Ezra Klein: Ben Shapiro’s revealing explanation for Trump: it’s all Obama’s fault: "Obama and Shapiro differ sharply.... Obama blames Trump—and others in the Republican Party and conservative media—for demagogically preying on Americans’ fears and anxieties. Shapiro blames Obama for adopting a lecturing tone that alienated a critical mass of Americans...

...I asked Shapiro to unpack this point for me. “Obama suggested that his political opponents were badly-motivated ignoramuses, routinely ignored the rule of law, and utilized identity politics to divide the country,” he replied. “He savaged McCain and Romney in scurrilous ways. Many in the Republican base felt angered and slighted, and raged at the supposed nice guys in the party who were allegedly too weak to fight back. They supported the most aggressive candidate on the stage.” Some of this strikes me as, well, strange. John McCain just had Obama speak at his funeral. The idea that the 2008 campaign was uniquely scurrilous is provably wrong. The rest of it is the usual Rorschach test of American politics; I think Obama treated issues of identity with unusual care and caution and... was unusually willing to believe the best of his political opponents, but I doubt I’ll change any minds.... Indeed, the deep division over how identity politics was wielded in the Obama era, and who was really acting outside the norms of American politics, strikes me as exactly what you’d expect if you believe this broader story of demographic, political, and cultural upheaval. More interesting, I think, is the way both Obama and Shapiro implicitly absolve voters.... The term “white fragility” is overused in politics right now, but it is relevant here: The unwillingness to state the obvious... might be politically wise, but it’s analytically disastrous. Black voters who supported Louis Farrakhan would never be treated with such delicacy.

Trump... ran a campaign based on clear positions and aspirations... build a wall... our country was being weakened by louche, violent, parasitic immigrants... Obama was an illegitimate president with a forged birth certificate... vowed to stop Muslims from traveling to the country.... That a crucial portion of the Republican electorate agreed with him in all of this is undeniable. What it says about them is often treated as if it is unspeakable—either because to state their beliefs clearly is insulting or because it just makes a bad political situation worse. Trump did not create these voters... but they were homeless in American politics, suppressed by the two parties for reasons of both principle and political expediency. Trump... riding the rage that grew on the right amid the daily affront of Obama’s presidency, was able to break through the cartel.... So yes, Republican voters enraged by the feeling that they were being lectured by the first black president is a big part of how we got Trump. This idea is popular in some quarters of the right because it’s understood as somehow absolving them of blame.... But it’s just another way of saying that Obama’s presidency... activated ugly sentiments in the Republican Party... amplified by conservative media, and Republican voters turned to the candidate who championed those sentiments most clearly. Which is all to say Trump’s voters made a rational choice based on their beliefs about, and preferences for, the country they live in. There’s a powerful impulse to absolve them of that choice, to blame it on someone or something else, but doing so obscures the reasons it was made and confuses our attempts to move forward...


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