Reality, not foes, undermines Trump’s legitimacy

Trump’s opening gambit focuses public attention not on real policy or legislation (still a great void) but whether this chief executive is simply an impulsive, erratic narcissist – or much worse, so unstable he could dislodge current, fragile power balances, here and abroad.


Is ‘Truth’ Just Another Word for Nothin’ Left to Lose?

What all those abused primary and general election rivals couldn’t pull off, Trump is fast doing to himself: dramatize blatant contradictions while serving up non-stop, de-legitimizing deceptions. Or outrageous lies, if one attributes intention to the Donald’s mayhem. This week confirms the great farcical, campaign delusion: here’s an untainted, straight-talker without elitist baggage serving the forgotten, under- and unemployed. Back of the bus, you Rust Belt victims of modernity, well behind entrenched corporatists.

Sorry to bring up facts, but where’s real-world evidence that Don the con is committed to the downtrodden? Okay, infrastructure programs will help but not with permanent, career employment. And he’s also frozen federal hiring, thus many fewer jobs everywhere. In fact, Trump needlessly added $500 to new mortgage lending, hitting modest, new home buyers everywhere with a new tax.  

Name one genuine “populist,” with in-depth blue-collar awareness, across his entire cabinet and staff appointments. Explain the endless twitter war against ordinary people, whether union officials or military families, celebrities or pundits who defy Lord Trump. Does “people-power” mandate the demagoguery of muzzling federal agencies in charge of scientific expertise paid by taxpayers? Or scapegoating now suspicious federal workers who attended professional climate or environmental conferences?

Can’t Blame Quiet Democrats

With insufficient help from Democrats, Trump is already his own worst enemy, morphing into a historically unpopular, discredited, minority president. Legitimacy, if not majority support, depends on more than election formalities but the sustained depth of nurtured, communal trust. With unforced Trumpian whoppers about low inauguration crowds or invisible, illegal voters, only the brainwashed now trust anything from the Unpredictable One. 

Nothing like kicking off a week of pathological lying to dissipate your own credibility. Already, 60% of Americans distrust Trump’s competence, driven by maniacal tweeting, eye-opening corruption (multiple conflicts of interest), assaults on democratic values, all on top of fallout from dirty tricks by Russia, the FBI, and the GOP.

George Will, of all people, nailed Trumpism:

“What is most alarming about the president and his accomplices in the dissemination of factoids is not that they do not know this or that. And it is not that they do not know what they do not know. Rather, it is that they do not know what it is to know something.”

Back we go to that ’63 movie farce, “It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world.” Doesn’t living in a demonstrably fact-free bubble set zealots against tested, consensual reality? Don’t we define derangement as not knowing, even refusing to acknowledge, what exists? The psychic ailment known as delusions of grandeur de-legitimizes any leader quicker than even alt-right nominations or ideological Executive Orders.

The Center of What?

The center will not hold, shredding any nation without a critical mass of commonly-agreed-on knowledge. What secular, empirical realm survives when big decisions come down to the politics of faith alone? What Trump knows (or doesn’t) no longer counts, only what he “believes”—  as if that makes everything alright. That way lies the upside-down nightmare Orwell described, where up is down, light is darkness, war is peace and craziness sanity. If anything goes, then everything goes.

Lying isn’t just bad for depicting or addressing reality. When done by top officials, deception is all about manipulation and closing down thought or necessary challenges. Dissent becomes suspect, even criminal. Worse of all, deceivers blind to what is real (even when falsifying) are stuck responding only with self-righteous outrage when questioned. That way leads to what I call intellectual fascism, end stop, and a world of absolute commandments, the opposite of democratic discussion.

So, when this White House stridently pushes “alternative facts,” that turns politics into a scary fun house where opposition is treated as an enemy (as Steve Bannon made clear about all media, told to shut up). We’re not talking garden-variety mendacity, as with Bush-Cheney WMDs, but indefensible falsehoods about laughably trivial events (think Old Soviet regimes). Recall Orwell’s warning, “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”

What’s truly predictable and profoundly disturbing is the overwrought Trump outrage to anything that undermines his already wobbly legitimacy. Instead of getting over losing the popular vote, he invents non-existent voters (in the millions, all rabid Hillaryites) that even GOP top brass rejects, thus shooting his credibility in the head. What a joke, after years when Trump and GOPers executed a calculated, inexcusable, obsessive assault on Obama’s legitimacy. And now, with no heavy clamor about election legality, Trump manufactures utterly fraudulent controversies.  It is to laugh, or cry. 

Defying Reality Imperils All

The outcome focuses “bigly” public attention not on real policy or legislation (still the mammoth Trumpian void) but whether this chief executive is just an impulsive, insecure narcissist — or much worse, sufficiently unfit to destabilize today’s fragile global power balances. Does constant attention on how deviant is Trump, how historically singular,  not further disrupt his fragile legitimacy? More savvy narcissists know when enough is enough.

If Trump “believes” HC won more voters because of illegal millions, that journalists are “the most dishonest human beings on Earth,” that costly walls restrain immigration, that torture stops terrorism, or that banning Muslims makes us secure (despite zero proof immigrants bomb domestically), either he’s a fool or a knave. Dare I posit, among the “most dishonest human beings on earth.” Either Trump believes his own absurd BS, or he cynically, dangerously manufactures eye-catching headlines to dictate news cycles for his own dark misdirection. Hardly the road to democratic legitimacy.

Without reasonable common agreement on collective reality, “governance” inevitably descends to what leaps of faith persuade the final arbiters of behavior, the police and the military. In that scenario, “might makes right” in all the worst ways — and once taking such ominous pathways means our world will never be the same. Goose-stepping alongside contempt for proof and evidence means we invite retribution from “the future.” We also forego having the majority command our collective destiny. Just like scoffing at overwhelming climate science, we defy reality at our peril.


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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.