Barack Obama Clarifies 'Snappy Slogans' Statement to Trevor Noah on The Daily Social Distancing Show

Illustration for article titled Barack Obama Clarifies 'Snappy Slogans' Statement to Trevor Noah on The Daily Social Distancing Show
Photo: Courtesy of The Daily Show With Trevor Noah/ Comedy Central

On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama returned to The Daily Show (also known as The Daily Social Distancing Show, because, appropriate) to discuss his new memoir, A Promised Land.

In conversation with Trevor Noah, Obama discussed the impetus for penning the book, which details his journey to become America’s first Black president and all of the positive, negative, and controversial implications that came with it.


“The goal of the book was to give people a sense of what it’s like to be in the White House as a normal person finding themselves in extraordinary circumstances,” President Obama explained. “And I think part of the goal, particularly for young people, [was] I wanted them to get a sense that not everybody’s going to end up being president. But if you decide that your voice makes difference, if you decide that you can have an impact—then through the ups and downs, you will end up having some pretty extraordinary experiences. I wanted it to be an encouragement. For people to say ‘eh, the guy, he’s okay. He’s not so special and look what he ended up doing. Maybe I can do something as well.’”

But perhaps the most interesting part of the interview was when Obama was asked by Noah to shed a little bit more light on his previous comments about whether or not “snappy slogans” like “defund the police” really bring more division and confusion to the overall movement rather than unity and support. For context, the president seemingly criticized the phrase in a December 1 interview with Peter Hamby of the Snapchat political show, Good Luck America. Noting that the Head Cheeto-in-Charge (aka Trump)’s “Make America Great Again” is, at face value, a seemingly unifying phrase (albeit originally Ronald Reagan’s), Noah further questioned whether or not merely simplifying a slogan truly matters. President Obama responded:

What’s been fascinating while I’ve been on this book tour, is that people have asked me ‘what’s my source of optimism?’ And uniformly what I have said is, nothing made me more optimistic during a very difficult year than the activism that we saw in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. And Black Lives Matter. I have consistently believed that their courage, activism, media savvy, strategic resolve far exceeds anything that I could’ve done at their age. And I think [it] has shifted the conversation in ways that I would not have even imagined a couple years ago.

He also added:

I think that people assumed that somehow I was making an argument that that’s why we didn’t get a bigger Democratic majority. That actually was not the point I was making. I was making a very particular point around, if we, in fact, want to translate the very legitimate belief that how we do policing needs to change, if we describe that to not just white folks, but let’s say Michelle’s mom, that makes sense to them. But if we say ‘defund the police,’ not just white folks but Michelle’s mom might say, ‘If I’m getting robbed, who am I going to call, and is somebody going to show up?’”

I guess that makes sense, right? Maybe adopting the Black Panther’s mission to #PoliceThePolice would be a better fit instead. At least some folks seem to think so. To watch the full interview, head to The Daily Show’s YouTube page.



Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1968.

“Black Lives Matter” was coined in 2013.

It took 45 years for someone to figure out how to condense “Black people deserve the same freedoms and rights as everybody else” into a single, ‘snappy’ phrase that adequately explains the premise in a single soundbite.

Half of America STILL hates it.

You can come up with the smartest, snazziest, most user-group-testing friendly phrase to distill, “Let’s reimagine the role of police in our communities, redistributing funds to social issues that can be dealt with non-violently,” and Obama and others would *still* hate it, because to way too many Americans, police violence isn’t the problem, we are.

I’m 100% down for a constructive debate on what kind of phrasing we should use and how to do outreach and how to get other people on board, and I would love if Obama were to get in on that because I would like to see *constructive* criticism out of him, but I suspect his whole “You can’t ‘snappy slogan’ your way into victory” phrasing is because he dislikes the entire notion to begin with, but doesn’t want to commit to that position on paper.