Most presidents stop trying to define the nation’s future once they leave office. But Barack Obama and Donald Trump are refusing to concede the battle for America’s soul on which they first clashed more than a decade ago.
No modern former commanders in chief have been so present or outspoken about politics, or each other, after returning to private life. But the 44th and 45th Presidents just renewed their battle over the country’s political lifeblood — democracy — which has rarely faced a graver assault than from Trump’s election fraud lies.
No two individuals better exemplify the current chasm between the two halves of the country: one racially diverse and socially liberal, the other mostly White and conservative. Obama unlocked the aspirations of the first to launch his hope and change crusade and two-term presidency. Trump launched a political movement with a racist conspiracy about Obama’s birthplace and used the latter group to fuel a populist backlash to the nation’s first Black presidency.
And even though a new President, Joe Biden, is now in office, his immediate predecessors — who revile one another but will be forever linked in history — still embody the dominant forces tearing at the nation.
Obama issued his latest alarming warning that the democratic values that have prevailed for generations are in danger of failing in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that aired Monday evening.