The End of the Obama Era

Two quite different pieces today arrive at the same conclusion: Trump's promise is to reverse the Obama legacy. One is celebratory; the other argues, quite seriously, that it will potentially bring about the end of the world.

From the first, a WSJ piece subtitled, "President Trump visits Cowboyistan":
Proudly standing in front of the Andeavor Refinery outside Bismarck, he talked about ending restrictions on U.S. oil production, approving pipelines and dominating world markets. Come to think of it, this speech may have annoyed Vladimir Putin almost as much as Mr. Obama.

Also irking Mr. Obama no doubt was a central message of the speech: The U.S. corporate income tax rate has to come down to a competitive level. Just about every legislative leader in Washington of either party has been telling Mr. Trump that it’s not realistic to cut the rate all the way to 15% from its current 35% at the federal level, but there he was in North Dakota mentioning 15% again....

This column has mentioned the abundance of recent research showing how lowering corporate income tax rates drives wages higher. And higher wages could pull more disaffected former workers back into the economy.

This may have something to do with the reception the President received on Wednesday. A headline in the Bismarck Tribune reads, “North Dakota crowd cheers Trump’s call for tax reform, promise of competitive edge.”

The cheers aren’t only in North Dakota.
Remember what they are celebrating about Trump as you consider the second, titled, "The First White President." This piece argues that Trump's election is about nothing other than a move to restore "white supremacism." The only problem is that, as far as I can tell, the author believes that the whole nation is an expression of white supremacism: he laments the Founding, even, in these terms.
With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds....

...[Trumpist rhetoric] aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own.
The author ends the piece, as mentioned, by invoking the literal end of the world.
The American tragedy now being wrought is larger than most imagine and will not end with Trump.... It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. When W. E. B. Du Bois claims that slavery was “singularly disastrous for modern civilization” or James Baldwin claims that whites “have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white,” the instinct is to cry exaggeration. But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.
It is odd, philosophically speaking, to claim both that slavery is the foundation of modern civilization and also that it represents a singular disaster for modern civilization. If it was, as argued, the necessary precondition for the rise of the modern world, then it cannot also be a disaster for that world; it can be a disaster for James that his mother was an alcoholic, but not that his mother and not someone else was his mother, as without that particular mother James would not be James. Insofar as James is to live with a healthy soul, he must come to terms with the debt he owes his mother for his very existence even as he wishes that she had been better than she was.

Slavery was clearly a disaster in many senses, and for vast numbers of people. The modern world cannot regard slavery as a disaster for it, though, except by disputing that slavery was a necessary part of its coming-to-be. That is one thing the author of this piece would not countenance; it is too central to his worldview and philosophy.

What, then, does this leave for anyone who would be an American except to take James' path? If one would live with a healthy soul, one must love one's mother or one's motherland. One must respect the debt owed her for one's very being. We can regret her past, and her choices, but we must not regret her. To do that is to embrace the root of all the forms of madness that come of it: it's not for no reason that the cliche about psychology is that it begins with the question, "How do you feel about your mother?" To hate her warps you in myriad ways. It is only when you can forgive her that you can forgive the aspects of yourself that are like her: not yielding to them, but forgiving her and yourself for having those human weaknesses.

Our cultural leaders are too focused on the regret, and not enough on the gratitude, forgiveness, and love. So focused, I think, that they cannot move on from the pain of it. They can't see a way past it. No progress is possible for them until they do; and no one can help them to do it until they are ready.


raven said...

They did not call them savages for nothing. Slavery, rape, torture and murder were endemic among the indigenous populations of Africa and the Americas. The idea that white men invented these atrocities is laughable.

It seems like the left, having run out of any plausible policy issues, is now devolved to the lowest common denominator.

Eric Blair said...

Quoting Coates about White people is like quoting Goebbels about Jews.

Texan99 said...

That was some spectacularly muddy thinking. I can barely be bothered to parse it.

douglas said...

You're hitting the nail on the head, Grim- this is indeed the root of our problems- lack of gratitude, and the inevitable unhappiness that results, and that they cannot make any progress (ironically enough) until they do.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

It occurred to me at first that there is a market for making money writing to other black people that they should be resentful. Then I realised that black people are not Coates's audience. There is a market for kicking people who have done well, black or white, if you write for The Atlantic.

douglas said...

AVI, there's plenty of money to be made from guilty white people. See "Safety-pin Box". It's a wickedly brilliant scam. I think that's the sort of folks who are Coate's audience.

Grim said...

It is the case that this article was brought to my attention by a friend who is a progressive (and quite completely white) feminist philosopher, who found it terribly compelling.

Ymar Sakar said...

Rainbow coalition. Major profits.