Donald Trump’s political success continues to gnaw at President Obama as he wraps up his presidency and prepares to hand the keys to the White House to his successor. In an interview with National Public Radio’s Steve Inskeep, the President took another shot at explaining why Trump continues to rise in the polls despite his inflammatory rhetoric.
Obama asserted that there is a growing anger among “blue-collar men” who are not able to cope with a changing economy and a changing demographic makeup of America:
I do think that when you combine that demographic change with all the economic stresses that people have been going through because of the financial crisis, because of technology, because of globalization, the fact that wages and incomes have been flatlining for some time, and that particularly blue-collar men have had a lot of trouble in this new economy, where they are no longer getting the same bargain that they got when they were going to a factory and able to support their families on a single paycheck, you combine those things and it means that there is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear. Some of it justified but just misdirected.
Obama pointed out that Trump is merely leveraging that anger and fear for political gain.
“I think somebody like Mr. Trump is taking advantage of that,” he said. “That’s what he’s exploiting during the course of his campaign.”
Inskeep asked Obama if he is able to understand why some voters are angry or afraid of his intent to change the country, but Obama dismissed it as racism. “Well, look, if what you are asking me, Steve, is are there certain circumstances around being the first African-American president that might not have confronted a previous president, absolutely,” he said.
Obama pointed to “specific strains in the Republican Party” that thought he was “Muslim” or “disloyal” to the United States:
If you are referring to specific strains in the Republican Party that suggest that somehow I’m different, I’m Muslim, I’m disloyal to the country, etc., which unfortunately is pretty far out there and gets some traction in certain pockets of the Republican Party, and that have been articulated by some of their elected officials, what I’d say there is that that’s probably pretty specific to me and who I am and my background, and that in some ways I may represent change that worries them.
Obama accused Inskeep of trying to stoke the issue, saying that he asked “a pretty open-ended question.” Defensively, he added, “I think you were being a little coy in how you asked it.”
“I’m trying to give you room to answer,” Inskeep replied.
No, I understand, but what I’m saying is that I think that there’s always going to be, every president, a certain cohort that just doesn’t like your policies, doesn’t like your party, what have you. I think if you are talking about the specific virulence of some of the opposition directed towards me, then, you know, that may be explained by the particulars of who I am.