Never forget it: Donald Trump rode birtherism like a surfboard into the White House. He first played the birther card back in 2011 (“I’m starting to think that [Obama] was not born here”), and the next year cited “an extremely credible source” that Obama’s birth certificate was a “fraud.” In certain parts of this country that message rang a bell and gave a special cachet to the businessman who had bankrupted a series of casinos and yet somehow came out ahead of the game (as his investors didn’t) before turning Americans across the land into so many apprentices. Who cared that, from the beginning, birtherism was the fakest of “fake news”? There was, after all, a black man in the White House. Something was obviously off. Why not his life from birth? Trump, of course, never apologized or admitted that birtherism was a pack of lies. In fact, rumors have it that he’s still pushing the “theory” from the Oval Office.
Everything else followed: the Mexican “rapists”; the Muslim monsters against whom the door to the kingdom was to be barred; even those children ripped from their parents’ arms at the border. And all of it began with birtherism, an impulse which, in the post-election years, has developed into a distinctly racist desire to obliterate every last inch of the Obama legacy — from the Paris climate accord to the Iran nuclear pact, from transgender policy in the military and prisons to, in recent days, wiping out the former president’s affirmative action program for colleges. (Keep ‘em white!) His urge: to be the ultimate anti-Obama, the whitest president around in a country slated to become “minority white” by perhaps 2045 no matter what he does.
Can there be any question that, at the very least, never has a president worked harder to obliterate his predecessor from the pages of history? Think of Donald Trump’s birtherism and racism as his version of affirmative action. In addition, think of what’s always called his white “base” not as his supporters but as his fans in the political grandstands of his life; and, while you’re at it, think of The Donald himself as some strange kind of sports event in the White House. No wonder he’s gone after those black football players taking a knee during the national anthem and otherwise protesting his style of racism with such a passion. And that’s why TomDispatch jock culture correspondent Robert Lipsyte is the perfect person to situate the president on the present field of play.