Different Worlds: Obama, Trump, and the Conflicting Interpretation of the American Dream

2008 should have never happened.  

At least according to Republicans.  Because the man who had just been elected President of the United States was someone who had managed to overcome multiple barriers to reach the highest office in the land.  These barriers were set in place over the course of centuries, designed to maintain White power yet still give the illusion that any little boy or girl could grow up to be president.  By selling this false hope, Republicans knew that they could keep their policies in place to ensure that none of those non-White boys or girls actually grew up to be president.  

Then came Barack Hussein Obama.  

A man that Republican policies and ideology had tried to repress for centuries.  A man who shattered every barrier placed before him and, in turn, destroyed Republican hopes and dreams that someone like him would ever succeed.  Because Republicans knew, if someone like Barack Obama could somehow, some way break through, then their oppressive policies would be exposed for all the world to see.  Their stereotypes would be destroyed.  Their talking points busted.  Their speeches on the floor of the House and Senate would be exposed for relying on anecdotes rather than factual information.  The election of Barack Obama meant that someone who had experienced all the Republican barriers designed to deny people like him equal opportunities would be given the bully pulpit to make the world aware of his experience.

An experience where he was not supposed to succeed.  Barack Obama was a biracial child with an absent father.  He was raised by a single mother on welfare and later by his grandmother.  He moved around a lot as a child.  He dabbled in marijuana.  He attended some of the country's best schools which, as a person of color, meant that he was given that opportunity through the legacy of admissions policies based on the concept of affirmative action.  He was elected to leadership positions by his peers.  He paid for his higher education through student loans.  Upon graduating from law school, he took a job as a community organizer with long hours and low wages rather than enter the business world.  He taught constitutional law as a person of color teaching at the prestigious University of Chicago.  He served as a state senator then United States senator for the state of Illinois.  He was too young, too radical, and too inexperienced to become president.  After 232 years, the country still wasn't ready for an African-American president.  

Ceiling.  Shattered.  

With that shattered ceiling came the cries of millions of Republicans, refusing to believe that the idea of anybody can be president was actually true.  That's not how it was supposed to happen.  If a biracial child born in Hawai'i can grow up to be president, then what's stopping other people of color?  Asians?  Latinos?  Muslims?  Gays?  No, this was simply too terrifying to consider.  If "those" people could also be elected to high-ranking government positions then it would be complete and utter chaos.  People of color simple weren't supposed to be able to rise to the highest office in the land.  You got there through good old-fashioned hard work but even more importantly you got there by having the proper skin tone.  You see, a real president is someone who is a self-made man (never woman) who works hard, makes a name for himself, and proves himself to be the real deal.  This real president speaks the truth, he tells it like it is, and he refuses to back down.  He's a man's man, unconfined by all this PC bullshit.  No, to be a real president this man needs to be confident, successful, determined, and uncompromising in his beliefs no matter how unpopular they might be.  This man needs to inspire his followers so they can believe that their American dream hasn't been usurped by someone like the man currently in the White House.  

This man is Donald Trump.  

Because unlike Barack Obama, Donald J. Trump represents what Republicans see as the "true" American dream.  This authentic dream involves White immigrants coming over to make a name for themselves and creating a better life for their families.  This authentic dream involves using smart business sense and determining what products to sell and how much to sell them for.  This authentic dream involves creating wealth and passing on that wealth to your children.  This authentic dream involves best business practices that do whatever it takes to maximize profits.  And this authentic dream involves doing whatever it takes, within the legal arms of the law, to maintain your wealth and status at all costs.  

Donald Trump perfectly embodies this version of the American dream.

Trump's grandfather was named Friedrich Drumpf, a man who illegally immigrated to America at age 16 to avoid German military service in 1885.  While in America, he changed his name to Trump and initially worked at a barbershop in New York City for six years before moving to Seattle in an attempt to strike it rich.  There, Trump heard about a mining operation in a town called Monte Cristo that was being financed by John D. Rockefeller.  Trump filed a fraudulent mineral claim and built a hotel on the land which offered both food and prostitutes.  Trump later relocated to the Yukon Territory during the gold rush there and again fraudulently purchased land and set up another hotel of ill repute right by a railroad station.  This venture netted Trump a cool $600,000 and he left the area to return to his native Germany just as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were cracking down on illegal booze and prostitution establishments in the region.  While in Germany, it was discovered that Trump had shirked on his military responsibilities and since he was now too old to serve, he was stripped of his German citizenship and he and his pregnant wife were deported to the United States.  

Trump's son, Frederick was born in New York City in 1905.  At the age of 21, Frederick Trump was arrested for taking part in a large brawl between KKK members and New York City policemen in Queens.  By age 22, Trump went into real estate development with his mother.  Their company, called Elizabeth Trump & Son Co., began by building single-family homes in Queens.  During the 1930s, Trump helped pioneer the concept of supermarkets with the creation of the Trump Market in Woodhaven, which he sold after a year to the King Kullen supermarket chain.  During World War II, Trump built barracks and apartments for Navy personnel stationed along the east coast.  After the war, Trump went on to build large apartment complexes for low-income families and ended up focusing on the real estate markets of both Brooklyn and Queens.  

Despite having amassed a fortune of nearly $300 million when he died, Frederick Trump earned a reputation of being stingy.  He would save unused nails, would do his own extermination work, and would mix his own floor cleaners yet was more than comfortable buying himself a new blue Cadillac every three years.  His role as landlord drew the ire of many tenants, including famed folk music icon Woody Guthrie who wrote lyrics accusing Trump of drumming up racial hate during his tenure in New York City.  In addition, the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division filed a lawsuit against Trump in 1973 accusing him of refusing to rent to African-American tenants.  Trump eventually agreed to a consent decree which required him to advertise vacancies in minority papers as well as with the Urban League as the Justice Department concluded that "racially discriminatory conduct by Trump agents has occurred with such frequency that it has created a substantial impediment to the full enjoyment of equal opportunity."

Despite this charge, Trump was able to successfully continue his business, and was able to incorporate his son, Donald, into the family business as well.  Frederick gave Donald a $1 million loan and put him in charge of the prime real estate region of Manhattan.  From that point on, Donald lived the Republican American Dream by enlarging his empire and personal wealth by any means necessary.  His companies have declared bankruptcy four times.  He has unapologetically used eminent domain to acquire land for his business ventures.  He has hired undocumented workers to build his casinos.  He has a signature brand of clothing line made in foreign countries.  And he even established a university in his name that is currently under investigation for being a massive scam.  

This is truly the Republican American dream.  

Because Republican ideology is not based on the concepts of fairness or equality.  They're based on how to best maintain power for those in control.  The Trump family history epitomizes this ideal in that they will lie, cheat, and steal their way to the top.  It doesn't matter how they got there, it's that they got there.  Because Republicans breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there are Donald Trumps out there; someone with a fair complexion who can be seen as someone to aspire to.  Whereas Barack Obama had to work tooth and nail for everything in his life, Donald Trump had everything handed to him on a silver platter.  For Republicans, that's how the world is supposed to work.  If you're White and you work hard, you should be successful.  Trump is successful not because of a series of systemic advantages that were in place to ensure his family's success but because he is a "self-made" man who made a series of sound business decisions and great business deals.  

Donald Trump's appeal is largely due to the fact that he reassures his supporters how they feel the world should work.  That you should be able to discriminate who you work with.  That you should be able to hire and exploit cheap labor.  That you should be able to assert your authority and claim land that isn't yours (read:  Cliven Bundy and sons).  That you should be able to maximize your profits, even if that involves shipping a few jobs overseas.  That you should be able to try and turn a profit and if your customers are too ignorant to realize the product doesn't live up to par then that's on them.  And that you should be able to use any and all business practices to maximize your profits and enhance your own personal wealth.  

That's the preferred Republican American Dream because it keeps White people in power.  It maintains the status quo.  It keeps immigrants in their place.  It keeps poor homeowners from fighting back and trying to keep their property.  It keeps the uneducated from receiving a proper education.  The Republican American Dream is built upon the ideas of "I've got mine because I work hard" and "You aren't successful because you're not working hard."  It takes us back to our pre-2008 days when that pesky American Dream was something that Republicans claimed was possible but in actuality knew it was one giant hoax.  It is this Republican American Dream that keeps someone from Barack Obama from even getting his foot in the door. With the emergence of Donald Trump, Republicans to once again allowed to claim that success is measured through personal fame and wealth and not simply through a person's good deeds and good intentions.  Because everybody wants to be rich and famous no matter how you get there.

And nobody better personifies this ideal than Donald J. Trump.  



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