Page Two: This Too Shall Pass, Or … Ain’t Got Time for That Now
Along came Trump
Long confident that the Constitution was smarter than us all, that its deep faith in the people would prevail, even when previous elections seemed disastrous, the feeling was "this too shall pass." But as never before, despair overrides any belief, as I host a real terror about Trump's presidency. Calmer voices chide us for such hysteria, cautioning that we need to wait to see what happens. Trump is our president; let's give him a chance. The country has survived worse. They advise that this concern is irrational, that a politician with bad ideas will be corralled by the three branches of government. Even a party loyalist is finally limited. After all, this is not an imperial presidency.
This reassures me not at all. It isn't that I oppose Trump's ideology, fearing his ideology will move the country in the wrong direction. Instead I'm afraid he has no ideology. There are no politics driving him. Lacking ideas, he does not possess a cohesive vision. He says exactly what he feels people want to hear. I often doubt he is even listening to himself. Instead of core beliefs there is only the rock-solid certainty of his own destiny, backed by his extraordinary egocentricity.
But Trump's supporters, disgusted with current government, politics, and the economy, are sick of rhetoric and meaningless campaign promises. They didn't vote for a platform; they voted for the man. What they want is a hero. The beacon of his outsize attitude shines through his nebulous politics, assuring all that he can achieve anything. He will bring jobs back, reverse the trade imbalance, restore manufacturing, and stare down the country's enemies. The U.S. under his leadership again will be all powerful and economically prosperous, morally and spiritually restored.
Rather than Teflon, his skin is absorbent; whatever is thrown at him strengthens him. Calling all his supporters racist or white nationalists isn't true, but rather than condemn even those it accurately describes, the charges just drain those words of meaning and power.
Consider that the right, not as a solid entity but in its many manifestations, has really grasped the concept that if you repeat something enough times, it comes to be accepted as a truth. "There probably has not been a more racially divisive, economic-divisive president in the White House since we had presidents who supported slavery," insisted Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama). "Race relations in this country have not been this ugly and strained in decades. The president's divisive, racialist language and posture throughout his presidency has set the country back many, many painful years," added Breitbart columnist Charles Hurt.
They claim that Obama intentionally excited racial tensions, previously calmed, in oder to exploit them. Given conservatives are fond of accusing liberals of having their heads in the sand or ignoring history, these are astonishing statements. They illustrate a deep disconnect for many Americans between what is and what they insist is.
Along comes Trump. He blames the races. But says he is against racism. He assures the people we are under attack from within but he can fix it. Never elected to office, as an outsider he'll sweep the government clean. Not just certain there is a range of problems but that he alone can fix them. Radiating absolute assurance, the light guiding them through the fog is his attitude – reality is for chumps, political correctness for wimps, governing difficult only for the corrupt or insane. The least populist candidate in recent memory won as a populist.
The promises he made being all over the place and often impossible, what will happen when Trump realizes he can't deliver? The one skill he has proven again and again is turning Americans against each other, blaming others for "our" problems.
Instead of the new that is desired, his choices for his cabinet show how much he is not just business as usual but even less so. Picking the most outrageous and extreme, he already senses that the way to maintain the love of his supporters is to beat up on other Americans. Elected to do the impossible it is feared that he will do just what he can. Never have I more hoped I'm wrong.
"Although this country is traditionally moderate-conservative, we are being told that the America-hating liberals who somehow stole their way to power are finally being beaten back. Mainstream media's already disturbing blandness was further diluted by the widespread acceptance that it is aggressively liberal and overtly partisan ….
"Now … some recent Chronicle letters, which note that the writers are longtime Democrats ….
"Letter 1: 'And yet, I find myself delighted with the outcome because it is clear that the "silent majority" living in "flyover country" have found their voice. Though I despise Christian fundamentalism, I abhor the elitist disdain expressed by the liberal media, by Hollywood, and by the academic intelligentsia of those core values quietly held in Middle America.'
"Letter 2: 'Multiculturalism and political correctness are divisive tools of limo-libbies. This abominable double standard is racist. By holding "disadvantaged" groups to a lower standard of behavior than that of the mainstream, we are saying that these persons are incapable of succeeding in the predominant culture. However, complain about the adverse effects of this misbehavior, and you are branded a racist. All reasonable discourse gets handcuffed by identity politics. … The left's own elitism has made it irrelevant.'"
This from a column published in the Chronicle, Dec. 31, 2004.
Same as it ever was … and worse?