Six potential lessons from our most debased presidency

To restore America, we need both vilify Trump for what he is – and defy his gang – but also reluctantly face how epic excesses clarity our moral, intellectual and political choices.

Image Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Slamming into hard bottoms stop us cold – forcing us to reckon what “down” means – and how to surface. Is it not self-evident we only learn from self-generated crack-ups with insights – then real-world reform? If we don’t come to grips with a torrent of Trump contradictions, have we not squandered the opportunity of an era? Sure, 35% still cling to their imploding president, while terrified Republicans secure blinders, bracing for the looming, generation-shifting blue storm. Yet recall the sage, “The best cow chips, falling like drenching rain, fertilize growth.” The arena so far:

1) No fat cats need apply

Gone forever (for the sane majority) is any fantasy that “straight-talking, independent,” predatory business types know how to run government – let alone understand law and justice, the Constitution, foreign affairs, or how intelligence/legal agencies work. Capitalist crooks, like Wilbur Ross, Jared Kushner and the Trump boys lead the pack, but Don Corleone never puts ordinary Americans first (except with rhetoric) – the agent of big-money donors, crooked hires, special interests and obnoxious racists.

Our new learning curve must confront how this stumbling bankrupt, forever desperate for cash to sustain his image as a winner, naturally conspires with desperados – and lawless Russia’s oligarchs monopolize money-laundering, connivance, and who knows what else. Putin knows exactly “what else” about true Trump character – even worse presumably than his known concoction of sexual, legal and ethical malfeasance. Would Trump be under Putin’s thumb were he not insatiably greedy, blind to untenable risks because he “alone can fix everything”?

Finally Trump proves top-down, autocratic billionaires make the worst public officials, beholden to self-serving “profit models,” whether cash, status or image-manipulation. How many, far more honest CEOs ever conceive of public service as the greatest good for the greatest number? Despite endless blarney, this rogue president is more dependent on overfed, money-grubbing scoundrels than any other in 150 years. Will we learn from gross job incompetence, addicted to hiring “the worst people” across the campaign (misfits, phonies and crooks), the peerless WH revolving doors, a cabinet reeking of noxious swampiness – all punctuated by woeful advisers on foreign policy and tariff deviance? Stand aside Nixon, here’s a record for the ages.

2) Racism is racism, topped by white supremacy

Any racist-in-chief who doesn’t promote equality before the law and equality of opportunity – the best of America – deserves infamy and exile. Whether Trump’s inbred racism explains the “religious” Muslim ban (without impacting terrorism); or demagoguery against “criminal” foreigners; or equating civil rights protestors with brutal white supremacists, overt bigots should, we know clearly, be dinied major party nominations. Plus, any administration that knowingly violates universal human rights, ripping innocent children from immigrant parents, should be tarred and feathered. Wasn’t the Civil War about defeating structural, tribal racism? Don’t decades of civil, workers’, women’s and gay rights define national progress?

3) Trickle-down folly (again) mocks job realities

The entire (degraded) Trump version of Reaganomics – with more trickle-down jokes that fat cat tax breaks “spur growth,” while deregulation endangers worker health and safety, worsened by anti-unionism and zero job stimulus – won’t solve:

high domestic labor costs, thus manufacturing outsourcing and small-town devastation;
educational/skills gaps locking out under- or unemployed millions from demand jobs (like 65K trucking slots);daunting infrastructure, resource and geographic pressures – neglected transport systems, doomed coal mining jobs, obsolete industrial equipment, and jobless refusing to imitate forebears: moving elsewhere to prosper.

Lacking scruples and knowledge, Trump violates marginal Republican commandments:

why not batter international trade agreements without negotiation or replacements?
why not force capricious, one-sided, anti-growth tariffs over laughable “national security” claims (reality: less trade, market chaos, orders cancelled, fewer jobs, overseas outrage)? and
why not lie about how “unfair” global commerce allows foreigners to “steal our wealth”?

Right, that’s why our “enrich-the-rich” stock markets boom; our banks dominate global investment; we “boast” well over 600 billionaires (the world’s concentration); and our GNP outstrips all others. Poor America. Whose assets, market control and corporate profits compete with the world’s economic-superpower? If the tiresome Trump Terrors simply blast the absurdity of trickle down/tax breaks plus nonsense tariffs, historians will mine gems among the trash heap.

4) The dark billionaire-Tea Party-know-nothing “experiment”

It took six years for the reactionary/Christian fundamentalist/Tea Party/Know-nothing party + rightwing billionaires to push across their presidential goon. That peculiar “experiment” is just humming along, with abysmal Trump approval numbers, vicious divisiveness, interim election losses, and chronic Twitter lashing out – all surely facing a fistful of impeachable, history-changing indictments. How nice the predictable Trump dump leaves another mess for adults to clean up – and pay for. Clean up the swamp? He can’t even clean up his tweets.

5) Is reality only a low-brow game?

Only 18 months in, and the potential learning curve from electing a reality TV star is mind-boggling. Either Trump is right – all politics, indeed everything, is just an elaborate game where suspect “winners” fabricate their own bizarre bubbles. Or there is objective, testable reality. Can we learn from this epitome of greedy self-interest, seemingly obvious to the impacts of his own destructive actions, or will the demagoguery of the Trump base continue with criminal attacks on the core institutions that made America great?

What replaces hard-won, consensual knowledge are wild leaps of faith, idiotic conspiracies, crude delusions and wish-fulfillment. No wonder Trump distorts all media (but FOX-type fanatics) as “enemies of the people”! Reason, process and facts do threaten HIS mindset and “his people.” We’re been down this road before – insane religious conflicts where fanatics violate others over unprovable, internal feelings (or whose faith is purest). The Trump clan now talks of censoring newspapers, many approving closure of press irritants. And Trump stumbles on, revoking “security clearances” merely to punish critics or staff ready to bolt — all radically anti-democratic displays of intolerance, against dissent, Constitutional violations, and defiance of the authority of the majority.

6) Thank goodness for inadvertent opportunities

Thus, the ultimate challenge after months of Trump’s absolute (and insupportable) assertions tests nothing less than our collective intellectual honesty: either we can separate truth from falsity, corruption from democratic rule – or the cliff nears, with many more hard bottoms. Trump packages the least credible advertising ploys and slickest PR fakery to hawk the worst political excesses – lying, personal insults, gross distortions of what opponents say and do, plus vindictive punishments of perceived as enemies. The choice is clear: either unfeeling, sound bite Trumpery dominates – or we trust experts with knowledge and media professionals who know the ropes – then in November elect sane, competent politicians who respect the sovereignty of an informed, skeptical majority.

To restore America, we need both to vilify Trump for what he is – and defy his gang – but also reluctantly face how epic excesses clarify our moral, intellectual and political choices. Either Trumpery expands – a cancerous growth larger than Trump himself – or we force a dramatic intervention. That means major surgery not just of the phony yahoo at the top, but blasting the entire Republican fraudulence – and the very base base blind to their own best interests. Right now, the country is held hostage to a nasty, blundering, insular autocracy that takes all the worst of America to tribal extremes, crushing the poor, sick, uneducated and newly-arrived with Robber Baron ruthlessness. Will our generation, like true populists before us, insist that capitalism work better, must cultivate more democracy, that health care is a universal right – and gains from high productivity must reach the greatest number? Like any disease, either we fix Trumpery soon – or we fix it later – with even more tragic costs, moral and otherwise.


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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.