Will America double-down — learning nada from Trump failures?

Fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice . . . and mayhem reigns.

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I admit it: it’s no fun having two favorite assumptions disrupted in one week. The first shocker: we may not learn more from failure than success. Here I thought success leaves us complacently beaming while disaster leaves us bereft, forcing our least favorite actions: concession and change. Actually, the report linking learning with success is rather limited in action, underestimating psychological complexity.  

Instead, this article exactly captures my conviction — and life experiences: “Failure Is More Beneficial Than Success,” arguing that failure functions as an “important teacher,” that “when you fail, you learn even more.” Further, failing, then acknowledgment, is character-building, exposing limitations, upping resilience and superior alternatives to automatic (dead-end) feelings of regret or shame. Obviously, not a debate solved immediately and feedback welcome.

Is Trump truly re-electable?

The second blow to my political comfort zone was recent NY Times polling that found in “six swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona — Trump is highly competitive. He trails Joe Biden there by the narrowest of margins, and leads Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.” More disheartening still, two-thirds of swing voters who supported Trump in 2016, then a Democrat in the 2018 midterms, “plan to vote for Trump again in 2020.” That follows another Times shocker a few months back, “Trump might well win 270 Electoral College votes even in the face of a larger national vote defeat than he suffered in 2016.”

Yikes! So much for that large gap six months ago between Trump unpopularity in swing states against a generic Democrat. Match him now with actual candidates, none perfect, and Trump transcends massive disapprovals. What exactly happened, other than staggering scandals and disgraces, since then, that shifted an unfit criminal president into a re-electable prospect? It can’t be a wobbly economy, or military calamities (Syrian withdrawal, rejected by many Republicans), dead-ends in North Korea and Iran, tariff mayhem, immigration setbacks, staff tell-alls of a toddler mafia boss, even the indefensible (crude) Ukrainian shake-down implosion.

What, short of murdering someone on prime time, can take down this presidential buffoon? Even when seriously attacked by super-conservative John Bolton, will even a few of the celebrated “base” wake up and internalize the tsunamis hitting weekly?  Where is the national outrage at the potential of the mad king losing the popular vote by five million votes (!), but still getting re-crowned by the onerous Electoral College? 

Reason not the need

Finally, how does any rational, non-partisan adult respond to the servile loyalty noted by Andrew Sullivan, truly unimaginable a few years back?

Sixty-two percent of Republican supporters have said that there is nothing Trump could do, no crime or war crime, no high crime or misdemeanor, that would lead them to vote against him in 2020. There is only one way to describe this, and that is a cult, completely resistant to reason or debate.

That makes “don’t confuse me with facts” obsolete. Trump fanatics are fixated, a deranged cult locked into fundamentalist absolutism. Nearly all others, aside from these gullible, hands-over-ears right-wingers, understand the immense downsides of letting off scot-free ANY criminal president. Re-election of any chief executive who majors in abuse of power looms as double body blow to whatever remains of our democratic spirit and institutions. 

No wonder, since this 17% national base (62% of 27% overall Repugs) exposes its utter Constitutional ignorance, they refuse to learn from failures and abuses. Still not to late to ask: 1) how many families are better off now than three years ago? 2) how has Trump made America better? and 3) are “socialist” Democrats so evil any option, even a confessed criminal, is better? A second term delivers indisputable proof that Trump daily maximizes Murphy’s Law: whatever can go wrong will go wrong. A majority at last favors impeachment, and one only wonders why it took so long.

If voters can’t learn from shocking, compounding leadership failures (home and abroad), from delusional Trump statements that obliterate what Ukraine blackmail means, even jaw-dropping defiance of House impeachment as itself illegitimate, we need a new Constitutional convention.  The document produced by the old one is getting shredded and cries out for reform: removing a conspicuous misfit should not take the Second Coming. 

The penalty of ignorance

Intelligence comes down to knowing how and when to learn from experience, especially disasters.  Look at science, offering a thesis, testing it, then responding with either new test methods or thesis when data falls short. Scores of friends prove the best teaching driver for finding better mates is figuring out in-depth what went wrong earlier on. Second marriages are demonstrably more stable than first ones.

I learned from my hard-won C in freshman biology that medical science was not my destiny. Hardships with French presaged my not becoming a linguistic master. Few are natural writers, and like many I struggled with freshman essays.  I soldiered on, listened to my instructors, read good writers, and learned the craft. However, not until I left teaching and started my consumer electronics company did I write (to potential buyers!) with greater clarity, simplicity, and impact. My current prose benefits from experience and feedback from close readers: keep it simple, shorten sentences, avoid purple prose.

Is there any more important life decision than how we respond to clear successes and painful failures? What matters more than our not letting success go to our heads — or that failures need not paralyze us, instead act as invaluable mentors? If we don’t learn from failure, we’re doomed by this Santayana/Churchill maxim: “those who fail to learn from history are condemned  to repeat it.”

Re-electing the most unfit, divisive president ever, even when NOT riveted with grave crimes, is a terrifying prospect. Fool America once, shame on you. Fool us again and the nightmare will be wholly ours.  Who doubts a double dose of Donald will make America much worse, with irreparable scars that will outlive this miserable phony?  He may still, however, go down as the model of the abusive personality who should not ever have gotten close to the presidency. 

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Robert S. Becker
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.

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