The Greatness We Had Then, The Madness We Have Now

I still remember how nervous I was.

I spent the entire day anxious about something possibly going wrong in Ohio due to voter suppression. I was convinced that it would be over after one term, that the old GOP gang would get back together again, that the progress of the previous four years–especially on climate change–would be wiped out with the stroke of several pens.

When the final decision was announced, I had a complete sense of relief. A sense of mirthful joy came later, when I saw the clip of Karl Rove’s on-air freak-out.

It was five years ago today that Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney to secure a second term as President of the United States. Obama’s victory over the Trump-endorsed former Massachusetts Governor was a rejection of hate, fear and lies–in other words, a rejection of the very things a critical mass of the United States electorate would actually embrace four years later.

Of all the commentary about the significance of Obama’s re-election, the words of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow stood out the most:

The prospect of Romney ousting Obama from the White House filled me with enormous dread for most of 2012–and not just because Romney, who once recognized the threat posed by human-caused climate change, had now come to regard the climate issue as a joke. The idea of Romney, who had
gay-bashed his way through his sole term as Bay State governor, whipping up anti-LGBTQ animus from the Oval Office was horrifying. As President, Romney would have acquiesced to the right’s desire to appoint the most radical right-wingers he could find to the US Supreme Court and the federal district and appellate courts. He would have offered nothing but the usual thoughts and prayers to victims of handgun violence. He would have remained silent as the numbers of black police-brutality victims grew. He probably would not have been as vulgar as Trump, but his policies would have been every bit as brutal.

Romney’s hubris was unbearable during his four years as Massachusetts Governor. It was unbearable during his campaign. It was even unbearable during his concession speech, which lacked the humility John McCain exhibited after he lost to Obama four years earlier.

Thankfully, we were spared that particular nightmare–only to experience another one four years later. Five years on, it’s hard to recall Obama’s re-election without thinking about the millions of Americans who stewed in racial outrage when Obama delivered his victory speech, who hurled the worst insults at Michelle and Sasha and Malia when they saw that beautiful family on their television screens, who regarded the white voters who rejected Romney in favor of Obama as traitors to their race–and who unleashed their outrage in the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 Presidential election. It shocks the conscience to think about the sickness in the souls of those who looked at Obama as he delivered that speech and saw him not as the man who rescued the economy, not as the man who brought down Osama bin Laden, not as the man who saved lives through the Affordable Care Act, but as someone who should be a field slave.

The folks who viewed Obama that way will never leave Trump’s side. They couldn’t care less about Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. They think Robert Mueller’s a member of the “Deep State” trying to remove their hero from power. They agree with every tweet. They will never change–and unless those who opposed the wingnuttery of Romney in 2012 and Trump in 2016 harness their power in a consistent, effective manner in 2018 and 2020, those who hate Obama and love Trump will maintain their outsized influence over this country’s political power.

Five years ago, Obama’s re-election slogan was “Forward.” Will this country move forward again? If so, how soon?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.