I’m sleeping somewhat better now but the condition is testimony not to US politics getting any better but instead simply to the resilience of the human spirit and my aging body. But I still get very angry and disgusted with my country every time I see Donald Trump’s astonishing flaming florid face and yellow helmet of hair, hear his repetitive streams of “Trumpurlatives” (huge! great! amazing! tremendous! terrific! unbelievable! fantastic! the best!…) about himself, a family member or a new selection for his cabinet of horrors. I am sick of his perpetual “thumbs up” sign (stick it in your ear, Trump, or in your mouth) or seeing him lumber and strut across a stage (don’t have the world for it – maybe should coin “strumber”) applauding for himself.
Well the aftermath of Trump’s election is both the roiling, boiling frenzy of the “transition” and the spreading insidious reeking ooze of racism and ignorance. Both cause me tremendous anxiety and fear, not to mention a great deal of anger. But I have been unable to properly articulate my recent feelings about this terrible election…until I read a marvelous column in Haaretz by Chemi Shalev entitled, “The Unbearable Stupidity of Donald Trump’s Election” and subtitled, “Who in his right mind hands over the keys to the world to an impulsive, narcissistic know-nothing show-off, just to teach everyone else a lesson?”
Maybe the Democrats deserved to lose. In a truly prescient article in The Nation last March, “Donald Trump is Dangerous”, John Nichols noted that “Without a forceful response from Democrats, his populism could win over blue-collar workers”. Well, the Democrats had no response and Trump won them over. I guess Hillary’s bland and anemic “Stronger Together”, “I’m with Her” and “Love Trumps Hate” slogans were no match for “Make America Great Again”. The Party has forgotten its working man and social welfare roots and, led by the Clintons, has become “Republican Lite”, cozying up to the Wall Street plutocrats and selling its soul to an army of funders, pundits and pollsters. President Obama, in spite of his intelligence and dignity, has operated in a bubble and conveniently forgot about labor unions, income inequality and economic justice, not to mention neglecting to prosecute the white collar criminals responsible for the crash of 2008, and those who lied us into the Iraq War and tortured prisoners. He also bailed out the banks while allowing thousands of people to lose their homes. I shouldn’t be surprised that the Democrats lost. And valiant Bernie Sanders, who was the lone real Democrat, could have won but was outflanked by an establishment that nominated the “more electable” Hillary Clinton instead. Joe Biden, another Democrat who never forgets his roots, could have won as well, had he chosen to run.
Personally, I never thought this could happen in our country. I used to read the amazing stories about the Italian billionaire politician Silvio Berlusconi, shake my head at his antics, marvel at his incompetence and wonder how the Italian people could have elected him. And now, unbelievably, Americans have done exactly the same thing. We have elected a wealthy ignorant buffoon to lead the most powerful nation on earth, a nation that fancies itself setting an example for the rest of the world. But now, rather than fighting him, sending battalions of lawyers to the swing states on November 9 to examine how this happened, as Republicans would have done if their candidate had won the popular vote by a margin of almost 3 million votes and lost in the electoral college, Democrats, along with an ever-willing media, are busy acquiescing and “normalizing” this anomaly.
For the American people to cut off their noses to spite their faces, to fall for the fake populism of a billionaire con man and crook by electing Donald Trump, staggers the imagination and boggles the mind. And as I noted in my earlier article about this election, there have to be thousands of people now meekly murmuring, “What have I done…?”, as they watch his cabinet being formed and consider the consequences: Nicky Haley, no foreign policy experience, as ambassador to the UN; Jeff Sessions, who has opposed voting rights and civil rights, in charge of enforcing them as Attorney General; Betsy DeVos, a billionaire opponent of public education and avowed supporter of privatization as Secretary of Education; Representative Tom Price, an acknowledged enemy of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid as Secretary of Health and Human Services; “foreclosure king” Steven Mnuchin, former Goldman Sachs executive, as Secretary of the Treasury; Wilbur Ross, billionaire investor and “king of bankruptcy”, as Secretary of Commerce; General James “Mad Dog” Mattis as Secretary of Defense (actually, despite his nickname, this might be the most sensible pick of all); goofball Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; multimillionaire and Wells Fargo board member Elaine Chao, Mitch McConnell’s wife, as Secretary of Transportation; Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, climate change denier, fossil fuel advocate, outspoken critic of the EPA and no friend of clean water and clean air, as head of the EPA; Andrew Puzder, fast food CEO and opponent of increasing the minimum wage and overtime pay eligibility, as Secretary of Labor; fossil fool Rick Perry as head of the Department of Energy, one of the departments he would have eliminated, if elected president.
Most frightening is his pick for National Security Advisor, Islamaphobe and tweeter of false news, the excitable and unstable General Michael Flynn. And yes, of course, yet another general, retired US Marine General John Kelly, has been chosen as Secretary of Homeland Security. And recently, fossil fuel magnate and Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson was chosen as Secretary of State. I wonder when was the last time Rex read a history book or a book on foreign affairs. President-elect Trump has not “drained the swamp” as he promised. Instead he has created a reeking cesspool of extreme wealth, exceptional ignorance and reckless militarism. For sure, President-Elect Trump’s new administration is going to be both the richest and most militarized ever. Oh and his latest additions at this writing are Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, a radical fiscal hawk, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus nominated to be, of all things, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Montana Representative Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior, who, in addition to his rather shaky conservation credentials, committed travel fraud when he was a member of the elite Navy SEAL Team 6.
I know I have relatives, yes, even siblings, that have voted for Trump. And I know I have friends, now perhaps more honestly described as “acquaintances”, who voted for Trump. But I have to shake my head in disbelief at this phenomenon. Perhaps they don’t care about themselves, but what about their children and grandchildren? What will their children say when after a lifetime of labor they find that their Social Security has been privatized and after years on end of paying crippling deductibles and co-pays for their already expensive health insurance, they find that instead of Medicare in old age, they have only paltry vouchers to help them in the private insurance market.
And now, the Republicans, with control of the presidency, both houses of Congress, and two thirds of governorships and state legislatures, along with their sponsors and funders like the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council, and buoyed by a sympathetic Supreme Court, are poised to make an assault on our country unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. These now-unified Republicans will attack civil rights, civil liberties, environmental protections, steps to deal with global climate change, renewable energy, consumer protections, reproductive rights, gay rights, workers’ rights, prisoners’ rights, reasonable and humane immigration policies, aid to the poor, gun control, antimilitarism, and support for public education. They will increase the military budget, lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy, increase the national debt exponentially, abolish the estate tax so that the Walmart and hundreds of other billionaire fortunes will go on and on, and sell off Federal lands in the west to corporate interests. And maybe if they have their way, a cable car to access an amusement park in the bottom the Grand Canyon. Good luck to my Trumpist “friends”, siblings and their children and grandchildren.
The most surprising aspect of this election to me is that Donald Trump is no mystery. He has been right out there in all his transparent, vain, ignorant and selfish glory for all of us to observe and learn about for a long time. The most revelatory story about Trump, which should have been national required reading for all Americans (who can and do read), was written for The New Yorker by their notable investigative journalist, Jane Mayer, about Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter who penned virtually all of Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal”.
Mr. Schwartz spent 18 months with Trump and got to know him almost as well as members of his own family. He observed him in his offices, traveled with him, stayed at his residences, attended meetings and even listened in on phone conversations. And what he saw frightened him, scared him enough to feel that he should speak up when Trump decided to run for president. Tony spoke up loud and clear but evidently too few were listening….or reading.
After all that time studying Trump, Tony “felt that he had an unusually deep understanding of what he regarded as Trump’s beguiling strengths and disqualifying weaknesses.” He felt that he had “put lipstick on a pig” and felt deeply regretful that he had written a book that had brought Trump wider attention and acceptance. Mr. Schwartz started out trying to interview Trump but soon gave up because of what he regarded as one of Trumps most essential characteristics: “He has no attention span”. He considered Trump’s personality “pathalogically impulsive and self-centered” and noted that he genuinely believed that “if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization”. He also took note of Trump’s “completely compulsive” need for attention. After decades as a “tabloid titan” the only thing left for him was to run for president. And author Jane Mayer quotes Mr. Schwartz as saying that people are dispensable and disposable in Trump’s world. ”If Trump is elected President,” he warned, “the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows—that he couldn’t care less about them.”
Mr. Schwartz found that it was impossible to keep Trump focused on any topic “other than his own self-aggrandizement”. He regarded Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time”, he said. Mr Schwartz noted that Trump was “obsessed with publicity…Trump takes only two positions. Either you’re a scummy loser, liar, whatever, or you’re the greatest”. Schwartz asserts that Trump’s short attention span has left him “with a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance…that’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source – information comes in easily digestible sound bites….I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life”. Jane Mayer writes that Schwartz “during the eighteen months that he observed Trump, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.”
Also revelatory is the last paragraph of psychologist Dan McAdams’ article for last June’s The Atlantic, entitled “The Mind of Donald Trump”. “Who, really, is Donald Trump? What’s behind the actor’s mask? I can discern little more than narcissistic motivations and a complementary personal narrative about winning at any cost. It is as if Trump has invested so much of himself in developing and refining his socially dominant role that he has nothing left over to create a meaningful story for his life, or for the nation. It is always Donald Trump playing Donald Trump, fighting to win, but never knowing why.”
We should know Donald Trump extremely well. For decades he has been making headlines for misogeny, narcissism, ignorance, duplicity, egotism, racism, and….bankruptcy. Why then is he our president-elect? Back to the Democratic Party for a moment – what a tragedy. I could review a whole pile of “if only’s” that could have changed the outcome of this election. We still read about them every day. American voters preferred Hillary Clinton by a huge margin, now just short of 3 million votes. Yet our archaic Electoral College system for the fourth time in our history, gave the decision to the minority candidate. If Clinton had campaigned more in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania…if people had not voted for third party candidates Gary Johnson or Jill Stein….if FBI Director Comey had not encroached on the election…..if the media had not given so much free time to Trump….if the media had not inflated Clinton’s email problems and treated them for what they were – mistakes, not crimes….and on and on.
But, going back to my third paragraph, I should extend and develop the notion of the Democratic Party’s essential blindness to the real concerns of voters. Most revelatory and prescient was a little known and little read 1998 book by Richard Yorty, that was discussed in great detail by New York Times writer Jennifer Senior. Professor Yorty predicted the 2016 election perfectly. Right after the election, Ms. Senior notes, an “astute law professor” tweeted three slightly condensed paragraphs from the book. They were retweeted thousands of times and I offer them to you here, from Senior’s article:
[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will
find an outlet.
The Times writer then goes on to offer additional quotes from Yorty’s book, “Achieving Our Country”, that are equally prophetic about this disastrous election, such as, “This world economy will soon be owned by a cosmopolitan upper class which has no more sense of community with any workers anywhere than the great American capitalists of the year 1900” and, about intellectuals’ overweening attention to identity politics, “Nobody is setting up a program in unemployed studies, homeless studies or trail-park studies…” Perhaps Hillary Clinton or her patrician campaign people like John Podesta or Robbie Mook should have read Professor Yorty’s book.
Yes, the Democrats have messed up. Trump and his advisors were smart. It’s really quite interesting to look at his very limited but effective vocabulary, words chosen and used to inflame and create distrust. “I know words, I have the best words,” he trumpets. According to “My Dictionary”, the twenty most used words by Donald Trump have been: “win/winning, stupid, weak, loser, we, they, politically correct, moron, smart, tough, dangerous, bad, lightweight, amazing, huge, tremendous, terrific, zero, out of control, classy.
There are some real dangers related to this election. Our national government, with Donald Trump as president and surrounded by nervous and paranoid sycophants and generals, is a coup waiting to happen. Oh, you say, but our institutions are so strong, that couldn’t happen here. Think again. Those institutions have been seriously altered or weakened over the last decade or so. Civilian control over the military has been reduced. The power of the president has been increased exponentially. The press has been reticent and has relinquished its traditional watchdog role. Police forces have been militarized. There has been complete dereliction of duty by our Congress. The government spies on us. All we need is another 9/11, then watch out.
Before I close this article it might be wise to remind ourselves of how much the world looks to the United States as an example of leadership and good government. What we say and do on the world stage matters. And with “President Trump”, we have massively let the world down. We now have our own Silvio Berlusconi and a cabinet of secretaries and directors dedicated to destroying that which they have been charged to guide and protect.
One of those world citizens that is astonished at what we’ve done to ourselves is Marwan Bishara, senior political analyst at Al Jazeera, who wrote shortly after the election:
Donald Trump is on a new campaign.
It’s to make himself appear sane.
He’s saying he’s a sober person
with a very good demeanor
and the best temperament.
He’s saying it in a very sedate and mild-mannered way,
he’s sitting still and trying to look humble.
Since he’s spent the last year
running the nastiest campaign in living memory
using racist appeals,
that he can’t keep,
lying to our faces
and claiming he didn’t say things
that we heard him say 10 minutes ago,
this is a very good idea.
Not for us.
We should remember
that he’s got a track record
of conning people,
going bankrupt and sticking other people with the bill,
without ever showing shame, regret, or remorse.
So his new campaign to appear sane
is a good idea for him.
Not for us.
Especially since his opponent actually got more votes than he did
and he’s going into the presidency with a disapproval rating of 61 percent.
Meaning that more than a few people who voted for him
know he’s a bad person.
The media is largely,
co-operating in this venture.
They see him as, and I am quoting,
“subdued,” as the “enormity and gravity” is sinking in.
They tell us he’s changing from campaign mode to governing mode
“dealing with realities”,
that “the office is transforming the man”,
and “we should root for him to succeed.”
Because “if he succeeds, the country succeeds.”
They’re normalizing him.
Is it because he’s becoming normal?
No. It’s because now he’s in power
and when you have a media
that is completely entwined with the elite,
whatever power says and does
well, it must be normal.
Let’s keep our eyes, ears
and our minds
this guy wants to deport
two to three million people.
He wants big, huge, tax cuts
in order to be “the greatest jobs president God ever created”.
George W Bush did exactly that a mere 15 years ago
and got a “jobless” recovery,
the biggest crash since 1929
and the Great Recession.
The American military now bases its plans
on the certainty that rising temperatures are making the seas rise.
That’s the Pentagon,
Not the Environmental Protection Agency. Not Greenpeace.
But Trump insists that’s a hoax,
that it’s Chinese disinformation intended to undermine the American economy,
so he intends to withdraw, immediately,
from the Paris agreement on climate change.
So he’s going to have a new, mild-mannered demeanor?
Maybe get a tweet watcher,
to hold down his thumbs
at three o’clock in the morning.
It’s not his tweets you need to fear.
It’s his policies
because they are mostly dangerous, bad, and frankly, mad.
If he succeeds, it will be the ultra-nationalists, racists, fascists that will succeed
And, of course, as always, the super-rich, the world over…