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The 2016 Election Has Been the Final Battle of the Obama War

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Barack Obama
President-elect Barack Obama, speaks during the election party at the Grant Park in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008.Nam Y. Huh / AP

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

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The Final Battle of the Obama War

One way to view the presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is it being the final battle of the eight-year-long Obama War. Think about it: You have one candidate (Clinton) who has embraced 98% of Obama’ agenda, as the current president has spent much of the fall campaigning for her, including last night in Philadelphia. And you have the other candidate (Trump) who not only first entered the political fray of the Obama Era by questioning the president’s birthplace and legitimacy for office, but who is also Obama’s polar opposite in so many ways. That’s why the divides we see in this Clinton-vs.-Trump contest -- on race, gender, age, and geography -- were the same ones we spotted eight years ago. The Obama Era has featured so many different political battles. 2008. Obamacare. The Debt-Ceiling Standoff. 2012. The Government Shutdown. The 2014 Midterms. And tonight is the final one. Which side will win? There are no certainties in politics, but the side who has a current president with a 53% approval rating in the last NBC/WSJ poll has the upper hand. And a Clinton win would be affirmation that Obama is the Democratic Party’s Ronald Reagan. Indeed, remember the last time a party won a third-straight presidential election -- in 1988, when George HW Bush succeeded a popular Reagan.

Make American Politics Great Again

Eight years later, of course, “Hope and Change” transformed into the ugliest and most disheartening political race we can EVER remember. “The nation's democracy has been battered by a Category 5 political storm unlike anything seen in the modern era,” one of us writes. “As Election Day dawns, there isn't a political figure or institution in the country that has avoided damage from the unrelenting battering the 2016 presidential campaign has unleashed.” And it’s everyone’s responsibility to begin cleaning up the mess starting tomorrow. That includes:

  • A Republican Party that has become too racially homogenous, that has all too often refused to govern when not holding the White House, and that hasn’t listened to many of its voters.
  • A Democratic Party that has lost touch with many of the white working-class voters who had been its base in Roosevelt Era, and that is becoming less Big Tent-ish than it was eight year ago.
  • A media that, despite producing some excellent journalism this cycle, first focused too much on Trump and not his supporters and then helped normalize so much of the ugliness we’ve seen over the past year.
  • A Congress whose inability to do the bare minimum helped give rise to the anger that fueled Trump and (to a lesser extent) Bernie Sanders.
  • And a President-Elect Clinton or President-Elect Trump who would start off with the highest negative poll numbers in the modern era.

All of the ways in which Trump smashed so many norms

To help make American politics great again, it’s also important to list all the ways in which Donald Trump smashed so many norms that have damaged our political system. The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein lists them:

  • Trump became the first major party candidate in 40 years not to release his tax returns during the election;
  • He was openly hostile to the media;
  • He called for the jailing of his opponent;
  • He made it more acceptable to single out and target minority groups;
  • He admonished veterans and current military leaders;
  • He attacked the spouses of his rivals;
  • And he openly delegitimized the election process by repeatedly suggesting the results would be rigged.

“Today, we celebrate our Independence Day”

Here is NBC’s Ali Vitali’s dispatch on Trump’s final campaign stop in Grand Rapids, MI last night: “The Trump Train’s last stop was not a long-winded appeal to voters in a state the GOP nominee needs to win in order to take the White House. Instead, it was a winding road of his greatest hits. The very same riffs that earned him notoriety through the primaries and were the pillars of his general election message, despite advisors attempting to hone and tweak their obvious pitfalls. Assuming the stage for his fifth appearance of the day, Trump seemed worn from battle but kept his usual confidence. He rallied his supporters with promises of winning polls and a classic call and return about the wall. ‘Who’s going to pay for the wall?’ ‘MEXICO!’ Trump declared Election Day ‘our Independence Day’ and looked forward to closing ‘the history books on the Clintons and their lies and schemes and corruption.’”

Hillary, Bill, Lady Gaga, and Bon Jovi

And here is NBC’s Monica Alba's writeup on Clinton’s last campaign event in Raleigh, NC: “In the early hours of Election Day here Tuesday, Hillary Clinton capped off 18 months of campaigning with a star-studded midnight rally in a crucial battleground state. ‘Tomorrow night, this election will end but our work together will be just beginning,’ she said to a deafening crowd at North Carolina State University. ‘We have to bridge the divides in this country.’ Pop singer Lady Gaga and New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi performed before Clinton took the stage. After that, President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton spoke briefly to introduce the Democratic nominee. Very soon after taking the stage, Clinton said this kind of night was ‘worth staying up for.’”

The first results are already in

Clinton wins Dixville Notch, NH; Trump wins Millsfield, NH: “In Dixville Notch, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump 4-2. Libertarian Gary Johnson received one vote, and the 2012 Republican candidate, Mitt Romney received a surprise write-in ballot,” per USA Today. “In the slightly larger burg of Hart's Location, Clinton won with 17 votes to Trump's 14. Johnson got three votes, while write-ins Bernie Sanders and John Kasich each got one. And in Millsfield, Trump won decisively, 16-4, with one write-in for Bernie Sanders. So, in the three New Hampshire towns with midnight voting, Trump came out ahead 32-25.” Here is your Viewers Guide on the rest to watch for today and tonight.