While many from the center to the left of the political spectrum have been speaking in end-of-days rhetoric and imagining catastrophic worst-case scenarios since Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump won the election on November 8, outgoing Democratic president Barack Obama has tried to maintain a more hopeful and optimistic tone.
According to a lengthy profile of Obama by the New Yorker‘s David Remnick, the current commander-in-chief has been telling those closest to him — from his staffers and advisors, to his daughters, Malia and Sasha — that now is the time for action rather than despair.
Trump’s victory over Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton came as a complete surprise to the White House and the Democratic establishment, according to Remnick.
“We had no plan for this,” one Obama staffer told him.
Obama gathered his staffers in the Oval Office the morning after the election to offer words of encouragement. The crux of his argument was, “This is not the apocalypse.”
— Jezebel (@Jezebel) November 18, 2016
When Remnick asked Obama what he has told his daughters about Trump’s election, Obama gave a lengthy summary that echoed his comments to his staffers about Trump’s presidency not necessarily representing the apocalypse.
“What I say to them is that people are complicated. Societies and cultures are really complicated… This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop… You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.”
Despite Obama’s earnest optimism, many Americans feel there is still considerable cause for alarm when it comes to the impending Donald Trump presidency. Many people of color, women concerned with reproductive rights, immigrants, and members of the LGBT community are particularly anxious.
Several people Trump has named as potentially serving in top cabinet and White House staff positions are assertively pro-life, openly opposed to gay marriage, and outspokenly tough on crime and immigration.
Reporting on a recent meeting of the National Policy Institute at D.C.’s Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the Los Angeles Times noted, “This was the white nationalist lobby — the alt-right — coming to town for a victory lap after Donald Trump’s election, assuming what they see as their rightful place influencing the new administration.”
Topics addressed at the National Policy Institute meeting included “Trump and the New White Voter,” “America and the Jewish Consciousness,” and “The Future of the Alt-Right,” according to the Times.
There is evidence that Trump’s victory did incite some white nationalist violence in the days following the election.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit legal organization that monitors hate groups and hate crimes, logged 701 acts of “hateful incidents of harassment” around the country in the week after the election.
The vast majority of the incidents involved threats, intimidation, harassment, and racially-charged vandalism. However, according to the SPLC, there has since been a steady decline in the spike in incidents that occurred after the election.
Obama to N Yorker ed David Remnick: “I don’t believe in apocalyptic—until the apocalypse comes” https://t.co/FBPNOio1mc
— Ian Katz (@iankatz1000) November 20, 2016
There is always a moment of adjustment when a new president is elected. Sometimes it takes more adjusting than others.
Obama’s 2008 election was followed by waves of protests and acts of violence and vandalism as well, with many predicting a catastrophic societal collapse under his tenure, as The Hill recently reminded readers.
Perhaps his awareness of this history is what makes Obama dismissive of talk of the apocalypse this time around when speaking with his daughters and others.
“I don’t believe in apocalyptic—until the apocalypse comes,” Obama told Remnick. “I think nothing is the end of the world until the end of the world.”
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]