Picking up where his wife left off, Barack Obama elegantly eviscerated Donald Trump during his speech on the third night of the virtual DNC, sounding an alarm that somehow managed to strike renewed terror into our already terror-addled hearts.
After a moment of waxing philosophic about the Constitution and its role in guiding our democracy, the former president went for Trump with the precision of a Golden Eagle scooping its prey its talons before dumping it off a cliff:
I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.
But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.
Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.
Obama went on to emphasize Joe Biden’s qualities—his empathy, his humility—and the various ways he and Kamala Harris will rescue us from the quagmire of despair in which we’re currently drowning. Then he gets to the point: In this election, nothing less than our democracy is at stake.
Well, here’s the point: this president and those in power– those who benefit from keeping things the way they are– they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter. That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.
In case it wasn’t clear, Obama—calm, ever even-handed—is pretty sure that this country is done for if Trump wins a second term. “This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win,” he said.
Obviously, at least part of the intention of this speech was to send Trump into an unhinged Twitter rant, which was of course what happened. Nothing interesting, just his signature collection of all-caps nonsense, no different from your average senile relative ranting alone at a pile of trash, just before the medics come to restrain him.