Barack Obama was and remains the hero America doesn’t deserve. He was handed a giant, steaming turd by George W. Bush the second he took the oath of office and somehow, miraculously, managed to turn it all around, bringing the country back from the brink of economic collapse and worldwide embarrassment. What did he get for this? He got railroaded and stymied at every possible turn by an utterly shameless GOP — a party determined to destroy him — and became the target of a relentless campaign to delegitimize his presidency. He got called a Kenyan usurper and a Marxist supervillain, a feckless novice and an effete pussy — and those were the names that didn’t include racial slurs.
Still, despite all of this, the man who truly believes in the promise of America and the global good that can come from it will no doubt be his classy, dignified self on January 10th when he gives his farewell address in Chicago. The White House announced the speech this morning, saying that the outgoing president is just now beginning to write his remarks. “I’m thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey,” Obama himself says, “to celebrate the ways you’ve changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here.” Unfortunately, we know damn well where we all go from here: into oblivion, with the diametric opposite of the calm, cool, sober, and serious Obama taking office on January 20th.
It’s difficult to process or even comprehend that after eight years of Barack Obama, and with his leaving with a pretty extraordinary 56% approval rating, we’re about to launch headlong into a Donald Trump presidency. It feels like the final indignity this ungrateful country has dumped on Obama, a man who will absolutely be remembered by history as one of our presidential greats. We’ve taken for granted the invisible steady hand that this president has represented, giving the world the stability that comes with a United States not plunged into perpetual pandemonium. Trump’s tiny hand is going to bring with it only corruption and chaos. We now have a reality show buffoon and Twitter troll as president, a bullshit artist who brings with him a suddenly legitimized white nationalist movement.
Obama’s farewell address will, in keeping with his character, be hopeful and no doubt soaring, in spite of what he and the rest of us are staring down the barrel of. “Since 2009, we’ve faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger,” Obama says. “That’s because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding—our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better.” Even now he looks at us and sees hope, even as the progress he shepherded and his impressive achievements are about to be rolled back simply for the sake of political pettiness. And it’s all happening because this idiot country elected a fucking lunatic man-child.
The transition from Obama to Trump won’t actually be a transition at all. It will be a car crash. It will be morning to midnight, calm to chaos, justice to oppression, pride to shame. To be honest, we can’t really begin to express just how jarring it will be as America goes from being a promise to a punchline because it’s likely going to be worse than anyone can imagine. But President Obama won’t have to deal with it anymore — and while it’s going to be hellish for us, maybe in some small way that’s consolation, because he’s already put up with way too much. He’s earned civilian life. And we’ve earned what’s coming to us, because we’re just that dumb. The great H.L. Mencken wrote, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” The Trump presidency is living proof of this.
So on January 10th, we’ll hear from “President Obama” in detail for the last time. Savor it while it lasts, because what’s coming will sound, look, and be nothing at all like it. And we’ll all suffer for that.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.