident desire to serve, communication is dull and lifeless.
Rightwing leaders don’t backtrack or apologize. Leftwing leaders do all the time – even for that which is unequivocally true. I cringe every time hearing a progressive apologize for core beliefs. It is self-mutilation while hurting the whole movement. The perception of weakness is founded on such. Republicans declare war; Democrats declare compromise – even with the Devil.
The public has no patience for long, drawn-out, dangling sentences – constructed to make the speaker / writer look good. The Democratic Party must return to James Carville’s motif if it is to succeed.
Bernie Sander’s success as a candidate can be attributed to his passionate simple sentences. The left does not need to commit suicide through poor communications. But in most instances, it does.
One other parallel: The educated class in Germany thought Hitler would never come to power. Educated Americans think the same about Trump/Cruz.