With the current tally of votes in the 2020 US presidential election pointing to a possible defeat for incumbent Donald Trump, former president Barack Obama, a Trump bête noire mercilessly vilified by the sitting president, may have got his revenge after campaigning spiritedly to toss out his truculent successor.
By Chudi Okoye
A few days ago, a video clip emerged showing a lithe President Barack Obama shooting a perfect 3-pointer on a basketball court during one of his final campaign stops for Joe Biden, the flagbearer of the Democratic Party in the 2020 US presidential election. This video trended, to the unending elation of the amiable former president’s admirers and sportspeople in general.
But there were many who bristled with indignation at Barack Obama’s chutzpah. The mouth wagged, and social media ragged.
Most critics failed to pick up on the poetic importance of that portentous punt.
That shot – spanned but unplanned – signaled the imminence of Obama’s revenge against Mr Donald Trump after years of vicious vilification by his successor, a treatment about the most savage and least dignified in modern US presidential history.
After dropping that ominous shot, an ebullient Obama bounded off court, saying to the amazed onlookers: “This is what I do! This is what I do!”
Obama’s elated celebration, which innocent observers considered innocuous and amusing, rather predictably stoked the embers of hate in the swamp of American politics. Many of the complainers, most of them prepossessed pundits and importunate critics, thought the past president’s posture prideful and preposterous. And they let their fevered feelings flow.
But regardless of the ire of Obama’s haters, that shot of his was a hot (and hip) harbinger of his imminent performance. It was a pointer to his zestful contribution to the Democratic Party’s effort to terminate the squalid aberration that is Donald Trump’s presidency.
In the four years of his chaotic incumbency, Mr Donald Trump has gone way beyond any previous successor with his vengeful and invidious attack on his predecessor. He has assailed Obama’s legacy, tearing an edifice eight years in the making with sadistic pleasure. He has gone much beyond policy-related critique to a personalistic assailment of Obama.
His apparent jealousy of the younger and much cooler Black man has led him to absurd levels of animadversion. Unlike other modern presidents, for instance, he took nothing of the hand-off manuals prepared by the outgoing administration. He rejected everything with Obama’s imprimatur on it. Trump would not even allow a painted portrait of Obama to be displayed in his White House, a depraved animosity redolent of the rumor that he had paid Russian prostitutes to piss on a bed in a hotel room previously used by the Obamas.
The man is sick!
President Obama, the ultimate political tactician, had kept his cool through all the provocation, quietly plotting his revenge. And he would exact his revenge in spectacular fashion.
In heavyweight boxing, the great Mohammed Ali developed a tactic that he called “rope-a-dope” which enabled him to vanquish much bigger and more fearsome opponents in the ring.
Ali let the ferocious pugilists punch themselves to exhaustion, and once sensing fatigue he would move in with a staccato of withering punches to knock out the now-bumbling opponent.
It was often a lethal but beautiful thing to watch.
President Obama may just have delivered a political rope-a-dope on Trump. He went on the hustings with glee, often delivering more eloquent attacks on Trump than Biden could manage. He laid bare the incumbent’s incompetence and moral vacuousness. He showed up his successor as a pretender, a man unfit for office punching way above his intellectual weight.
He made the American voter see Trump for what he really is: a grubby hustler without a moral centre.
The result is now coming in, and it looks like Trump will be a one-term president.
It seems Obama has truly delivered a sucker punch.
Since the election was called for Joe Biden, there has been a splurge of spontaneous rejoicing erupting around the world. The world is breathing a sigh of relief because it feels a looming disaster has been avoided in the world’s democratic tradition. Under Trump, America, the world’s most powerful beacon of democracy, seemed to be sliding towards autocracy. V-Dem, a global democracy-tracking organization, noted earlier this year that the United States under Donald Trump was “the only country in Western Europe and North America suffering from substantial autocratization.”
Let that sink in. Think what might have happened had the world’s most powerful democratic standard become increasingly autocratized, if Trump won a second term.
But it seems the American voters put a halt to creeping authoritarianism. They cast an emphatic vote for an empathic pragmatist, Mr Joe Biden, a man with all the instincts of a principled democrat. The world is celebrating this result, relieved that the America that leads the democratic tradition seems to be returning after rejecting a pariah president.
But it is still more than two months before Biden can fully assume office. In the meantime, we have a vindictive incumbent, a man without any redeeming grace sitting in the Oval Office seething with resentment. A vengeful Trump may seek to scorch the earth, to make America pay for his ignominious rejection. He has so far refused to concede defeat, and is in fact claiming that the election was rigged, thereby creating uncertainty about the transfer of power.
Right now, amid the din of global rejoicing, we can’t quite hear the mewling of Donald Trump as he asserts a claim that his mandate was stolen. But the situation is precarious, and this man can still do damage.
We know that Trump won’t go quietly. He’s always been a cheat, in business and in his personal life. So now, the final votes are being counted and Trump seems utterly hobbled by Obama’s Black constituencies in Pennsylvania and Georgia. We can hear an incandescent Trump flailing about, alleging irregularities that he can’t prove, and initiating a slew of suits to skew the results in his favor.
It won’t work of course. America’s vigorous institutions, from the secret service to the military to the bureaucracy, can be expected to contain the crazed conniptions of a cornered president. But Trump is still dangerous, a proud man who has been bested by a Black brother. He’s a wounded Leviathan thrashing about, trying to bring down the edifice of American democracy on his way to political ignominy.
Yes, Trump may yet try to tear down America’s democratic institutions, proving the point of a highly prescient book written by Republican strategist Rick Wilson which claimed that Everything Trump Touches Dies. He may try to instigate the phalanx of ferocious militias and partisans who supported him. Trump – though now thwarted in his twisted quest for demagogic power – could yet let out a giant scream summoning his more nihilistic columns to mount resistance or cause ruination.
But, if loser Trump doesn’t manage to cause civic disorder or plunge America into an internecine war, he’ll eventually have to go.
And America can begin cleansing and healing itself.
During one of the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries debate, the moderator asked the contestants to describe the first thing they’d do if elected. The smartest response to that question came from the delectable Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She said her first task would be to “Clorox the Oval Office” after the pollution of the Trump years.
If the current vote tally holds up, Joe Biden will become the next president of the United States.
Biden will have to work hard to prize Mr Trump out of the White House.
And he’ll need buckets of Clorox to cleanse the Oval Office after the stain of Trumpian presidency.