Point Austin: This Week in Trumpism
The accelerating reactionary assault on truth, humanity, and community
In case you haven't heard, the president of the United States is an unhinged bigot. The latest confirming evidence is Donald Trump's dissemination this week of videos first distributed by a racist British group, purportedly (and in at least one case falsely) showing a few Muslims engaging in criminal acts. Earlier this month, he responded to a terrorist massacre of Muslims in Egypt as somehow justifying his proposed Mexican border wall and bans on Muslim immigrants – although Egypt was not even included among the countries covered by his bans.
A fairly common assertion among some progressives is that we should ignore Trump's tweets, as "distractions" from the larger administration and Republican project – e.g., attacks on health care, regressive tax schemes, accelerated voter suppression, etc. – that only serve to obscure the need for a broader political resistance. But I don't buy it – not only because the current Republican policy project is in fact an extension of the white supremacist and racist campaign that brought Trump to the White House, but for the simpler reason that we can all hold more than one idea in our heads at a time.
Trump and Trumpism need to be confronted and combated not only on the policy level, but across the broader cultural landscape, as an explicitly reactionary attempt to reverse a generation of political and cultural progress, and to re-entrench the racial and sexual structures of power that have slowly been weakened over recent decades. That's the fundamental meaning of "Make America Great Again" – to return to a time when white, patriarchal authority in familial, political, and governmental institutions was largely unquestioned, or not even acknowledged.
Think Globally, Speak Locally
One ambition of this column is to try to make connections between seemingly abstract or national policy discussions and the local – Austin and Texas – consequences. There's been plenty of ink spilled in that regard concerning the current "Tax Cut and Jobs" bills simmering in Congress, which by most estimates will deliver an abundance of benefits to the wealthiest Americans, raising taxes over time on the rest, and steadily increasing inequality.
As the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy recently summarized the effects: "The House is currently negotiating a tax overhaul that would give the greatest share of tax cuts (62 percent) to the top 5 percent of Americans. The top 1 percent alone would receive 48 percent of the cut based on the current draft of the plan. The Senate plan not only gives the biggest share to the wealthy, it also would repeal the individual mandate in Obamacare. In other words, it gives away the store to the rich and takes away health care from up to 13 million people to pay for it." (ITEP blog, Nov. 14.)
Meanwhile, Congress has thus far neglected to extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program. Last month, Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokesperson Carrie Williams told KUT's Ashley Lopez that means the funding insuring nearly 400,000 Texas children could be exhausted as early as January. Earlier, the Texas Tribune reported, "About 394,000 Texan children ineligible for Medicaid are covered under CHIP, and another 249,000 Texan children on Medicaid benefit from CHIP's 92 percent matching rate. Together, Medicaid and CHIP cover about 45 percent of all children in the state."
Liar in Chief
When you're proposing to eliminate health insurance for 13 million people nationally in order to help pay for corporate tax cuts, perhaps another 640,000 or so children in Texas – nearly half of all children in the state – don't really enter into the calculation. Congress reportedly intends to "find a way" to restore the CHIP funding – but the hot-burner GOP issue is the tax cuts the president has demanded before Christmas. Meanwhile, Texas parents can spend the next few weeks wondering whether, come 2018, health care will be available for their children, or if they should forgo holiday shopping to instead prepare for future emergencies.
What kind of a president and governing party prioritizes corporate and tycoon tax cuts over children's health care? The answer appears virtually every morning, in Trump's Twitter feed: a leadership that promotes race-baiting and religious bigotry over the common good, and celebrates public dishonesty while denouncing accurate reporting as "fake news." Trump's latest lies join an endless queue, and are intended to exhaust all resistance.
With good reason, people are beginning to quote Hannah Arendt on totalitarianism. "What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed," she said in 1974. "How can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. ... And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please."
Welcome to Trump's America.