The Boston Globe indulged in some early nostalgia for President Obama on the front of Sunday’s edition: “Gone But Still Growing On Us.” The online headline to Astead Herndon’s story: “Trump is making Obama great again.”
You would have seen the twist coming anyway:
One American politician is currently dominating the cultural landscape, from social media to late-night television. His poll numbers look great, his Twitter posts are often among the most read in the world, and with every utterance, his impassioned base of supporters reacts with a fervor more typical for celebrities than former civil servants.
Meet Barack Obama.
The former president left office last January with favorable approval ratings, but historians, former staffers, and political observers now say his societal standing has reached a new echelon -- and it’s partly due to his successor.
The Globe did some unseemly gushing over Obama (maybe) getting invited to the royal wedding! And Trump not!
Most presidents -- even the most unpopular ones -- tend to grow in public esteem after they leave office. But only one of them may score an invite to the upcoming royal wedding in England; rumor has it that Obama may make the coveted list. Trump, after a string of tweets and remarks ill-received in post-Brexit Britain, may not.
To make the case for the unprecedented love America feels for Obama, Herndon used unassailable methodology, like counting Twitter followers and retweets, and Saturday Night Live comedy (?) clips.
On Twitter, Obama’s growth in popularity can be quantified. When he wished the country a Merry Christmas in his last year as president, the message was retweeted about 100,000 times. But when Private Citizen Obama wrote an almost identical message in 2017, it was retweeted 250,000 times, dwarfing his previous total and the response to Trump’s holiday greeting.
This is Sunday front-page news?
Polling shows Obama’s favorability rating has hit heights unseen since his first inauguration. The latest polling compiled by HuffPost had Obama’s favorability rating near 60 percent, up almost 15 points from when he entered his final year in office. A Gallup survey last month found Obama was the man that Americans admired most in the world, marking one of the few years the sitting president didn’t win (Trump came in second in the survey of American adults). He was recently serenaded on “Saturday Night Live” with a song titled “Come Back Barack,” which became so popular the network reportedly contemplated a commercial release. His end-of-the-year favorite songs list was the talk of music blogs, and he was just announced as the first guest for late-night TV host David Letterman’s highly anticipated return broadcast.
Like Blight, other historians also said they see the legacies of Obama and Trump as inextricably tied. There’s the race aspect, because Obama was the first African-American president and Trump has at times borrowed language from white nationalists and has often been accused of stoking racial resentment during his first year in office....
Trump certainly seems to get graded harshly on his supposedly “not true” statements, like this accurate one:
“While the Fake News loves to talk about my so-called low approval rating, @foxandfriends just showed that my rating on Dec. 28, 2017, was approximately the same as President Obama on Dec. 28, 2009, which was 47% . . . and this despite massive negative Trump coverage & Russia hoax!” Trump tweeted in late December 2017.
Except, of course, it wasn’t quite true. Or rather it was only true of one poll, and not of the flood of others....
Favreau, the former Obama staffer, was not surprised by those numbers. He said Obama has always held more cultural significance than polls can capture.