What a difference a year makes. What a painful difference.
Trump won the 2016 election one year ago today with a promise to “Make America Great Again.” And for those who miss the Obama years—which sometimes seem like centuries ago–the two men could not be more different in the way they conducted themselves and represented America early on in their respective presidencies.
Coming into the White House, Barack Obama and Donald Trump were polar opposites. After all, as the first Black president, Obama came on the scene as a change agent, as the man who wanted to bring people together, emphasize what they have in common rather than their differences. His “Red States, Blue States” speech from the 2004 Democratic National Convention that brought him to national prominence was Obama the bridge builder.
In his early days as POTUS, he reached out to Republicans and extended the olive branch. Some would argue he was a little too nice in dealing with an opposing party that had no intention of cooperating with him, though you cannot blame him for trying.
Trump, on the other hand, has been the vile, hateful, white racist reaction to Obama.
He rose to prominence through gutter politics, by making fun of people and degrading them because of their race, religion, gender or disability. He was the candidate of the angry white man and woman, winning a majority of each demographic. And he promised to take his supporters back to a place where there were no Muslims, Mexicans or Black people, or at least when they knew their place in a country built for white folks, and did not get out of line and attempt to take over.
While Obama began his administration by enacting his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, and providing access to health care for millions more Americans, Trump came into office immediately seeking the destruction of the Obama legacy. He unsuccessfully sought the repeal of Obamacare, which he could not do, even with GOP control of both houses of Congress, because America was not falling for his hustle. Moreover, Trump manufactured crises where none had existed, with policies designed to punish groups of people, including mass deportation, building the border wall and pushing the Muslim travel ban.
When there were true crises, such as the mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, President Obama conducted himself with class, professionalism and a realness that could not be faked. When he sang “Amazing Grace” as he eulogized Rev. Clementa Pinckney, it was theater to be sure, but it also reminded us that person occupying the White House had a heart, that he cared about the human condition and wanted to make things better.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, cares only about himself and what is best for Trump. He is not president of all Americans, but only the leader of those who voted for him, including the white supremacists in Charlottesville–“some very fine people” he still refuses to condemn. Coldhearted, coldblooded, narcissistic and crass, President Trump is a reminder that God don’t like ugly. And money can’t buy you class when you are hopelessly trash. After all, this is the man threw rolls of paper towels at Puerto Rican hurricane victims, and argued with the widow of a fallen Black soldier rather than console her.
His cabinet is stacked with enablers, grifters and hustlers who take turns going around the room and kissing his ass. And Russian spies. They have their jobs because they were the least qualified, and brought in to destroy their agencies. On the other hand, when you were dealing with the Obama administration, there was no question the officials and staff working there were men and women of integrity, the best the country has to offer. These were the folks with whom Obama surrounded himself. It was a White House of transparency and accountability, of intelligence and excellence in public service, where reporters and writers had easy access to information, rather than Trump’s menu of media blackouts, fake news and making sh*t up, unhinged Twitter rants and press briefings where propagandists spit out lies and convey no useful or legitimate information.
They say you should always return an item in better condition than when you borrowed it. That’s what President Obama did with the White House and the country in general.
He elevated the office.
But in the year since he was elected, President Trump has brought the highest office into the gutter, and the country with him. He has done so much damage, it could take years to clean up this mess.
When is our national nightmare going to end?
Follow David A. Love on Twitter @davidalove.