Barack Obama attributes a lot of Donald Trump’s success to ‘big chunks’ of the US where homophobia is still rife

Former US President Barack Obama

Barack Obama has warned that there are “big chunks” of the US where gay rights are still “controversial”.

The former President made the comments during an appearance on radio show The Breakfast Club on Wednesday (25 November) to promote his new memoir A Promised Land.

In the interview, Obama warned that more people hold anti-LGBT+ views than is commonly accepted in liberal parts of the country.

More people still hold anti-LGBT+ views than metropolitan liberals think, Barack Obama warns

He said: “Those of us who live in DC or New York or LA, sometimes we do not have a good enough sense of how big this country is and how a lot of folks do not accept at all things that we who are living in urban metropolitan areas just take for granted.

“There are big chunks of the country, even in our own communities… I deeply believe that people should be treated equally under the law on the basis of sexual orientation, but I think there are big chunks of our community where that is still controversial.

“People were surprised about a lot of Hispanic folks who voted for Trump, but there’s a lot of evangelical Hispanics.

“The fact that Trump says racist things about Mexicans, or puts detainees and undocumented workers in cages, they think that’s less important than the fact that he supports their views on gay marriage or abortion.”

Former US President Barack Obama's new book A Promised Land

Former US President Barack Obama’s new book A Promised Land (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

The leader is correct in highlighting that Trump’s popularity surged among Hispanic voters in 2020, winning a greater share of their vote than he did in 2016 despite shedding support overall. The bump helped kill off Joe Biden’s chances in Florida, which has a large Cuban-American population.

The shift came despite Trump’s long history of denigrating people from Central and South America and hostile policies towards asylum seekers at the Mexico border.

Obama also weighed in on the weaponisation of issues of identity by Republicans.

He said: “It turns out politics is not just about policies, it’s not just about numbers, it’s about the stories being told.

“The story that they’re hearing from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and in some cases inside their churches is that Democrats don’t believe in Christmas and only care about minorities and Black folks, and they’re trying to take your stuff and take your guns away.

“People end up feeling, ‘We are under attack.’ What’s interesting to me is the degree to which we’ve seen created in Republican politics the sense that white males are victims, that they’re the ones that are under attack.

“That obviously doesn’t jibe with history and data and economics, but that’s a sincere belief that’s been internalised. How you unwind that is going to be not something done right away, it’s going to take some time. ”

Former president had a long path to change his own views on LGBT+ issues

Obama famously ‘evolved’ on the issue of same-sex marriage during his time in office, backing it after his election for a second term.

In his new memoir, the leader admits he once held homophobic views, and feels “profoundly ashamed” of his past.

Obama speaks candidly about the regressive views towards LGBT+ people he held in the years before entering politics, admitting his “attitudes toward gays, lesbians, and transgender people hadn’t always been particularly enlightened”.

He recalled: “I grew up in the 70s, a time when LGBTQ life was far less visible to those outside the community… and like many teenage boys in those years, my friends and I sometimes threw around words like ‘fag’ or ‘gay’ at each other as casual put-downs – callow attempts to fortify our masculinity and hide our insecurities.

“Once I got to college and became friends with fellow students and professors who were openly gay, though, I realised the overt discrimination and hate they were subject to, as well as the loneliness and self-doubt that the dominant culture imposed on them. I felt ashamed of my past behaviour – and learned to do better.”