Hello, pandemic, job depression, racial street protestsand white supremacy! Bravo!
Easy riddle. What’s more disheartening – three-plus years of the worst, now self-destructing presidency – or the roughly 40% blind to their own epic ‘16 blunder, inflicted upon the world by a mere 70K voters? For everyone else, the answer is a heart-rending “both/and” as multitudes remain aghast at mounting presidential malfeasance. Okay, hands up: who endorses, per one cartoon entitled “Helluva job, Donnie,” our simultaneously replaying the 1919 flu pandemic, the 1929 Great Depression, and the 1968 politics of protest and unrest? No other president comes close to this triple heap of mayhem and disorder.
I’d throw in more history: the 19th C Presidential Scandal Era, white supremacist Jim Crow Era, deceitful Hearst Yellow Press Era, the Medical Snake-oil Bunko Era, P. T. Barnum Flimflam Era (though PT was a far superior human being), Joe McCarthy Scapegoating Era, and the ever-popular Wall Street Greed-is-Good Escapade. Got more?
Imagine: one unfinished presidential term captures a spate of national low-points, except legalized slavery, newly-instigated wars, and Prohibition (though ingesting disinfectants smacks of bad hooch). And there’re still months to go, with Trump’s jaw-dropping negative learning curve. What about unconstitutional abuse of non-violent WH protestors, misuse of the Holy Scriptures, roll backs on transgender health care (and variations on gay bashing), plus more than a frisson of anti-Semitism?
So, for starters: how’re those great paying, pension-rich, small-town jobs coming? So many wins. Or better, cheaper, fully available health care? Or an impervious, Mexico-funded Wall to resolve invasions by dangerous immigrants? Guaranteed – or our money back? How about better treaties and trade deals? Easy peasy. Or lessened threats from North Korea, the Middle East, Russia, or China? How about all that infernal lying — and the most gall-laden claim ever made by any American campaigner: “I alone can fix everything”?
Fine, Trump answered to high white grievance, then funneled rightwing judges for Senate approval, deregulated to increase corporate profits and lowered taxes mainly on the rich. Bravo! Helluva another job, Donnie – and we have a national party with the chutzpah to re-nominate this joker unchallenged? Language lesson time: instead of “fix” everything (as in, to restore to original strength), how about “fix” as corrupt everything with mafia-style rigor? Trump, not his lackey lawyer, is the ultimate “fixer.”
Finally, a mass of negative polling exposes growing buyer’s remorse, both for those who voted for Trump or didn’t vote at all. Every (not rich) family now knows completely “how much we had to lose” – because so many have lost by setting the infamous Trump gut against complex, real-world dilemmas.
If Trump’s razor-thin upset was the aggrieved white frenzy against a black president, we now face truly formidable backlashes: police murders, systemic racism, a bigoted, anti-minority/white supremacist defender in the White House. For many, Trump’s abuse against peaceful protestors, then holding up that Bible with extreme awkwardness gave away the game: was ever his scheming, stupid crassness more visible to more people?
The tide has turned, and one struggles to imagine how this hobgoblin’s little mind recovers from his own foolish consistency. What national election was even won by a defender of white supremacy who oppresses legitimate protests? Or one who doles out the worst, self-injuring medical advice against the pandemic since, well, impious televangelists started guaranteeing riches to all the suckers who send THEM money?
In the end, history that follows the arc of justice (in which I believe) holds deciders responsible for the outcome of decisions. The law of unintended consequences, my very favorite, has never found a greater champion than the flailing, stumbling Donald Trump. The good news: the trend is our friend, dramatizing how Trump’s reign of terror and error looks to go down. And that’s with or without vapid VP Pence, an easy discard. Things are bad when an incumbent gives away the game so early, leaving voters rushing to insist: “anybody but Trump.” That Status Quo Joe (that is, Obama status quo) looks good to so many speaks not so much to Biden strengths (in low-campaign mode) as Trump tremors.
Behind every Trump: sleaze
Let’s face it: there’s no point in blaming Trump for being Trump. He’d been the same thug for all seven+ decades: spoiled, lazy, selfish, without compassion yet with an extraordinary ability (especially of late) to deny the writing on the wall, let alone the job at hand. Eventually, however, the country must to survive offset Trumpers still taken in by masterly sleaze. Neither their lives, not the vast majority, nor the prestige and power of our diminished country, look brighter now than three years ago. Or one year ago. Or six months ago. Or three months ago. Who’s in better shape except top tippers, whose stocks have rebounded nicely, thank you? Yeah for capital markets! So much for making the rest of America poorer. Make America Small Again?
Hating government (and forgetting the positives), plus despising minorities, foreigners and Democratic leaders, is a political road map to nowhere – except the Trump Inc. dumpster. Where’s one Trump reform move to modify worsening income/wealth gap? Where’s one glimmer to bring a majority together, on race, immigrants, fairer taxation, science or disinfectants? Trump proves above all: if you divide something that’s already splitting apart, you risk warring factions. But you also can unify the opposition, unhappily spanning anxious old folks and angry young protestors, suburban women, massively disgruntled Republican centrists and even a few ex-Trump voters. Anyone can break a complex machine; fixing it is much harder and needs sustained, collective action.
Wishing away a triple whammy
Will enough centrists begin to admit what smacks Trump critics in the face? Though knowing who Trump is, too many key state voters took a long, risky shot, a desperate lurch to try regressive Trumpism. The nasty, ugly national results ain’t pretty. Federalism is blasted, undermined in ominous new ways. Everything Trump promised ordinary families could be turned upside down and be much, much closer to the truth. Reality, as they say, is a hard taskmaster but an informative mentor.
If a crisis defines the character of a leader, a triple whammy of crises – pandemic, depression and protests — define national character tests for years to come. This fistful of (in degree avoidable) crises lay bare what qualifies as the Trump character void: all that’s missing in even mediocre leaders. The Trumper choice for November is not so hard: folks either stand by the Liar-in-chief or acknowledge this chanciest of “experiments” cosmically flopped. Is this, as they say, rocket science or brain surgery?
And one final, hard-won lesson: Trump reminds the world just how many critical pies that presidential fingers reach. Just having tantrums when tested – and throwing pies against the wall wastes good food, nourishes no one, and makes a terrible mess for adults to clean up. Let’s get started.
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