Is America great enough to learn great lessons from great Trump debacles?

Either we learn from failures (threats, disruptions, chaos, illegality) or we invite being buried by them.

Image Credit: The Times

Ten teaching moments that counter the Trump concoction of delusion, demagoguery and dictatorship

There’s an old saw, that the aware learn more from failure than success. Complacency makes us replicate what works, but only painful outcomes disrupt norms and force change. Refusing to learn from failure amplifies disaster, until the sad sack runs out of chips or gets taken out of the game. By this standard, the fraudster Trump qualifies as a triple loser: he keeps shooting off his mouth, misreads the impacts, learns nothing, arrogantly double-downs, then repeats like a deranged, broken record. Item: the Big, Stupidest Lie. Further, devoid of contrition (as if for weaklings), Trump then sounds his favorite weakling song by playing the pathetic victim, the object of everyone else’s venom. That sullied dog presumes to leadership?

Good news, sort of: With Trump dishing out serial failures (that bizarrely excite his base), America confronts the infinite opportunities to address what vulnerabilities are exposed, unearth the why, and make reforms to dispel duplication. Just like after the Civil War, Great Depression and 2008 financial bust. Who but rabid Trumpers favor another failed COVID response and thousands of needless deaths? Who wants to dismiss the scurrilousness of 30K more verified lies? Who wants foul election denial or more gruesome insurrections driven by moronic Trump propaganda? Not to recognize the failures that boosted Trumpism invites another round—and a damaging national negative learning likened to Trump’s airhead responses. 

Look what appeasement has already triggered. Compounding the disgrace of losing re-election, Trump’s nervy election rejection morphs into Jan. 6 demagoguery, then years of bluster, then promises of dictatorship—a pattern so outrageous to justify instant disqualification. That Trump reveres the thuggish Putin, the greatest enemy to America on the planet, deserves betting tarred and feathered, not nominated for dog catcher. Badmouthing NATO is bad enough, but urging Russia to stomp on Europe invites WWIII. After welcoming a recession (if soon enough, tarnishing Biden economics), Trump torpedoes a conservative immigration bill that addresses his own celebrated, divisive complaints. Thus does gross ambition defy positive change, as if lost jobs don’t hurt millions

Time to learn from failure

Thus the big question: Is America great enough to make changes to secure systemic reforms against now conspicuous vulnerabilities? I leave for another day why it took an explicit, looming fascist movement to drive America to battle barbarians inside and outside the gates. So much for subtle inputs. The challenges are daunting, ranging from both Democratic party and media negligence that still fails to address: 1) the trivialization of tawdry campaigning; 2) the degradation from the Trump presidency (via chronic deceptions, scorn for the emoluments clause, shredding foreign alliances); 3) the know-nothing denigration of key federal safeguards on health and safety; 4) the sweeping right-wing attacks on justice in America, let alone evidence, expertise and truth; and 5) the ultimate GOP scorn for voters, elections, the majority and all who tabulate ballots and adjudicate fraud claims. The Trumpist “gift from the wound” is to spotlight an agenda for marginal democratic functionality. 

The American revival begins by fixing broken systems and reinforcing values:

1) Certified elections must be sacrosanct—unappealable unless God himself (with suitable ID) shows up to explain why not. No more irrational whining by flatulent phonies who make a mockery of counting votes (defying suspect methods like addition). All qualified candidates, on pain of life imprisonment or confiscation of treasure (whichever comes first), must contract in advance to accept the legal, fraud-tested outcome. Disqualifying insurrectionists by statute is a first, easy step to deter more Jan. 6 charades. 

It’s not brain surgery to stop future sore losers (before or after the election) from blurting out “I was robbed” and refusing to accept outcomes (and power transfers). Make it a capital crime to jeopardize the life of top federal officials, judges, prosecutors and cabinet members. Interestingly, in the NY 3rd District Democratic rout, Trump didn’t bitch about “rigged” results (in a woke state, after all), only that the foolish Rethug loser was insufficiently MAGA. So, Dems can allegedly rig a 50 state election but not a fraction of Long Island? 

2) Outlaw dark money that insinuates its way into every political crevice (even hypocritical “Jesus gets us” ads). The infamous Citizens United decision only opened the floodgates, awarding the already powerful super-rich openings wider than the Grand Canyon. Either billionaires and their lobbies or the majority run the show. 

3) Enforce the emoluments clause. This is legal child’s play. Set up an independent committee to oversee what presidential gifts count as bribery, what indirect payola gets channeled and enforce confiscation as mandatory. Discourage varieties of blackmail with big penalties, and start precise record keeping. 

4) Appoint top secrets experts to oversee what any outgoing president packs up – with instant stoppage when removal violates the law. Immediately retrieve any suspect documents (and promptly threaten the miscreant’s liberty). The Mar-a-Lago mess would never have happened if all top secret paperwork were carefully tracked (gosh, on par with how a lending library tracks loans!).

5) Have a FISA-like board instantly investigate any shenanigans by which federal officials pressure or blackmail state vote certifiers to violate their oaths or break the law. Insist that all communications between Congress or the WH and state election officials be formally and transparently archived. Disqualify as needed.

6) Precisely define presidential immunity (not DOJ’s rule of thumb) and that privileges end the day a term ends. Allow criminal investigations and trials during an administration, then postpone prison time as merited. Presidents should not escape civil or financial liability, let alone paying off penalties or debts after law-breaking.

7) Insist all federal candidates take basic health, sanity, intelligence, and memory assessments, taking into account past bad behavior, convictions, defamation or sexual harassment suits. Test results need not be disqualifying but should be part of the application and campaign process. See how defective or criminal candidates like them apples.

8) Set up an independent Truth Board to assess the veracity or mendacity of public statements. A formal Truth Meter would discourage the worst lying and publicize chronic dishonesty, stupidity or ignorance. 

9) Update the sedition and treason laws so that gross misconduct be identified and investigated by an independent special counsel (whether by abusing foreign leaders or urging invasions of an ally’s sovereignty. No president should be allowed to endanger our security or a direct ally’s.

10) Mandate that any international agreement,if a president sought withdrawal, that required formal Senate approval be subject to a like disapproval vote. Making what a super-majority approved vulnerable to the unilateral whims of any single leader is an egregious absurdity. Ditto, major tariff changes. Ditto, any sustained military conflict MUST require a declaration of war, honoring the Constitution, or invite an automatic impeachment. Return to the people the spirit and letter of democratic “advise and consent.”

Time to value civil stability, if not civility over hysteria.. Either we learn from failures (threats, disruptions, chaos, illegality),or we invite being buried by them. Either democracy has a positive learning curve that repairs obvious Trojan horses or abandons viability. All that Trump has exposed a rational populace can offset—and it all begins by understanding what’s at stake. Let us find consensus that more immoral, calculated power-mongering ends up ruining the country, certainly shredding the meat from the bones of democracy. Confirming the Loser-in-chief, who relishes learning nothing from failures except repetition, as a pariah is the first step.


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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.