When the 45th president of the United States is sworn in, we will know two things for certain: that Barack Obama was an incredibly successful president, and that the GOP and right-wing lynching of Mr. Obama has nothing to do with his track record or any measure of common decency and everything to do with the color of his skin. The real questions are only who that 45th president will be, and what lasting damage the right wing's unconscionable attacks on the presidency have done to the United States.
From before Obama's first day in office, the right wing has made no secret of their unrelenting desire to brand the nation's first Black president as its worst chief executive. Their more surreptitious goal was to use their sustained campaign of insane personal attacks on the president to disenfranchise the millions of young, minority, gay, women and other first-time voters who got Obama elected in the first place. Their desired outcome is elections in which only hardened partisans vote -- as happened in the November 2014 midterms -- so the GOP can elect leaders with extreme right-wing views increasingly disconnected from the will of the people.
So effective has this disenfranchising been that it hasn't just demotivated voters; it has demoralized Democratic Party leaders as well. After all, Obama is a popular president. The economy is booming, the stock market is soaring, wars are ending and health care is affordable. Democrats should be tripping over each other to ride Obama's coattails to an easy victory in 2016, just as George H. W. Bush rode Reagan to a landslide in 1988.
Not only are there no Democrats running to Obama, but there are basically no Democrats running at all. Other than the fatigued possibility of a Hillary Clinton run, who else is running? The field is so empty that there is now talk of drafting Al Gore to run for president. It's an intriguing prospect but one that underscores the utter dearth of viable Democratic candidates.
By contrast, the GOP already has a crowded field of hopefuls, wannabes, and never-will-be candidates. Because Rudy Giuliani, the 47 treasonous senators and others have ratcheted up their increasingly desperate attacks on Obama as the economy has improved, the GOP candidates are swinging hard right in their attempt to win over the ever-shrinking right-wing "base" -- a base that cannot win back the White House, the irony of which is that the GOP may well run an extreme-right candidate in an imminently winnable election. The resounding loss will hopefully put to rest the long-purported myth that GOP candidates are losing because they aren't conservative enough.
Unfortunately, whoever prevails in 2016 will face an America more bitterly divided than at any time in our recent past. The tangible damage of the right wing's malicious behavior over the last six years is to divide Americans by mainstreaming hate. When "America's mayor" says the president doesn't love America because he wasn't raised like "you and I," what is he doing if not dividing whites born here from all other Americans? When three Muslim students are gunned down in an apparent hate crime and the right-wing media virtually ignores it, what does that say about which lives actually matter in America? What does it say to minorities when a black youth has to die before widespread racism in a police department is actually investigated?
The consequence of the GOP's actions are seen in every corner of American society, now including our students. On the one hand, white frat brothers record a racist chant at a major university, while on the other, left-wing students mistakenly vote to ban the American flag at another major university. The flag-banning students were wrong, but how can you expect naïve students to respect our flag when 47 senators openly disrespect our president, our Constitution and our democracy?
My grandmother used to have a saying that roughly translates as "No one cares about the bench being wet until the water gets under their own ass." Divisive hate in America is the wetness under our collective ass, and it hit home for me when one of the best employees in one of my start-ups was the victim of a vicious cyberbullying attack because of his sexual orientation. This kind young man was devastated by a "Christian" hate monger. Some on the right will try to pass it off as an isolated incident; others will commend the hate monger because gay bashing is mainstream now.
But hate shouldn't be mainstream; it should be intolerable. What our flag represents -- what America stands for -- is equality and inclusion regardless of race, color, creed or any other factor. That is why my parents brought me here (sorry, Rudy, I wasn't raised like you, but I am still American), and why America is still that shining city on the hill. If that is the America we want, we have to ask for it -- no, we have to demand it -- from our elected leaders, without fail or exception.