Donald Trump and Barack Obama wearing suits and smiling at each other.

The Similar Logic of Trump and Obama Supporters

Since the emergence of Donald Trump as a dominant political figure in U.S. capitalist politics, the narrative coming out of the liberal bourgeoisie has been to criticize the lack of analytical capabilities coming from Trump supporters. For several years now, there has been a consistent focus around the lack of intellectual foundation contained within the thinking of anyone who supports Trump’s and the Republican Party’s thoughts and actions. And, without question, there is overwhelming evidence to support this critique. Even surface level students of history can see clearly the lack of truth coming from Trump supporters with their superficial and uninformed analysis of white supremacy, patriarchy, and the basic working of the capitalist system (especially as it relates to politics in general and international politics in particular). The dominant arguments from the so-called Trump right-wing around white supremacy are so paper thin that they can be destroyed by the most basic talking points that exist beyond capitalist new media propaganda (from either the so-called “left” or “right”). 

Without question, white supremacy objectively is a system of institutionalized discrimination against colonized (people of color), period. By institution we mean this system of oppression operates independent of who is the conduit. That is why the Trump camp analysis that Candace Owens critiquing the existence of white supremacy is valid simply because she is (biologically) an African is absurd to anyone who has read even one simple book on the subject. Yet, this backward approach of analyzing systemic challenges through an individualistic, subjective, and ahistorical viewpoint is almost universally practiced and supported by Trump supporters on every issue. 

What’s interesting is if we are to take a look at that same individualistic, subjective, and ahistorical approach as it relates to people who support Barack Obama, we find very little difference between the two camps beyond the appearance and style between Trump, Obama and their respective supporters. This is true because truth is universal and objective and capitalism is the economic system that drives white supremacy, patriarchy, etc. So, regardless of who is at the helm of the capitalist system, regardless of what they look like, what they sound like, how they walk, and whether they prefer chicken or beef, as long as we are talking about capitalism, at the end of the day, we are talking about people who have the same objective. Even if their route to achieve that objective looks and/or feels different.

Trump supporters deny reality by denying that their support for Trump is rooted in white supremacy, regardless of whether they are African or not. They do so because there is something in racist ideology that they feel is of use to them i.e. Candace Owens, Larry Elder, and others figuring out that there is a niche for Africans who agree with white supremacy and a lucrative payday that comes with that. Or, for the majority of Europeans who support Trump, they feel a sense of emotional validation because his rhetoric speaks to their insecurities about living in a world where white supremacy will no longer be tolerated. Most of them will never be in a position where they will have to admit those illogical insecurities. And since their entire thinking is motivated by fear perpetuated by the capitalist system, which feeds upon the scarcity model to convince people they have to be fearful of each other instead of the people on top, we know that capitalism has produced an entire society of people who do not know how to think critically. Consequently, when they don’t think, their actions are facilitated by sentiment instead of reason. And, that explains the entire Trump phenomenon.

It also explains the Obama phenomenon. The perspective that individual advancement within the capitalist system can somehow represent progress for the masses of people is a theory rooted in sentiment because there is no practical evidence to support that claim. Clearly, an Obama, Kamala Harris, or whomever, who advances through the capitalist system as in individual, while the masses of Africans remain powerless, does absolutely nothing to advance the masses of people. Even if Obama or Harris were determined to fight 100% for the advancement of African people, with the masses of Africans disorganized, there is no collective power to hold the capitalist system accountable to us in any way shape or form. And, that’s still true even if every individual African who advances to hold positions within the capitalist system is sincere about our liberation when Obama, Harris, and others clearly are not.

All one would have to do is evaluate the track record and policy work from Obama, Harris, etc., to see that their existence has nothing to do with our advancement. Since 2008 when Obama was first elected, African people are still victimized by mass incarceration, poverty, healthcare disparities, police terrorism, etc. None of these things have gotten better and its not as if Obama developed any type of campaign to even attempt to address any of those things in a serious way. He couldn’t do that even if he wanted to because again, our people are disorganized. We control no power base within the Democratic Party that elected him. We are only continuously pimped by that party, nothing else. And for those who trot out the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as evidence of something that supposedly separates Obama from Trump and/or others, that’s a historically low bar argument. It’s the equivalent of praising McDonalds for feeding starving people from their scraps. It looks good, but does virtually nothing to address the fundamental problem. 

And, we haven’t even offered an evaluation of Obama’s devastating policies internationally of which the overwhelmingly majority of African people who support him could not even give you a comprehensive discussion around. AFRICOM in Africa has created up to 30 known U.S. military bases overseeing neo-colonialism in Africa. The annihilation of the Libyan Jamahiriya in 2011. The support for the illegal and immoral coup in Honduras in 2008. The support for the fascist regime in Brazil. Support for fascist elements who led the coup against the Ukrainian government in 2014. All of this terror and more was carried out under Obama’s watch as President, but if you bring any of these things up to Obama supporters, they will always respond with the same subjective sentimentality about how good he looks with Michelle and their daughters; how good it makes people feel to see them in that position.

How is any of this any different than how Trump supporters see Trump? The dismissal of actual and factual devastation against human beings while raising up irrelevant emotional responses based upon our individual desire to feel better about our personal realities and what space we occupy within this backward society without recognizing the necessity to take action and make changes.

Its an absolutely sick dichotomy that is a systemic indictment against the capitalist system as a whole. Its only this capitalist system, with its unprecedented 24/7/365 propaganda mechanisms, that can so effectively program millions of people on a consistent basis who come from completely different backgrounds to respond to phenomena the exact same way. In the case of Trump supporters, its rural people, people with no college education, people with college education, primarily European people, non-white people who see a lane for them to benefit in supporting Trump, whomever. Appeal to their insecurities and fears and convince them that as long as Trump and what he represents validates them in some emotional way, there is absolutely no reason to consider any other critical pieces of information about the consequences of his work on all of humanity. 

In the case of Obama supporters its city based working people, people of color, people with college degrees, people without college degrees, people suffering from white supremacy, patriarchy, and all forms of institutional oppression, whomever. Appeal to their pain and suffering and convince them that as long as Obama and what he represents validates them in some emotional way, there is absolutely no reason to consider any other critical pieces of information about his work and the devastating impacts it has on all of humanity.

We are revolutionary Pan-Africanists who stand for and organize for the total liberation and unification of Africa under scientific socialism. We are 100% opposed to the capitalist system anywhere it operates in this galaxy. We have no dog in the bourgeoisie political arena of the Democratic and Republican parties and any capitalist political parties anywhere. Like Malcolm X, another revolutionary Pan-Africanist told us in 1964, we aren’t politicians. We aren’t students of politicians. We’re neither Democrats, nor Republicans, nor Americans, and got sense enough to know it! We are people who recognize that the capitalist super rich classes know that they do not have the capacity to defeat the masses of people. They know they rely on their propaganda to keep the masses loyal to their elite interests. They know that to ensure their system continues, they have to make sure that we never learn how to truly think for ourselves. If you understand that, then you should be able to understand that even if they sound different, even if they look different, even if they come from different places, even if the people who support them come from different places, even if the two sides kill each other on sight. At the end of the day, Obama and Trump will always have more in common with each other then they will ever have with any of us.

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Ahjamu Umi is revolutionary organizer with the All African People's Revolutionary Party, adviser, and liberation literature author.