He described himself as a skinny kid with a funny name. His name was Barack Hussein Obama and he was seeking the nomination for President of the United States. At the time I was only casually paying attention to the primaries. I knew that Hillary Clinton was among some of the people seeking the nomination but beyond that I really didn’t care. A clinical rep at the hospital I work for asked me who I was voting for and when I answered that I was leaning toward Clinton she admonished me and said I should vote for this guy named Barack Obama. I said “Ba-Rock A Who BaBa? and I also let her know in no uncertain terms that I was not going to vote for some guy just because he was black and gave a good speech at a convention. This was a moment of perfect irony; the white lady was trying to convince me, a black man, to vote for the black guy and not the white lady. That can only happen in America . I promised her I would read the books Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope and when I did I was all in. In my mind the Senator from Illinois was everything I wanted in a candidate. He was an articulate, intelligent, charismatic black man that personified all the attributes I wanted white America to know existed in our community .
In 2008 Senator Obama became President-Elect Obama and I have never felt so much pride and admiration for a public figure in my life. Its difficult to convey what Obama’s election meant to me and countless other African Americans . His views of social justice mirrored my own. Most importantly here was a black man, a celebrity, that was celebrated not because he could sing or dribble a basketball but because of the words he spoke and the ideas he promoted. As a black man there is a dark burden of feeling like the “other” and of not belonging that is the result of a long history of racial injustice and negative stereotypes. Obama was a man that seemed to transcend all the negative images and I wanted to be a part of that. His election, for me, was evidence that being intelligent, articulate, and powerful was not the exclusive providence of white America but were characteristics that could ALSO applied to black men.
The honeymoon period for the President was short lived. We all witnessed the unprecedented disrespect and obstruction the he faced for the entire 8 years of his presidency. He was called a liar during an address to congress and certain republicans stated on record that their only objective was to make him a one term president. If Obama was for it then they had to be against it. In my mind these obstructions were just part of the game of politics and really didn’t bother me much. What struck a nerve with me were the blatant attempts to delegitimize him. Enter Donald J Trump and the birther movement. Trump’s continued allegations that Obama was not a citizen stuck me as ugly and racist. It was a charge that has never been leveled against a U.S President before. Never has a president have to produce a birth certificate to the public and even after he did so Trump insisted it was fake. Trump’s attacks felt like an assault on me and all that I represented. In my mind, Trump wasn’t just questioning the presidents legitimacy, he was by extension questioning every black man in America. He was communicating to me that it didn’t matter if you are educated and accomplished, that in his eyes people like Obama had to have something wrong with them. They could not possibly be smart or industrious enough for that type of success. Somehow, some way they cheated.
After Trump was elected I was outraged. Obama had to turn the keys of the White House over to a bigoted xenophobe that questioned his education and citizenship for 8 years. The devil had won. I declared on Facebook and other platforms that I will never refer to him as President. I like many others posted things like #notmypresident or in reference to Obama #Forevermypresident. I purposefully referred to Trump as Mister Trump and Obama as President Obama. After sometime I decided that as much as I didn’t want it to be so Trump was the President of the United States. I think that we as a nation run the risk of repeating the same mistake that Hillary Clinton made during her campaign. The mistake of under estimating Trump and dismissing him. Whenever you are dismissive to a candidate what you inevitably do is paint him as victim. You make him seem like an outsider and a hero figure that people want to champion. If we stop treating Trump less like a joke and more like a serious player then it becomes easier to debate and run against him in the next election. What Trump’s next opponent need to do is not talk about why he’s bad for America but rather why their ideas are good for America. When we focus on the clown show that is Trump we lose sight of the issues and what’s important. This was Hillary Clinton’s ultimate failure and it is one we cannot afford to repeat.
It is my heartfelt belief that normalizing Trump is the best way to defeat him. I realize that Trump is anything but normal but as long as he remains this larger than life cartoon character then he’s nearly impossible to stop and we run the risk of 8 years of this bullshit instead of 4.Donald Trump’s campaign was based on style, not substance. To defeat him we must put the spotlight on the substance of him and to do that we must treat him as ordinary candidate. We can’t be dismissive of him again. When Donald Trump builds a wall between Mexico and the United States it’s a “Trumpian” thing totally in keeping with his persona . However, if the President of the United States spend 14 billion dollars to build a wall it then becomes a rallying point you could run against. Placing emphasis on the fact that he is President Trump and not just “The Donald” makes all of his foolish actions and words stand out more.
So from now on it’s President Trump for me. It’s President Trump not because I think he is deserving of it but because I want to do whatever I can to prevent him from being President Trump a second time around. Despite the disrespect President Trump showed the last President I am going to take the advice of the former First Lady. When they go low, we go high. Let’s not succumb to the same pettiness and hatred that marred the last administration and show America, and the world, that truth reason and compassion can win the day. I challenge myself and others to be vigilant in spreading the truth from reputable sources and to thoughtfully engage with those that share a different point of view. Let’s get involved in our communities and change this nation and the world for the better one person at a time.