On Thursday night, the The New Yorker released a compelling interview of President Obama by David Remnick. The piece takes place over the course of election week, so it relates how the president moved from “cautious optimism” just prior to the big day into the realization that things weren’t going as planned. And of course, there’s the aftermath by which Obama struggled to come to terms with not only Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss but it how it shall affect his legacy. The piece is well worth reading in full, but the most fascinating portions involve Obama consoling others through their shock and confusion.
To his staff members, Obama reassured them on the morning after their worst political nightmare. He insisted that wasn’t literally the end of the world: “This is not the apocalypse. I don’t believe in apocalyptic — until the apocalypse comes.” Obama seemed shell-shocked through much of the piece too, but he stays stoic for others while revealing glimpses of his true emotions to Remnick. Then came the not-so-easy task of explaining to daughters Malia and Sasha how exactly Trump won and why the aftermath was filled with racially charged attacks, protests, and sadness:
“What I say to them is that people are complicated. Societies and cultures are really complicated … This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop … You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.”
Leave it to Obama to make every other parent feel inadequate with their own shrugs and silence in response to their own teenagers’ questions. After all, Hillary Clinton’s chances went from “a lock” to “not at all good” in very short order. There are plenty of factors within her loss, which will be analyzed for generations to come, but there’s time for that later. Obama just wanted to make sure everyone he knew was alright, and his daughters lucked out with such a perceptive dad.
You can read the full interview here. It’s a rather engrossing week-in-the-life piece that was undoubtedly planned out with one outcome in mind and then adapted through the chaos and stages of political grief. Folks are going to miss Obama.
(Via The New Yorker)