So many outrages, so many learning opportunities
What’s worse than wrongheaded decisions that cause dismal failures – other than deny they even happened? Why WON”T stubborn Mexico pay for that Wall? Don’t the biggest walls resolve the biggest immigration complexity? Ditto, bludgeoning allies on character, trade and policy to advance American jobs, prestige, and prosperity. How exactly does “falling in love” with dictators make America great again? Climate change is not only a flagrant hoax but, even when undeniable, no amount of global industrial change can impede it. Right.
What’s worse than declaring yourself infallible – you never have to apologize, retreat or, drat!, change direction? Racists and bigots are fine people, immigration equals criminal invasions, and wimpy Democrats are way beyond misguided fools but evil – and unlike Republican “nationalists” out to gut our purity of essence. Why not undermine our melting pot nobility with a fortress to make paranoid white people feel better about themselves so they don’t wolf down opiates? Hard to be serious these days.
Weaponizing the White House
Our epic challenge: just because Trump is addicted to his anti-reality syndrome doesn’t mean we must follow suit. Because Trump’s awash with lies doesn’t invalidate truth or prove that empty bluster “tells it like it is.” This election, and the next years, pressure sane America to repudiate a catastrophic wrong turn, even reverse damage from stoking civil war.
So, my “learning from disaster” blueprint – a return to majority rule, electing presidents who must 1) attempt unity – vs. incendiary politics of division; 2) avoid pathological lying that shreds “belief” in truth; 3) frame real “populist” challenges (income inequality, universal health care, skills retraining, infrastructure); and 4) adjust expectations with hard data (on climate change, squandering resources, and backfiring militarism). How about the next president not eviscerating key institutions, nor impugning elections, the media, or investigations about HIM as “rigged”? Call me a dreamer.
Above all, Trump forces onto center stage the vulnerability of the White House to be weaponized to serve demagoguery. What was implicit comes to fruition, thus we dread wannabes will ape Trump tweeting, vicious, mocking personal attacks, and demonization of opponents as evil, let alone undermining our Constitutional way of life.
First big insight: never, never again elect anyone president without any public service expertise, whether in structured worlds (like government, military, courts), community service/organization work, even running a school, YMCA or NGO in the real, unentitled world. I trust at least Trump deters hiring any insular, rapacious real estate tycoon who views government itself, certainly paying taxes, as impediments. Will we learn finally that fixated, narrow-minded, billionaire bigots can’t and won’t learn on the job?
Politics as craft, not con job
Either we again view politics as a profession honed by experience and achievement – or more Trumps emerge, glorifying illiterate gut instincts that drive racist/anti-democratic shock politics. The most destructive leadership mode – “I know everything and I know better” – clothes itself with the presumption of infallibility, refusal to admit error, and exile of advisory dissent. “I alone will fix everything” is so damning it should have instantly disqualified the speaker. That it didn’t speaks to abysmal national educational systems.
This all reinforces that electing any self-serving media clown, infamous as a nasty TV belligerent, is the worst idea since counting slaves 3/5s of a vote. That feeds an inevitable personality cult by which aggrieved millions transform a woeful champion into a divine oracle – despite lying hand over fist. Poisoning democratic debate, the Trump cult ends up worshiping its own “truth,” forever seizing wild conspiracies to discredit reality.
Second great lesson: measure all politicians not by what they spout but what they do (and have done). What a radical idea. Being rich, entitled and arrogant are massive red warning lights, not positives. Trump defines the worst case – deluding the wounded but serving rich and powerful cronies he’s dying to impress. Trump shows what happens when we (and the press) don’t insist on knowing how, how much, and why things get done, whether squandering resources on dumb walls, dumb trade wars, or dumb religious travel bans (none achieving stated goals).
Third, must voters not learn now to connect the most obvious cause and effect, before and after? “Cleaning the swamp” won’t happen by empowering the worst NY real estate swamp dweller – who revels in lurid swampiness. Bingo, the model Trump cabinet, the swampiest, scandal-ridden in memory. Want the over-indulged, “elite” rich to pay more taxes? Then flee an incorrigible tax evader who brags about it in public. If huge deficits signal living over our means, and austerity to come, demand why trillions in GOP payola tax “relief” won’t balloon them.
If “law and order” rings your bell, avoid draft dodgers (with dicey heels) who then violated federal housing discrimination laws – and chronically abused the courts to intimidate unpaid vendors. If education matters, beware the sleaze bag fined $25 million for defrauding earnest Trump U. students. If you think judicial independence drives our justice system, reject bigots who equate ancestry with bias against him. If unConstitutional emoluments equal lawlessness, avoid thuggish grifters whose business “success” depends on disreputable machinations. Think nepotism the worst form of elitism? Never empower a mafia-style family boss who only trusts close relatives. Really, is this rocket science?
Is character really obsolete
Should not presidents be classic mediators – uniters, not dividers? Au contraire today, especially towards women and minorities who justly complain about discrimination, unequal pay, verbal and physical abuses. This White House boasts its very own, self-admitted sexual predator, with evidence of extensive racial bigotry. Ever think adulterers, who break their wedding vows, aren’t the most reliable folks? Well, we elected one who even when married pushed his dashing playboy image. If what we once called “character” matters, why accept anyone who lies about affairs, lies about payola, then lies about the fixer? Is there no limit to Trumpian gall?
Overall, if you value governance (that improves people’s lives), but not perpetual campaigning (with cheap shot lies and conspiracy delusions), Trump is not your guy. What will distinguish Trump from all other presidents won’t be disgraces and scandals (however conspicuous) but (I hope) the endless exposure that convinces voters what never to do again. Unless they really want to make America terrible. When the full magnitude of Trump’s racist infamy, plus malfeasance and incompetence, are evident, no White House chiefdom will better stand for what being “unpresidential” means.
If Trumpery isn’t a formidable learning curve – with a painful infinitude of gross examples – name a clearer choice. I’d like to think Trump’s shock politics negates future celebrity demagogues from hijacking a national party, slithering through the defunct Electoral College, and serving up the loudest F—k You available. Got that out of your system? To err is human, but to deny failure, and horrendous ripples, then not restore some equilibrium – that, our grandchildren, won’t easily forgive. Will enough voters learn how Trump dramatizes corruption that poisons the national dialogue, taking the lowest road of racism, fear-mongering and duplicity? If the majority full of sane adults take command, than good will come out of desecration – and the presidency could regain lost credibility. Of course, even more is at stake, nothing less than the character of America, our future, even what some would call our national spirit. Redo in spades, anyone?