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Obama’s weakness helped Trump win, says Guardian journalist

Posted March 07, 2017

It’s easy for liberals to oppose US President Donald Trump but understanding the “forces that produced him and the appeal that propelled him” is a more difficult task, said Gary Younge, editor-at-large and former US correspondent at The Guardian.

Younge was speaking to a full audience during an event organised by UCD Clinton Institute and Ireland United States Alumni Association at the Royal Irish Academy. The title of his talk was “Race to the Bottom: What Donald Trump’s victory tells us about racism and xenophobia in American politics.”

He said the transition to Trump was not just a formality of one bad president following a good one but the result of “one’s horrendous agenda facilitated by the weakness of his predecessor.”

Younge cited race relations and the economic situation faced by low-income Americans during Obama’s presidency as context for Trump’s rise.

“By the time Obama left office the gap between black and white wealth had grown, black poverty had increased and the gap between black and white employment had remained the same.”

These factors came during a period of "stagnant wages, falling living standards, decreasing life expectancy for white women and vanishing class mobility". Their impact was felt across the country but left parts of white America feeling as if they had been left behind.

Combined with the fact that the United States’ mixed-race population was growing faster than single-race population, Younge said it was possible to see that “being a white American does not feel how it used to.”

“Obama became a proxy for those who could not accept that decline and who understood his very precedence both as a threat and a humiliation. Trump, in many ways, has been their response.”

Younge is an author, journalist and broadcaster. He was US correspondent for The Guardian for 15 years. He returned to the UK in 2015 but was in the United States to cover the 2017 presidential election.

By: Jonny Baxter, digital journalist, UCD University Relations