Trump's Ultimate Goal: The Erasure of Barack Obama

We talk all the time about What Donald Trump Wants as president because it's plainly obvious that "improving life for all Americans" is not really on his radar, and "keeping the nation safe" is pretty low down the list. There is the obvious greed - from the access his children have to overseas investors to the open graft of the government paying tax money to his properties. There is the ego burnishing, which you'd expect from someone whose grievances include not getting an Emmy for his reality show and not being praised enough for being president. There is very likely the wholesale paying off debts owed to various Russians, Saudis, Azerbaijanis, Iranians, and who knows who else. And much, much more.

But one of his primary goals has been simple: Donald Trump wants to erase Barack Obama from the recent history of the country. He has been insidiously resetting the clock and rewriting history since he first gaslit his way to the national political stage by embracing the whole birther lie. Most other Republicans want to wipe out the New Deal and the Great Society and other progressive accomplishments, and Trump is fine doing that as long as it achieves this central objective of eliminating the black president and all his black deeds.

Trump regularly brags about all the Obama-era regulations and initiatives that he's tossed in the garbage can, some that have even left the industries affected scratching their heads at why. Just look at the environmental regulations Trump has reversed or wiped out. In one case, Trump had his EPA roll back "limits on carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants," which has led states from California to North Carolina to sue because it will lead to more air pollution in general. When Trump rolled back rules on auto emissions from the Obama administration, automakers were not overjoyed at the change because of the confusion it put into the marketplace.

In each case, Trump or some lackey from his administration crowed about how they were getting rid of "burdensome" regulations that Obama put in place that were preventing the economy from growing. Except here's the problem with that: Those regulations weren't preventing the economy from expanding. It was expanding just fine under Obama post-2010 while the nation was still doing at least something minimal to slow down climate change.

And that leads to the biggest lie that Trump tells constantly. Trump has essentially colonized Barack Obama's economy and claimed it as his own. It's oldest, whitest trick in the book. "Oh, hey," Christopher Columbus said, "I've discovered a New World" as he looked at all the people who had been there long before he ever bumbled his way to the Bahamas (and then he enslaved and tortured those people because Columbus was a monster).

Every chance he has, Trump decries Obama's presidency as a time of great economic tribulation that he alone came along to fix. In the State of the Union speech last week, he said, "The years of economic decay are over...Gone are the broken promises, jobless recoveries, tired platitudes, and constant excuses for the depletion of American wealth, power, and prestige. In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline, and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny....From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy."

That's absolutely false. Like factually false by nearly every measure. All that's mostly happened to the economy overall since Trump came to office has been a continuation of the trends that started several years before Trump ever rode his golden escalator to the nomination. He was handed a growing economy by Barack Obama and the only thing that he did was exploit it for his own gain while completely, willfully, cruelly erasing Obama from the narrative of why things are going pretty well. It's mind-blowing that anyone can hear Trump brag about the low unemployment rate as if he's responsible for more than a point or two of its decline, as if Obama's policies didn't take care of 80% or more of the improvement since 2010-11. Trump can say that the recent job numbers are incredible, but it's not better than many, many months under Obama.

In fact, Trump could have taken Obama's economy and said, "Yeah, that was all well and good, but we need to get people better jobs and better pay." He could have built on it and crowed about any improvements he made. But he couldn't because if he did, he'd have to admit that he's just the guy who didn't screw up Obama's achievements yet. He'd have to admit that Obama did something right. Instead, Trump has made it so that his voters believe as an article of absolute faith that Obama did nothing but damage the country and Trump came along to rescue us, the white savior riding in to save the nation from the savage Negro. And all those white people at Trump's rallies are eager to believe it's true.

Of course, these are the same people who believe that the Affordable Care Act is a "disaster," as Trump says repeatedly.  Even if they have benefited from it, they act like they despise it because they themselves would have to admit Obama did something to help them. The Supreme Court, with its Trump-installed, McConnell-enabled conservative majority, could come close to finishing the erasure of Barack Obama if it overturns the ACA and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (you know, DACA). If those two unabashedly positive steps towards a saner nation are gone, Trump will have finally gotten back at Obama for insulting him at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2011 and for daring to president while black.

Some Democrats are defending Obama's legacy, like Nancy Pelosi did in her press conference after the State of the Union and, obviously, like Joe Biden is on the campaign trail. But it seems like Trump's lies about Obama ought to be front and center, at least as a reminder that a Democratic president didn't screw things up. In fact, the job of a Democratic president since Clinton has been to clean up the wreckage left by the Republicans.

Trump's making a hell of a mess. Let's not allow him to throw President Obama into the trash heap of history.

(Note 1: I know that Columbus never said the phrase "New World" as far as we know. That was Amerigo Vespucci, which is also a great porn name if you pronounce the last name a little differently.)

(Note 2: You're right. There's more Obama could have done. But considering he had a Congress that wouldn't work with him, well, we're lucky we got as far as we did.)

(Note 3: Yes, you're very smart to bring up drone missile murders and the expansion of fracking under Obama, but if you don't think an Obama presidency is better than a Trump presidency, you're an idiot.)

(Note 4: White supremacists are emboldened by this effort to erase the first black president's accomplishments. Debasing him justifies their existence. It's one way Trump enables those groups.)