My family and I first decided to take a vacation to Hawaii in early 2008. It just so happened that these islands of paradise were also the birthplace of our newly elected president, a Black man named Barack Hussein Obama. And on this vacation to Hawaii, I recall the passion and enthusiasm of some Americans being grossly outweighed by the negative dismissal and condemnation others had toward our new president.

This was when I began to understand what resistance against our president meant. Eight years ago, my political views were misinformed, bordering on ignorant. My positions were rooted in the trust I placed in adults, alongside my lack of education. I was taught to believe our new president was more than dangerous — he was a threat to our way of life. Looking back now, the amount of content from the right dedicated to the condemnation and steadfast resistance to President Obama was staggering. Statements from individuals commanding large audiences like Rush Limbaugh, who hoped four days before the inauguration that Obama would fail, or the dedication of Fox News, which began a campaign of anti-Obama stories prior to his first days in office.

And I, a 13-year-old on vacation, blindly developed an anger and hatred of a man solely because of my young mind’s susceptibility to propaganda. I distinctly remember being told that Hawaii wasn’t even his real birthplace, and like the adults around me who believed the same lie, I needed no evidence. I fell prey to propaganda and could have easily become one of the constant Obama-blamers we have all come to love on Facebook.

Yet, eight years later, my family and I returned to the islands of Hawaii, and as a testament to freedom of thought and the attainment of a proper education, I traveled this time reading “The Audacity of Hope.” It was extremely fitting, now eight years later and being enlightened to some extent, reading the 2006 words of a passionate and extremely optimistic Sen. Obama — while simultaneously watching and listening to the now departing two-term President Obama comment on what he believed his administration’s success and failures were.

And what struck me most about the difference between President Obama’s two mindsets was the way in which he condemned, yet was somewhat impressed by, the audacity of the resistance against his platform exalting hope and change. The discipline and degree of precision that Republicans such as Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Paul Ryan enforced over their party was incredible. During Obama’s term, Republicans executed plans for a lack of compromise and an unwillingness to work towards resolutions, while pandering towards an uneducated growing electorate being fooled by radical members of the right who have now ascended to power. 

Reading the optimism within “The Audacity of Hope,” I felt what many Americans must have in 2008 and 2009 — the feeling that this man had somehow developed the capability to push for rational, Democratic, yet centrist, measures to compromise and solve the several issues plaguing this nation. However, hearing President Obama speak recently to his ex-senior adviser David Axelrod on his podcast “The Axe Files,” his tired voice reveals the constant strain the attempts at progress have personally cost him over his eight-year tenure. Every step, action and moment of the administration was scrutinized, politicized and radicalized by an aggressive opposition, all in the name of defending their core party beliefs.

To what extent does defending your beliefs allow for lack of compromise or acceptance of the opposition? Whether it be through failing to fulfill your constitutional obligations, like in the case of the Senate not voting on Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court vacancy, or of Paul Ryan and the Republican-led House, who engaged in the most aggressive gerrymandering in the hopes of minimizing Democratic influence — was this all done in the name of defending Republican beliefs? Or perhaps a better example would be Sen. Ted Cruz’s insane quest to default on our national debt unless we accept his beliefs on abortion?

That is the audacity of resistance. Republicans imposed a strict dogma upon their followers in the hopes of reclaiming the positions of power they once held, in order to impose dated ideas that have not only failed the American public but stagnated the progression of our society and economy as a whole. In the process they radicalized generations of Americans, even myself for a brief time, blatantly pandering to every irrational position and claim about a president who promised progressive change.

And now they have elected a man I have no fear calling a childish monster. A six-year-old with nuclear launch codes. A child who is the polar opposite of the man inaugurated eight years ago. And this is where I ask, how shall Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike impose a resistance against an administration that does in fact pose a threat to our nation? An administration that sides with foreign dictators over our own intelligence communities? An administration that elevates the reactionary “alt-right” to the uppermost levels of policy making within the White House? We as a collective citizenship should take a lesson from the uncompromising Republican party that sought oh-so-patriotically to “defend” and “protect” America from President Obama those eight years ago. The only way we can hope to once again enact those ideas found within the pages of “The Audacity of Hope” is through a strict and uncompromising resistance, checking our future president every step of the way.

Michael Mordarski can be reached at mmordars@umich.edu.

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