What! Downsides to being insurgent-in-chief?
Trump voters who wanted something different got that alright, though all about attitude, not life-changing deliverables. Somehow Trump “populists” missed how his unprincipled iron fist matches the billionaire gloves they so mightily distrust. Whoops. The positive lesson is about transparency and rigidity: Trump reigns like he campaigned, the rogue adventurer hiding neither his prejudices nor cluelessness. Everyone knows who he is – and the racist tunnel vision he voices.
Indeed, Trump fully exposes the tribal, racist impulses that dominate American politics since culture-bound immigrants arrived – treating Natives Americans as savages, black people as commodities, and Latin Americans as apostate Christians. Early, very Protestant, very white immigrants imported their bias with their Bibles, then informed a country with such values. In 1790, only white, propertied males had full citizenship rights (with high dread of the unwashed). Only a Civil War gave black males theoretical rights and another 60 years before women voted – without equal marital or legal rights. Trump outs the underbelly of America.
Further, if disrupting presidential boundaries count, Trump is already historically significant. Immune to widespread perceptions, whether being ignorant, willfully unteachable or deviant “genius,” Trump redefines downward what being presidential means. No one has yet assessed the full disaster from stripping the office of dignity and competence, plus shredding prestige overseas. When “anything goes,” even changes weekly, then anything can be corrupted, polluted or discredited.
The Insurgent-in-chief seems unshakeable, his bizarre presidency mirroring his weird, norm-crashing campaign. Nothing impedes the opening, outsized lying, tweets petty and presumptuous, the nauseating, roller-coaster of corrupt appointees – let alone his bumper-sticker mindset. No one in public office knows less (nor distorts more) about history, trade and treaties, immigration, economics, science, or diplomacy. That Trump supporters condone his nastier side explains the lurch from crisis to crisis, all acting as if real-world outcomes (and innocent, abused people) barely exist.
So year three and time to distinguish Trump “strengths” from prior presidents:
1) If governance means focus on manic brand campaigning, even reality TV-style entertainment, hats off to Trump’s “marketing genius.” The only modern never to gain 50% approval, this president is no popular frontrunner, a weak figure already lagging an uninspiring Democrat. No one since Nixon matches Trump’s ability to do himself in, the nominal winner now ridiculed clown. That inevitable result comes from utterly refusing to learn on the job.
2) Trump’s damage to norms of campaigning
equals the downsides from countless Constitutional and legal
violations. What stops the next self-entitled, fat cat,
sleazy, bullying tax-dodger from hijacking a national party
and demagoguing into power? All without sounding conservative
or Republican. Hats off to Trump and dismal party politicians,
decimated by the least qualified disrupter in history.
3) Trump shows best at
raucous rallies, however much charades cover up failures to
deliver on promises. Since vulgarity and violent outbursts
drive the brand, Trump’s not without media and entertainment
value (like sideshow freaks, horror movies and bloody
accidents). So let’s give the devil his due: despite wreaking
the prestige of the office, rife with transparent crimes, he
hasn’t been censured nor impeached yet.
4) Trump’s mastery of juvenile sloganeering serves his ultimate goal: commandeering attention, whatever the content. No one matches Trump’s ability to distort complex issues into laughable, sound bite smithereens. No one matches Trump’s going for the jugular, nor malicious glee. How else does this trashy vulgarian (so charmless he had to buy sex) deflect from the reality of being Don the Chronic Con?
5) Trump is not without legislative gains. Did it not take “genius” to sign what Republicans have pushed for years on tax giveaways? My, my, how he has schooled rightwing leadership to do his bidding – and/or hold the criticism. Trump’s self-declared greatness testifies to the “brilliance” of being the only Republican president at this time.
6) Trump is impressively skilled at denial, stonewalling and obstruction. Not only no racist, he boasts being the “least racist” person he knows – so imagine his worse supremacist cronies. Stonewalling explains the impossibility of collusion or complicity or conspiracy. Having never committed any crimes anywhere, he must be innocent, couldn’t obstruct, thus only a rigged system sponsors such hoaxes. Solipsism, thy name is Trump.
7) Trump’s singular management “style” has
cleaned up one swamp: exposing Republican bad guys like Comey,
the ominous deep state, FBI, disloyal intelligence agencies,
even his own sometime suspect Dept. of Justice. Why don’t
federal bureaus do their job, namely, to protect Trump from
bogus machinations? His is no small miracle: displacing the
bad old swamp with a brand-new one, with more zealous, less
informed, pro-business alligators. Bravo!
8) Finally, has not this wary loner proved by definition that he “alone can fix everything”? Or alone ruin everything. Isn’t the 2000 mile Wall ratified, funded and ripe for ribbon cutting? Hasn’t the Muslim Ban saved us from all scores of (domestic) killers who wreck havoc? Isn’t America practically great again?
Having covered, more or less, what makes Trump significant, now for a few suspect qualities, even daily, maniacal obsessions:
1) Hand downs, Trump is the world’s worst public liar, in quantity and quality. Some unravel in seconds. Satan, Father of Lies, marvels at his shameless audacity. If you want more truthiness, just reverse whatever Trump says. Makes sense for any hustling liar who’s never wrong, never apologizes, and can spot “fake news” from Air Force One in flight.
2) Trump wins all prizes for divisiveness – cultural, racial, religious, intellectual or geographic. When he’s playing his deluded base (like defending Nazis), Trump latches on or invents the least plausible, weirdest conspiracies ever, inhaling absurd rightwing dregs like he downs Big Macs. An historic breakthrough.
3) Trump knows less than nothing about policy, “less” because his wrongheaded renderings actually reduce human knowledge on any subject he touches. Not knowing what you don’t know, while acting like you know everything, qualifies as the most predictable model to deliver repeated failures – and he does.
4) Trump’s inability to improve supporters’ lives is only surpassed by bull-in-a-china-shop disasters overseas. No conflicted remote region is in better shape after three years – many are worse. His unjustified, media-driven hand grenades (as with Iran) reflect as much subtlety as a careening asteroid, if not an immature teen-ager. North Korea is the poster child for misguided, squandered prestige.
5) Trump proves he can survive officialdom with nothing moralists call “character” – and he’s shocked the world by defying boundaries, personal and institutional. His blundering nastiness today matches his undisciplined, former sexual appetites, betraying his own marriage vows as he does today his oath of office.
6) The most over-rated deal-maker in history, he can’t even make a deal with his own party lasting a week. Name one “deal” that visibly benefits both sides, let alone making America great again. Would that he were as “transactional” as claimed, for then he’d have notched at least some wins. Maelstroms are not triumphs.
7) Finally, though a malignant narcissist, Trump isn’t even an effective one. No image-conscious narcissist wouldn’t try widening his support base, instead repeatedly, needlessly offending the majority. What narcissists most fear is what Trump has achieved: the greatest figure of ridicule on the world’s stage. As a political strategist, Trump is often clueless, smugly smarter than all the king’s men, advisers, lawyers and hardened party pros put together.
And so, summing up the good, the bad and the ugly, we must concede two realities: he’s still president and he still tells the right-wing Republican party that rules America when to get on and when to get off. No small feat for a small-minded man-child who had never held office – and millions hope will never hold it again. 2020 can’t come soon enough.