President Obama went off on a rant at a press conference, lecturing that “Somebody who labels us versus them or engages in rhetoric about how we’re going to look after ourselves and take it to the other guy . . . that’s not the definition of populism.”
I think it was Obama, however, who introduced into the 2008 campaign’s discourse the disparagement of the “clingers” of Pennsylvania, the stereotyping of his own grandmother as a “typical white person” and the police as typical racial profilers, and who urged his supporters to bring a gun to a knife fight and get in the “faces” of his opponents, and then later urged Latinos to punish “our enemies” at the polls — as well as other “take it to the other guy” rhetoric about Christians and their “high horse” morality and businessmen who deluded themselves into thinking that they built their own businesses.
And it was Obama who equated expectations that existing federal immigration laws should be enforced (as on over 20 pre-reelection occasions he himself lamented they had to be) with nativism and xenophobia. Those who opposed the sidestepping of congressional ratification of treaties and the Iran nuclear deal were written variously off by Obama as “armchair nuclear scientists” and promoting “the drumbeat of war,” while Iran’s fanatical theocratic hardliners were compared by the president to the Republican caucus. In short, what worries Obama is that he is the creator of Trump, that “Hope and Change” begat “Make America Great Again,” and that others wish to follow his own cue to bring their own guns to his vision of a knife fight and likewise to “get in their faces.” He fears faux-Greek columns and vero possumus will be trumped in Cleveland.