Obama Taught Trump How To Win But Time Dulled His Memory

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U.S. President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office

Hesitant Trump
You don’t need to be a friend or an acquaintance of Donald Trump to know he’s an egomaniac. All you need to do is to just listen to him once. Just once! For decades he’s been mulling a run for the Presidency of the United States, until he finally did this year. But the question is; what held him back all these years?

The answer is pretty simple. He knew the odds were all against him. He’s a litigious businessman, who has lawfully avoided paying taxes. He was cognisant of his failed businesses and aware of his bankruptcies. He was mindful of his failed marriages and conscious of his mistresses. He understood people hate his bigotry and frown at his misogyny. And above all, as a narcissist with a gaudy lifestyle, he knew a run will reveal how much he’s really worth.

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Barack Obama taking oath of office in 2009

How Obama Won And What Trump Learnt From His Big Win
But in 2008, Barack Hussein Obama (who’s a Christain and born in the United States) told him all those didn’t matter when he won the Presidency of the United States. Obama avoided his middle name through out the election cycle for a reason. After 9/11 most Americans viewed Muslims differently. Some of them unfairly and unreasonably saw them as terrorists or potential terrorists. Obama wasn’t oblivious of this reality. In his book, Audacity of Hope, Obama recalled having lunch with a media consultant after 9/11 attacks. The consultant saw his name as an irredeemable bad luck for an American politician; “May be if you were at the start of your career, you know, you could use a nickname or something” the man said to Obama apologetically.

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President Barack Obama taking oath of office in 2012

Aside religion, people also questioned his place of birth. As a son of Kenyan immigrant who came to the United States to study. People wanted proof that he was actually born in the United States. The constitution forbids US citizens born in other countries to run for the presidency. Donald Trump later became the cheerleader of this group. But their doubt didn’t deter Barack Obama from holding rallies and talking about how he will lift people out of poverty and bring the economy out of recession. Neither did it stop millions of people he had inspired to flood his rallies shouting his campaign slogan “YES, WE CAN!”. The watchword here is “inspire”. And that’s what Donald Trump learnt from Barack Obama in 2008.

Bizarre Candidate With Uniquely Loyal Supporters
Mr Trump descended from his escalator in the Trump Tower and incredulously announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States. His detractors laughed him to scorn. The Republican Party thought he didn’t stand a chance. Pundits talked about his infidelities, bankruptcies, failed businesses, tax-evasions. To the career politicians he faced off with at the republican primaries he was a neophyte in the arena. As debates kicked in he became unhinged with his conducts and unprecedented became a constant for journalists to describe his attitude.

He did the unthinkable. On the campaign trail he mimicked a disabled reporter, he called Obama the founder of ISIS, he encouraged violence against protesters, he suggested Hillary Clinton wasn’t faithful in her marriage. On the debate stage he shushed an opponent, he talked about the size of his genitals, he mocked women, he bragged about his wealth. Pundits found his conducts disqualifying and his opponents saw them as the beginning of the end of his political ambition. But they were all dead wrong.

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Donald Trump arriving with his family to deliver his victory speech after defeating Hillary Clinton

Greatest Upset In US Presidential Election History
Trump knew that his strength lied in his inspired supporters. He knew they will carry him through the primaries, just like they carried Barack Obama in 2008 primaries. They carried him to victory against a former First Lady with deep pockets, who had been in the senate for four years before Barack Obama arrived there. And they did carry Trump to victory against numerous career politicians including a former governor, who is the son of the 41st President of the United States and a brother to the 43rd president of the United States.

Invidious Comparison
It’s true Obama wasn’t unhinged in 2008 and didn’t bully reporters nor mocked women. But the bottom line is that once he had inspired his base, they believed him when he said he’s a Christian and was born in the United States. The rule is simple; get the people inspired by tapping into their passion, by giving them hope for a better tomorrow and all other things shall be added unto you.

When Obama energised his based in 2008 he painted a picture of a hopeful America. He tapped into his well received message at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, where delegates watched in awe as he aroused the patriotism in them by telling the story of his father’s journey to America;

Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, America, that shone as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before.

They were filled with hope as he delved into his own story;

I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.

Some became emotional as he talked about empathy and love;

If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there is a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription drugs, and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

In 2008 Obama chose the politics of hope and sounded like he did in 2004, got his base inspired, promised them good pay for decent job and vowed to fix the economy.

On the other hand, Donald Trump chose the politics of cynicism in 2016 with the slogan “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”. He got his base inspired, promised to keep them safe and stop Muslims from entering the country. He told them it will be America first. He assured them he will stand up to China. He vowed to knock the hell out of ISIS. He pledged to bring back jobs from abroad. Trump summed his promises up at the convention by declaring “I alone can fix it!” But for most of his promises he never gave them a detailed plan. He just asked them to “believe me” and they did believe him because they were already fired up and ready to trump anybody obstructing their rallies.

Trump: The Unstoppable
As Republicans and Democrats opposed him, crowd at his rallies grew. His supporter were too loyal that nothing could dampen their enthusiasm. Literally nothing. As the few elites in the Republican Party vacillated with their endorsements in the wake of the Access Hollywood clip, where he made lewd comments about groping women, the venues for his rallies still couldn’t contain people(including women). He took to his Twitter, the direct link between him and his base and told his supporter that by losing endorsements from some in his party “the shackles are taken off him”. People only wondered what unshackled Trump could look like.

People from different works of life urged his supporters to dumb him but instead they clenched him. Conspicuous among them were the 2012 Republican Party nominee, Mitt Romney, who called him “a con, a fraud” painted him as a failed businessman whose promises were “as worthless as a degree from the Trump University” but his blistering criticism didn’t dissuade his supporters. First Lady, Michelle Obama, painted him as the cheerleader of the birther movement. She dissed Trump as someone whose motivation was simply to “undermine” her husband’s presidency and slammed him as a misogynist with total disregard for women. Still his supporters stood behind him. Vice President Joe Biden depicted him as a mean and callous individual who is “so uniformed”. That still didn’t change anything with in his base.

Time Has A Way of Dulling Memory

Then came Barack Obama, the only person who should understand the connection Trump had with his base. He had experienced that same support in 2008 and to a large extent in 2012 but time has a way of dulling memory. Obama saw Donald Trump as “uniquely unqualified to be president and Commander-in-Chief”. Telling voters to choose Clinton because she was more experienced and was the most qualified ever to run for president. Even more qualified than him.

The problem with Obama’s pitch is that when people are fed up and need change they go for it and don’t always look at experience. Otherwise Barack Obama himself wouldn’t have won. Hillary Clinton was arguably more experienced than Obama in 2008 but he defeated her. John McCain was unarguably more experienced than him during the 2008 Presidential Election but Obama trounced him. Winning the most popular votes ever in the U.S. presidential election history. Why would President Obama, of all people, think that inspired supporters would use experience as a yardstick to dumb their man?

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Tony Blair greeting supporters after Labour Party landslide victory in 1997

The Honeymoon Will Soon Be Over
If the man who won the most popular vote ever could struggle to win his reelection and fail to convince the same people who came out e’mass to vote for him in 2008 to support the candidate he endorsed in 2016. Then Donald Trump should know that his honeymoon with his loyal supporters could last even shorter. Obama’s disappointment in 2016 wasn’t unprecedented.

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Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair was prescient when he said in 2010 that Barack Obama can not meet the expectations of his base. Not because he doubted Obama’s ability but as a man who won the premiership by stirring up that kind of energy and excitement, he noted that “expectations of this nature cannot be met”. If Tony Blair and Barack Obama couldn’t meet their expectations, Donald Trump whose promises are incoherent and outlandish will certainly not meet his.

He is trailing his opponent, Hillary Clinton, with about 2.5 million ballots in popular votes. Trump’s supporters are smaller than Obama’s in 2008 and they may even grow smaller when they see him as part of the establishment. When that happens their hope will turn into disappointment, and they will eventually redirect the anger stoked by Trump throughout the presidential campaign back to him. Then Donald John Trump could end up as a one time president.

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