In 2007 when former President Barack Obama announced for the presidency, Republicans immediately labeled him a celebrity candidate. Juxtaposed against shots of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears sauntering through crowds, a 2008 campaign ad for his opponent, John McCain, says of Barack Obama, “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world,” and then asks the question, “but is he ready to lead?” The first-time junior Senator from Illinois was inarguably charismatic, good-looking, and a brilliant campaigner. The big mistake the GOP made was underestimating his braininess, organizing talent and empathy, countering with cheap racist and imagined xenophobic attacks on his heritage and name.
America was stunned that a young black man beat a middle-aged white war hero for the presidency. It is not melodramatic to say Obama led the way in saving America’s economy. As it turned out, he led America and the world through what could have been a catastrophic financial crisis. When it became apparent McCain was in trouble, the GOP came up with the idea of turning to a woman as his Vice Presidential candidate. After all, Hillary Clinton came close to winning the nomination for the Democrats, so I imagine the GOPers locked the door to the backroom, snuffed out their cigars, and told themselves, we need a woman too. The idea of a woman running the country would be a welcomed change, but the GOP insulted the country and women by choosing a pretty face over substance. Sarah Palin’s self-seeking celebrity over accomplishment made it more apparent that she was woefully underqualified to be a heartbeat away from leading the country.
In response to the Obama win, the Republicans needed a black face. Michael Steele, the former Lt. Governor of Maryland, was elected in a very contested (six rounds) vote as Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Steele assumed he had the blessing of the party to pursue real diversity and went after the Obama coalition, people of color, women, and young people. The GOP took another shot at it, but with the miserable showing of Mitt Romney, who challenged Mr. Obama in 2012, they abandoned a good idea—inclusion. The Obama coalition rejected Steele’s efforts, and so did Republicans, and eventually, with the help of Trump’s candidacy in 2016, the Republican Autopsy of 2009 died and moved in the opposite direction.
The Republican party viewed Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a win. While the world saw America’s election of a genuine celebrity as a misstep, America walked off a cliff. The truth is Donald Trump was an unmitigated disaster as President. The country has not been this racially divided since the south in the 1960s. He oversaw mistake after mistake in handling a virulent disease that killed over a million people. It took the election of Joe Biden to institute a coherent strategy. He was the architect of the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, which President Biden made the best of when we left a 20-year occupancy. He destroyed the Paris Climate Accord and the moratorium on Iran’s nuclear weapons program; meanwhile, the trust in the press, the FBI, and the DOJ has been eroded.
So we are going into the 2022 midterms with Republican choices featuring a neo-Nazi sympathizer, an alleged wife abuser, racists, and election deniers. In the words of the most famous Republican celebrity President, “here we go again.”
Continue to Vote for Change.