It’s the base, stupid! – the know-nothing swamp drives toxic politics

We can’t have a know-nothing president without an ongoing know-nothing base. The "other swamp" is a multitude willing to forego life-improving deliverables for endless, smoke and mirror wedge distractions.

Image Credit: Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

Trump is not our worst national menace, however front and center his politics of personal persecution. Though a johnny-come-lately to the D.C. swamp, his brazen, novel corruptions dump volumes into the swill. That makes our most pernicious, enduring peril the unteachable, unreachable, diehard Trump cult. Con men come and go, but ever present are the aggrieved so enraged they dismiss real world events, legal evidence and public exposure. How national body blows are compounded when a demagogue who refuses to learn from failure holds sway over voters who refuse to learn from failure.

In short, we can’t have a know-nothing president without an ongoing know-nothing base. The foundation of the “other swamp” are millions willing to forego life-improving deliverables for endless, smoke and mirror wedge distractions. What damages the health and well-being of Trump rally screamers will endure as long as his unchecked propaganda machine demonizes the media, newcomers, judges, lawful investigations, Muslims, or “wars” against Christianity.

Don’t righteous folks, having “spent” votes for promised goodies (invisible coal mining or infrastructure jobs?), open the empty boxes full of Trump sawdust? Okay, fundamentalists will get more anti-abortion, anti-immigration judges but no redemption from abysmal job opportunities or opiate addiction, not cheaper drugs or better healthcare. How do democracy-killing tax breaks that enrich the richest, or deregulation of energy, mining or banking, help raise joe sixpack’s stagnant wages? What a terrible joke: having traded off electoral leverage for corrupt Trump operatives, the base reinforces its own economic swampland: rust-belt factories and lost industries, no re-training, thus few prospects, topped with shredded government safety nets (reduced food stamps, housing subsidies, education options and childhood health care). What a triumph for the top tier at the expense of the bottom. To paraphrase, for GOP leaders, “no one goes broke underestimating the intelligence of certain American voters.”

Making America worse

Want to assuredly make America worse? Pander to true believers who go hook, line and sinker for Trump hokum. Without desperately seeking a messiah, would the base have clung to Trump, poisoning the Republican primary, then worked 18th C Electoral College gimcrackery for a razor-thin victory? Bravo, you won – but what did you really win? A second cosmic joke: Trump’s hustle to “drain the swamp” depended on conning a TV-fixated intellectual swamp, rife with racism, deranged conspiracies, fake news galore, and a full gallery of farcical deceivers like Giuliani and Trump.

We all have an inner child who yearns for a savior, though adults outgrow this adolescent fantasy. I hear the cries, “Why can’t one ‘straight-shooter’ ever fix my life: solve addictions, get me a raise, a better job or any job for my lost children? Why aren’t the good old days guaranteed, like Social Security or Medicare?” Thanks to Trump, America won’t ignore the potency of a slick demagogue playing on mass dislocation (and an unfeeling austerity government) during global, technological disruptions when agility, mobility and new skill-sets count. So, like nativists before, they blame their economic descent (as if passive actors) on badgered minorities onsite or immigrants “rushing in.”

Truth is still truth

We need to face the distressing fact that strident Trump supporters don’t feel duped by Trump. They believe the nonsense he believes in their heart of hearts. And they still think he’s “working for us.” Dream on. Behold the awful Yankee underbelly whereby entertaining demagoguery, so full of lying that “truth is not truth,” elevated a dark, totalitarian, immigration-hating agenda. We don’t advance without confronting the causes driving our lowest angels – and reform our educational, economic and communication methods – to foster the moral compassion once linked to our higher angels.

In dread, if not horror, brace for the next brash nastiness, unimaginable only weeks before. Trump has an inexhaustible bulwark of outrages, though Robert Mueller will we trust subdue this Lord of Misrule. An impeachment inquiry could be a natural step, though merciful removal before 2020 doesn’t serve overall progressive interests. Defy with political activism. Press independent voters to see who Trump really is by simply naming his hall of shame so far: Lewandowski, Flynn, Manafort, Stephen Miller, Gorka, Rick Gates, Anthony Scaramucci (!), Ivanka, Kushner, Don, Jr. and Steve Bannon. All enabled by infamous cabinet appointments, plus now the extremist Bolton and slavish press secretary Saunders. These are the dark, vulnerable faces of Trump.

I understand why frightened fundamentalists – agog at secularism, diversity, demographic shifts, plus domestic and global change – hopped on the Trump train. But are all one-time Trump voters forever immune, despite indisputable testimony from the insider/outside (Bob Woodward) and pure inside (Anonymous)? Progressives must finds ways to communicate with those who will listen our conviction they’ve been played for fools. Outrage at injustice induces powerful resistances, but not when married to Woodward’s ominous “nervous breakdown.” Breaking down is not hard to do – and not good for anyone.

Either elections work . . . or else

By voting and electing honorable, independent Trump critics and House investigators, the majority can turn back regression that badly distorts our best values: no one is above the law, federal judges should not be impugned, the free press should not be bludgeoned, opportunity and fairness must reach the bottom half, rank inequality of wealth undercuts democracy, immigration is a core positive, and this nation defies the spirit and letter of the Constitution at our peril. A president doesn’t get to sic the Justice Dept. on lawful means of expression because they offend his fragile sensibilities.

Can we have a workable republic – honoring the sovereignty of the people – when a noisy minority denigrates what makes (and has made) America exceptional? Yes, cult dinosaurs won’t dominate the majority, but only a maximized blue November wave will blunt today’s enormous rightwing leverage. That begins by seeing Trump as the manifestation of a long term challenge while not writing off disgruntled, non-cult Trump voters as immune to reason, knowledge and the ideals of compassion, diversity, civil/voting rights, and equal opportunity for all.


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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.