How Obama May Help Trump Become President
If President Obama doesn’t want to be followed by President Trump, he’s doing a poor job of showing it.
For months now it’s been obvious that THE single biggest thing hurting Hillary Clinton’s chances of getting elected president is the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Although her campaign is officially opposed to the massive so-called free trade deal, Clinton spoke out in favor of it almost 50 times as Secretary of State, and her on-again, off-again relationship with it remains, for many people, a symbol of everything they distrust about her as a politician and potential president.
Will Hillary Clinton stay opposed to the TPP once she’s in the Oval Office and free from the pressures of the campaign trail?
Will she continue to look out for American workers when she’s filled her cabinet with the corporatist-types who she’s always been most comfortable with in the past?
In an election year when it’s become abundantly clear that Americans have rejected neoliberalism and so-called free trade, questions like this aren’t ridiculous -- they’re what millions of voters are asking themselves all across the country right now, and they will decide who is our next president.
Which makes it all the more puzzling as to why President Obama is doing everything he can to make voters more skeptical of Hillary Clinton’s views on trade.
Fresh off his annual trip to Martha’s Vineyard, the president is now set to go on a massive multi-state tour in support of the TPP.
As Politico reports - “The White House is... organizing 30 events over the congressional recess to gin up support for the [TPP]. The strategy is to offer support and cover to the small flock of Democrats who supported legislation to fast-track the deal and to remind wavering Republicans that they oppose it at their own peril.”
The goal here is to create the political pressure needed to force the TPP through Congress during the lame-duck session, right in the middle of an election year, right in the middle of a presidential campaign that has in large part become a referendum on each candidate’s views on trade…
This is terrible, terrible politics.
At this point, Hillary Clinton would probably be better off if everyone just stopped talking about the trade or the TPP altogether.
She’s said just about all she can say against the deal, and will do better as candidate if she starts a national conversation on things like family leave, the minimum wage, and the public option -- issues on which she can draw a real contrast between herself, Donald Trump, and his Republican allies.
But that conversation can’t happen if President Obama is out there on tour talking about how great the TPP is.
All that will do is get voters asking questions once again about what Hillary Clinton really thinks about trade and what she’ll really do as commander-in-chief.
Questions like that will depress voter turnout on Election Day and hurt down-ballot Democrats, who will then have to decide between supporting the president and supporting their values, something that never results in victory at the polls.
Whatever way you look at it, the big pro-TPP push that President Obama has planned for this fall looks like an out-and-out political disaster.
And here’s the really bad thing: what President Obama wants to do won’t just hurt Hillary Clinton and spoil the hopes of down-ballot Democrats -- it will also hand Donald Trump a big fat gift.
The first lesson of storytelling is that a hero’s “goodness” is defined entirely in relation to the villain’s” badness”
It’s the villain that gives the hero or heroine his or her meaning and it’s the villain that makes the hero or heroine look impressive.
For example, Batman himself isn’t all that compelling, but once the Joker comes along, anyone reading a Batman comic or watching a Batman movie immediately gets what a heroic battle Batman is fighting against such a terrible super villain, and thus wants to support Batman's fight.
Because this dynamic is embedded in the way we emotionally and intellectually process stories, it also translates well into political campaigns, which are themselves big storytelling competitions.
This is what’s dangerous about President Obama’s pro-TPP push -- it turns him into a villain who Donald Trump can define himself as a superhero against.
Obviously, there are a lot of unattractive things about Donald Trump.
But for lot of people out there, those unattractive qualities don’t matter as much as the fact that they’re out of a job or stand to lose the one they have if we open up our economy to more cheap labor from East Asia.
For people like that, Donald Trump might not seem so bad, at least not compared to a president who’s trying to push through another job-killing so-called free trade deal.
In fact, to those people, Donald Trump might look downright heroic.
Now, Donald Trump is obviously not a hero -- he’s a racist charlatan -- but American worker outrage about trade is real, and any push by the president to force the TPP through the lame-duck Congress will make Donald Trump look like a hero in comparison, at least to a large section of the country.
This election is a lot closer than it seems, and if President Obama really wants to stop Donald Trump, he should give up on the TPP.
He may not want that, but it’s the only way to guarantee a Democratic victory in November.
It’s as simple as that.