At President Barack Obama’s final press conference, he issued a stern warning to the American people and to president-elect Donald Trump that all need to hear and acknowledge. Trump’s behavior in the days leading up to his inauguration, his decisions and his choice of appointments have been extremely alarming, to say the least.
He’s assembled a cabinet of plutocrats and ignorant ideologues whose only qualification is the amount of money they’ve donated to the Republican Party; surrounded himself with greedy oligarchs, corporate shills and neo-Nazis. Trump himself has been plunging headfirst into petty feuds with the media for simply doing their jobs, displaying more and more autocratic tendencies in his desperate efforts to insulate himself from criticism and to protect his hypersensitive ego from the cruel dissection of reality. When he’s not engaging in Twitter wars over an SNL skit, he and his cronies are plotting to strip healthcare from tens of millions of people, bankrupt the treasury, mass deportations, and discriminatory religious registries.
None of this is normal. None of this is how our government is meant to function, and President Obama rightfully made that clear to everyone:
But there’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake. I put in that category, if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. I put in that category, explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise. I put in that category institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press. And for me at least I would put in that category, efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them someplace else. When they love this country, they are our kids, friends, and classmates, and are now entering into community colleges and in some places serving in our military.
President Obama’s words aren’t just idle rhetoric; within them is an implied promise that he will not remain quiet if Trump violates those critical norms and protections that our country offers its citizens.
And we’re going to need him. From the moment Trump stepped onto the podium at his hotel last year and made the infamous “Mexican are rapists and drug dealers” speech, Trump has embodied the antithesis of American values. He is a petulant autocrat, a man who desperately demands respect but has done nothing to earn it, and is far too willing to force people to do as he wishes. He is a pathetic narcissist and an egomaniac who traffics in lies and is intent on reshaping the truth to fit his selfish narratives.
President Obama ended on a hopeful note. “I believe in this country. I believe in the American people. I believe that people are more good than bad. I believe tragic things happen; I think there’s evil in the world. But I think that at the end of the day, if we work hard and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time. That’s what this presidency has tried to be about. At my core, I think we’re going to be OK.”
I wish I shared his optimism.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.