Gloves on

C’mon, President Obama—Time to Start Returning Fire

Trump’s outrageous tweets have drawn silence from the sometimes over-dignified former president. But Mr. Ex-President, your half of the country needs you.

Carlos Barria / Reuters

President Barack Obama doesn’t have any official engagements on the horizon and hasn’t said much since returning from vacation, but we should still probably brace ourselves for another 6 a.m. tweetstorm this weekend from President Donald Trump accusing the former president of undermining his presidency. In less than a week, Trump has accused Obama of wiretapping his phone and releasing 122 Gitmo detainees, and he has given oxygen to the conspiracy theory of an Obama-empowered “deep state” or “shadow government” covertly working to destroy him. These claims are absurd, dangerous, and false. But as a liberal Obama backer, I also find them bizarrely welcoming.

Following Hillary Clinton’s defeat, most Democrats wondered about who would fill the void left by Obama. While Obama was vacationing in the Caribbean with Richard Branson, the Democratic Party frantically discussed strategies for addressing the Trump presidency, winning elections at the local, state, and national levels, and pinpointing the emerging leaders of the party.

While all of this is necessary, your average, run of the mill liberal quietly just wanted Obama to come back. Most would have voted for him a third time if possible, so the idea of him and Michelle living a quiet post-presidency life away from the media gaze simply did not make any sense. And now, thanks to Trump’s and the GOP’s “Obama OCD,” America will surely see the emergence of citizen-activist Obama sooner than we thought.

A battle is brewing between these two presidents. Trump and today’s GOP seem to struggle to function if they cannot pick a senseless fight with Obama. They need Obama to appear active, so that they can criticize whatever it is he’s doing and blame him for their troubles. Obama’s absence has forced them to create wild conspiracy theories instead.

Already, Trump’s uncorroborated wiretapping accusations have “irked” and “exasperated” Obama according to sources, but the former president thus far has remained silent. Eventually, Obama or his spokesperson will have to formally comment on the wiretapping claim if Trump remains insistent on conducting a congressional investigation.

Additionally, if the bizarre “deep state” conspiracy theory continues to gather steam, and if Fox News or Breitbart mention it enough, Trump will eventually tweet about it. Activists on the right have argued that Obama has organized a loyal cabal of operatives within the White House and intelligence community intent on destroying the Trump administration. A recent story by The New York Times detailing how the outgoing Obama Administration worked to preserve intelligence information linking Trump and his associates to Russia has only further solidified their resolve on this unsubstantiated theory. Essentially, as more members of the Trump campaign are connected to Russia, Trump and his supporters will find a way to blame it on Obama and his supposed orchestration of a “deep state.”

However, Trump and the GOP’s beef with Obama extends beyond mere shadow-boxing a fictitious “deep state” and into legitimate policy issues. The House Republicans’ American Health Care Act, aka Trumpcare, is poised for a head-to-head battle with the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The bill faces an uphill battle. Already, the White House has attempted to hedge its bets by requesting that people not refer to it as Trumpcare. The American Medical Association even issued a letter saying that it “cannot support” the AHCA. The GOP has attempted to deflect criticism of the bill and dismiss the protestations of Obamacare supporters as another liberal conspiracy and not surprisingly, Obama’s Organize for Action and upstart progressive activist group Indivisible, are being fingered as the ringleaders of Obama’s alleged nefarious, covert anti-Trumpcare agenda.

And just for good measure, Organize for Action allegedly also plays an integral role in facilitating the “deep state,” so as expected, the GOP has found a way to link everything that ails them back to Obama.

Eventually, Obama will have to enter the political fray to refute Trump’s accusations and defend the Affordable Care Act. Liberals—and especially African Americans—cannot wait for this happen. Frankly, the sooner the better, and here are a couple of things that I would like to see.

Regarding Trump, Obama can play a vital yet objective role in the Russia investigations. We already know that he has seen classified information regarding Trump’s connections to Russia, so when pressed he should recommend an independent, nonpartisan investigation. Remember that in its waning days, the Obama administration sought to preserve intelligence related to Russian election hacking.

And of course, when Obama publicly comments on this topic, Trump will blow a gasket. He will drop a rabid, mania-induced, grammatically incorrect, and possibly incriminating Twitter tirade unlike anything the world has ever seen. And when he does so, Obama should refrain from commenting, which will probably drive Trump even crazier.

When he isn’t encumbered by Trump tweets and the dangerous farce that is his presidency, Obama should focus on grassroots civic engagement and speaking up for the minorities who feel shunned and unrepresented under Trump. This will be community organizing, but on a national scale, and now Obama can tell everyone that he has returned to his old job.

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He can champion voter registration, the necessity of affordable healthcare coverage, civil rights, running for public office, contacting your congressmen, and even subscribing to a newspaper so that you can stay informed. Obama should preach about the importance of being an engaged citizen who regularly votes and stays informed to ensure the health and stability of a democracy. Obama’s work with Eric Holder on the National Democratic Redistricting Committee will partner well with his community organizing efforts.

None of these positions is inherently political, but in America’s toxic Trump and Republican-controlled government, political engagement by Democrats has become a threat that they intend to suppress. Republicans will probably try to spin Obama’s actions as anti-democratic, unpresidential, and an extension of his allegedly omnipotent “deep state.” They’ll say that he should retire to painting or humanitarian work and refrain from politics entirely. Personally, I’d love for him to joke about having a post-presidency similar to William Howard Taft’s just to watch the conservatives have a conniption (Taft went to the Supreme Court).

Frankly, the majority of Americans need Obama to be the champion for democracy and multiculturalism during the Trump presidency. Too many Americans did not heed his call in the last election, and not only do they now recognize their mistake, but they need Obama to give them the opportunity to redeem themselves. The Republicans’ compulsion to blame Obama for their mistakes will soon force him out from the political wilderness, and the Democrats will be forever grateful.