From President Obama to President Trump: How America Changed

Op-ed

I still remember the day Barack Obama won the presidency for the first time. I was eight years old and getting ready to head to school. Before my mom and I were able to leave the house, there was a knock on the door. It was two of my parents friends, a couple they had known for years. They had come over early in the morning to celebrate the good news. Barack Obama had won the election. For the first time in the history of the United States of America, an African American man would be the president. I smiled all the way to school.

Up until then I really didn’t know much about politics. If you had asked me before whom the president was, I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you. But I could tell you who was running for president in 2008. Even being only eight years old, I was able to understand the significance of that election. I took it as a sign that our country was moving in the right direction. Flash forward to the 2016 election and everything changed. Again, I was on my way to school with my mom when I found out who had won. I was sixteen years old and almost halfway through my junior year of high school, so I had a better understanding of the ramifications of this outcome than I did as an eight-year old in the third grade.

I remember pulling out my cell phone and looking up who had won the election. When I saw Donald Trump’s name, my heart dropped. I was in complete shock. How could the people choose him, someone with no political experience, over someone with as extensive a political background as Hillary Clinton. I knew people had concerns about her, especially after the whole email debacle, but I thought they would see that she was the better candidate for the presidency. Or, at the very least, the lesser of two evils. But that wasn’t the case. I wasn’t just upset about the results of the election. I was terrified of what this would mean for people like me.

By the time Donald Trump was elected as president, Barack Obama had been the President of the United States for half of my life. All I had ever known was a black man as the leader of the free world. To go from that to Donald Trump was like a slap in the face. I couldn’t believe it, especially when I found out Hillary Clinton had actually won more votes than him. I didn’t want to believe it. How could Americans take such a huge step backwards by electing a man like Donald Trump as president. Didn’t they understand what this would mean?

Eventually I understood that many people knew exactly what this would mean, and that is why they voted for him. I could understand why his core base, which is mostly white people, voted for him. But I couldn’t make sense of the minorities that voted for him. To me, it was like they were working against their own self-interest. As an African American woman, I understood that Donald Trump would never have my best interest at heart. I listened to his misogynistic remarks about women and his racist opinions about African Americans and knew that I could never support a man like that. I still don’t understand how other people can.

Over the past three years of Trump’s presidency, I’ve watched this country descend further into madness. The racial tensions that have always been prevalent in America seem to have erupted. I imagine that people feel emboldened with Trump in the White House, while I have been living in fear ever since his inauguration. It’s like we’ve reverted to the mid nineteenth century. Now we have Nazis running rampant and threats of nuclear war again. Black people are being lynched and Latinos are dying in concentration camps. Mass shootings are becoming so frequent that the president can type a two for one tweet about them. Where will it end?

Every now and then I think back to how the Obamas acted when they were in the White House. The only time I disapproved of something Michelle Obama did was when I found out her campaign for healthy school lunches would mean that my school cafeteria wouldn’t be serving tater tots anymore. Besides that, I admired everything she did. Michelle, like her husband, always acted with grace and class. The biggest outrage Barack caused was when he wore a tan suit. I think of them and then look at the Trump family, where it seems like scandal after scandal with them. I can’t help but think that if Obama had been accused of even half of the things that Trump is being accused of, then impeachment proceedings would have been started immediately. But it seems like no matter what he does, Trump is able to get away with it.

I can’t help but wonder what America would look like now if Hillary Clinton had won the electoral college along with the popular vote. What message would it send to have the reins of leadership pass from the first African American president to the first female president? For all of her faults, I still believe Hillary Clinton would have been a better choice for president. For me, it would have been a sign that America was continuing to move forward in a progressive way. It seems like now the country is regressing back to before we made gains for equality for all. I guess that’s what Trump really meant when he promised to “make America great again.”

Now that the 2020 election is fast approaching, I worry more than ever about the state of this country. I don't think the United States can survive another four years under Trump. He's caused so much damage already that will take years to recover from. I do believe that the Joe Biden has a good shot at victory, but that's only if the election is fair and not tampered with. Judging by the recent attacks on the United States Postal Service, I don't know how likely that is. So we’ll just have to wait and see, all the while having an important question in the back of our minds: What will America look like after 2020?

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Geneva Brumfield

Geneva is a current journalism student at NYU. She is interested in literature, film, pop culture, and social justice topics.


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