Former President Barack Obama said Republicans made white men think of themselves as victims Wednesday – and that Donald Trump’s surprise success with Hispanic voters was partly because of his appeal to evangelical voters.
He explained in an interview Wednesday with The Breakfast Club that what motivates people to vote is often about ‘the stories that are being told.’
‘What’s always interesting to me, is the degree to which we’ve created, you’ve seen created, in Republican politics, this sense that white males are victims. They’re the ones who are like under attack,’ Obama noted. ‘Which doesn’t jive with both history and data, and economics.’
Obama was trying to explain to hosts Charlamagne tha God, DJ Envy and Angela Yee what motivated Americans in this past election to vote for President Donald Trump.
Former President Barack Obama explained that the ‘stories’ told in politics often motivate voters and blamed Republicans for creating a narrative that white men are ‘victims’
Interview: Obama was speaking in an interview with The Breakfast Club hosts Charlamagne Tha God, Angela Yee and DJ Envy
‘The question though is, you still had 70 million people voting for a government that I would say objectively has failed miserably in handling just basic looking after the American people and keeping them safe. Why is that?’ Obama mused.
He had just been speaking about the coronavirus pandemic, saying that if Trump had kept some of the pandemic infrastructure in place from the Obama administration, ‘We would have saved some lives.’
Obama then pointed to the broader political narrative.
‘The story that they’re hearing from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and, in some cases, inside their churches is that Democrats don’t believe in Christmas, only care about minorities and black folks and trying to take your stuff and trying to take your guns away,’ the former president explained.
With white male victimhood, Obama called it a ‘sincere belief, that’s been internalized.’
‘That’s a story that’s being told and how you unwind that is going to be, something that is done right away, it’s going to take some time,’ he said.
He also noted the importance of getting white support on issues like criminal justice reform.
Charlamagne tha God pushed back telling Obama, ‘Why do we have to wait on them though? We can speak our truth to power.’
‘What this comes down to is, what I said earlier, how do you build coalitions to actually get stuff done?’ Obama asked. ‘Because the truth of the matter is that in very few places are African-Americans the majority of the vote, it’s just simple math.’
Obama also talked about why messaging is important.
‘Even people who are not, in any way, consciously anti-black, they don’t want to be seen as the bad person, they’re always going to be a little defensive, that’s human nature,’ he said.
He asked the two male hosts to think about how men sometimes react to feminism.
‘If women start talking to men about their issues, a lot of men will get very defensive very quickly: “That’s not me, I treat my woman good,”‘ Obama said.
He also pointed to Hispanic-Americans who voted for Trump and explained that some issues for some voters just hold greater weight.
‘People were surprised about a lot of Hispanics folks who voted for Trump. But there are a lot of evangelical Hispanics who, you know, the fact that Trump says racist things about Mexicans, or puts detainees, undocumented workers in cages, they think that’s less important than the fact that he supports their views on gay marriage or abortion,’ Obama argued.
Not everyone was convinced by this explanation.
Pollster Frank Luntz tweeted, ‘This is lazy analysis which likely will become the conventional wisdom of his followers: “People who don’t support us are bigots.”‘
FiveThirtyEight’s reporting on the subject suggested that Latino voting patterns followed the more broad urban-rural divide taking place in the country, with rural counties going heavily for Republicans and urban areas casting votes for Democrats.
Trump had also historically done badly with Latinos in 2016, winning just 18 per cent. That bumped up to 27 per cent in 2020, which is more in line with the amount of support Republicans traditionally get.
In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, which is more urban, Cornell University’s Sergio Garcia-Rios, who studies Latino identity, told FiveThirtyEight that he believed Trump’s improvement here can be explained by the campaign paying specific attention to this community.
The Trump campaign paid for ads in Spanish and English that connected President-elect Joe Biden to ‘socialism’ and pointed to the Obama administration’s easing of restrictions on Cuba.
Obama was speaking in his latest interview to promote his book, A Promised Land, which has now sold more than 1.7 million copies in North America in its first week, besting the book debuts of his wife Michelle and Hillary Clinton.
On Tuesday, he said that Donald Trump ‘exceeded’ his worst nightmares during an interview with Stephen Colbert on CBS The Late Show.
Obama referred to the federal response to the crisis as ‘shambolic,’ suggesting it was not ‘rocket science’ and that the ‘leading epidemiologist of the country’ – Dr. Tony Fauci – had been undermined.
He also said that safety measures including wearing masks and social distancing should have been considered ‘common sense’ rather than an ‘act of oppression.’
‘Had we just taken those steps there is no doubt that we would have saved some lives and ironically, the economy would have been better,’ Obama said.
On the topic of Trump winning the presidential election in 2016, host Stephen Colbert described the moment as ‘chilling’ and saw an ’emotional flash’ of all the ways the dignity of the office could be ‘abused.’
On the topic of Trump winning the presidential election in 2016, host Stephen Colbert described the moment as ‘chilling’
Asking Obama whether he had a similar feeling, he replied ‘Yeah, it was a concern.’
When asked whether he felt like those concerns had been ‘borne out,’ Obama replied that they were ‘exceeded’.
Obama added that he got the sense people were ‘exhausted’ from the ‘World Wrestling Federation constant cage match’.
‘People just want to feel as if a day passes without it being dominated by something crazy coming out of the White House.’
Among former White House residents, only Michelle (pictured in November 2019) approaches his popularity as a writer. Michelle’s memoir, Becoming, published in 2018, has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and is currently in the top 20 on Amazon.com
A Promised Land, the first of two planned volumes, was published on November 17 and sold nearly 890,000 copies just in its first day.
Among former White House residents, only Michelle approaches his popularity as a writer.
Michelle’s memoir, Becoming, published in 2018, has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and is currently in the top 20 on Amazon.com.
Becoming sold 725,000 copies in North American in its first day compared to A Promised Land’s nearly 890,000.
The former first lady’s book sold 1.4 million copies in its first week. Becoming is still so in demand that Crown, which publishes both Obamas and reportedly paid around $60million for their books, has yet to release a paperback.
In response to his book competing with Michelle’s, Obama told CBS: ‘I’ve already waved the white flag. Any illusion that I might catch up, it turns out that now that my book is selling, they all package it with her book so she keeps on selling more, so I can’t… it’s hopeless.’
On shelves now: His new memoir, A Promised Land, came out last week
Clinton, who ran against Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, released her memoir What Happened in 2017. The book, which explored her failed 2016 bid for the presidency, sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
George W. Bush’s Decision Points sold 775,000 copies its first week and Bill Clinton’s My Life topped 1 million in eight days.
James Daunt, CEO of Barnes & Noble, said that the superstore chain easily sold more than 50,000 copies of Obama’s book in its first day and hoped to reach half a million within 10 days.
‘No nonfiction book comes close to the pace set by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which in 2007 sold more than 8 million copies in its first 24 hours.
Obama’s 768-page memoir, which has a list price of $45, had unusually risky timing for a book of such importance to the author, to readers and to the publishing industry.
It came out just two weeks after Election Day and could have been overshadowed had the race still been in doubt or perhaps unwanted by distressed Obama fans if Trump had defeated Joe Biden.
Obama himself acknowledges that he didn’t intend for the book, the first of two planned volumes, to arrive so close to a presidential election or to take nearly four years after he left the White House – months longer than for My Life and two years longer than Decision Points.
In the introduction to A Promised Land, dated August 2020, Obama writes that ‘the book kept growing in length and scope’ as he found he needed more words than expected to capture a given moment – a bind many authors well understand.
He was also working under conditions he ‘didn’t fully anticipate,’ from the pandemic to the Black Lives Matters protests, to, ‘most troubling of all,’ how the country’s ‘democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of crisis’.
Obama has already written two acclaimed, million-selling works, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, which came out in 2006.