This has been a tough year for America. Over the last ten months, we’ve been forced to contend with a merciless wave of mass shootings, natural disasters, riots and political ineptitude. Public institutions are being dismantled, rights are being stripped from ordinary citizens and hatred is being catapulted into the mainstream.
This country is crying out for strong, level-headed leadership. We need somebody – literally anybody with half a brain – to help us find and restore our collective moral compass. We need somebody to take the helm and lead by example. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with an orange social media troll and a gaggle of spineless yes-men.
That’s what made it so unbelievably comforting when not one – but two – former American presidents dusted off their boots and made big returns to frontline politics this week.
Armed with fire in his belly and buckets of charisma, Barrack Obama found himself a podium and didn’t bother mincing words about Donald Trump and his shameless politics of division and animosity. Obama unloaded on politicians “who are deliberately trying to make folks angry” for “short-term tactical advantage”, and called on voters to turn their backs on the increasingly chauvinistic and pig-headed voices corroding our democracy.
But it’s nothing we haven’t heard before, to be honest – and it’s something Democrats have been reciting over and over again like a crazed mantra since 20 January.
That’s why it meant so much more when neoconservative wunderkind and reputed warmonger George W Bush stepped up to the plate with his own no-nonsense assault on nativism, bigotry, political conspiracy theories and outright bullying.
In a thinly-veiled attack on Trump, Bush argued Thursday that prejudice was earning itself a shiny new place in public life – normalising racism and compromising “the moral education of children”. He then broke ranks with his fellow Republicans by explicitly condemning white supremacy, before begging Americans to live up to their so-called civic values.
Stack that against the money-grubbing GOP caricature kicking his feet up in the Oval Office right now, and the Bush years are starting to look pretty appetising, huh? After all, if the Bush family thinks somebody is a right-wing opportunist totally incapable of human empathy – well, you get the idea.
But let’s not get too nostalgic, here. After all, by hopping on-board the anti-Trump express, it almost looks like Dubya is trying to whitewash history. He wants us to forget it was his administration that laid the groundwork for Donald Trump and his narrow-minded agenda.
In fact, Bush totally paved the way.
Trump’s seedy attempts to ban Muslims from setting foot on American soil would never have gained traction without the Bush administration’s ham-fisted wars in the Middle East. Sure, there were a few bad apples kicking about Iraq and Afghanistan – but al Qaeda was nothing but an ostracised loony bin that’d been expelled from the global Muslim community before America stormed in and tore apart the region.
In return, we got the so-called Islamic State, a bloody but short-lived caliphate and a fresh blast of Islamophobia across America’s heartland that Donald Trump was able to package up and carry under his arm all the way to the White House.
Then there’s Trump and his pledge to build a “beautiful” border wall to keep all of those pesky Mexican “rapists” out. Bush was all for building barriers, too. Although the Texan was relatively decent when it came to immigration reform, but he was only too keen to greenlight the construction of the 700-mile border fence that inspired Trump’s ambitions.
And what about The Donald’s irrational war on globalism? Most of this nativist, “America first” bologna dates back to the global financial crash that was basically made possible by the Bush administration’s unabashed support of Wall Street cowboys and the president’s obsession with mortgage deregulation.
But hey, we could play this game all day – because the list goes on and on. George W Bush may not walk and talk like Donald Trump, but they’re certainly cut from the same, rich-white-guy cloth. A lot of the societal problems we're currently facing started under Bush's watch.
Still, that doesn’t mean we should just ignore the guy, either. The former president’s voice remains a strong addition to an increasingly loud chorus of political dissent that’s bubbling, brewing and inspiring people all across America. If he wants to hop onto the right side of history, speak out against bigotry and remind us what leadership looks like, then let him. With the state our country is in, we need all the help we can get.
Who knows? We might even be able to forgive him for this horrible mess he helped landed us in – but we sure as hell better not forget.
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