The title of a piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates back in 2017 was eye-catching. He referred to Donald Trump as “The First White President.” But his subtitle told you a bit about where he was going with that claim. It read: “The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Obama’s legacy.”
It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power…
Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own…Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.
Launching his entry onto the national political stage by claiming that the first African American president wasn’t a citizen and ending his first term by accusing Obama of treason are the bookends. In between, this president has done everything possible to negate his predecessor’s accomplishments.
But it’s not as if Trump’s antipathy for Obama is simply personal. It is rooted in a past and present packed with racist words and deeds. Both Trump and his supporters took offense at the election of a competent African American to lead this country. His presidency was primarily a backlash to that seminal event.
On Tuesday, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, chose Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate in the November election. The most striking thing about the ticket is that it presents a clear backlash to that backlash.
It is no accident that Democratic voters chose Obama’s vice president to be their nominee. The Obama-Biden relationship was legendary, and as Michael Harriot noted, it had an impact.
Biden worked for a black boss and, as veep, he was surrounded by black people who were smarter than him (Susan Rice, Michelle Obama, Eric Holder, Jeh Johnson). This might not seem like much, but eight years listening to black people is something few white people have ever done.
Biden didn’t just listen, he learned. In the midst of all of that, he offered both his boss and his African American colleagues respect, loyalty, and honesty. I’m sad to say that Biden is unique among white men his age for having done so.
But then Biden chose Kamala Harris to be his running mate, adding someone who is the very antithesis of everything we’ve come to associate with Trumpism. She is an intelligent, experienced Black woman whose parents were immigrants to this country. Take a look at how Harris talked about her mother during the Democratic primary.
— Maya Harris (@mayaharris_) August 12, 2020
This discussion with Ari Melber is also the antithesis of everything Donald Trump stands for. You have Cory Booker talking about how Kamala Harris will handle the president’s attacks by quoting poet Maya Angelou.
— The Beat with Ari Melber on MSNBC 📺 (@TheBeatWithAri) August 11, 2020
Right on cue, the president went there on his Twitter feed Wednesday morning.
You might as well just stop beating around the bush and say it plain: White women will vote for you to keep poor Blacks, led by Black politicians, out of the neighborhood.
Wear your White Power with pride, you scumbag!
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) August 12, 2020
Commenting on the historic nature of Harris’s candidacy, Nikole Hannah-Jones quoted the Black women of the Combahee River Collective: “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”
That is precisely why the Biden-Harris ticket is the antithesis of Trumpism. It takes direct aim at the foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency and delivers the antidote.