I follow politics pretty carefully.
Not everyone likes “politics”…if that includes you, be forewarned: this is about politics.
There are political images which stick with me, among which are these two:
First, the below sign I saw in Rochester MN, “down the block” from Mayo Clinic, a few days before Nov. 8, 2016. The sign speaks for itself. I’ve used it before in this space.
About the same time, CBS news had one of those visuals – an interview outside a long-closed steel mill in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The subject: a guy in Trump get-up – t-shirt and hat – declaring that Trump would get he and others jobs back in the long closed mill in the background.
This guy was a true believer in Trump as savior.
(click to enlarge)
I am a “Democrat”, a little more active than most, I would say. I know what the word “Democrat” means as it plays out in debates among political friends. We are an inclusive bunch who bring meaning to Paul Wellstone’s oft-repeated mantra: “we all do better, when we all do better”. I don’t apologize for being a “liberal”, or “Democrat”. Because we are people, we bring meaning to the famous Will Rogers quote: “I’m not a member of any organized political party…I’m a Democrat.“ We have differences of opinion on lots of things. Such differences can be a liability for us; but its better than living in a regimented dictatorship.
There is not much to add after Trumps first six months in office as President of the United States.
His statements on Tuesday, after the latest failure to repeal “Obamacare” in the U.S. Senate, reminded me of something I heard over a year ago, during the early campaign time. You can read it here: Trumps comment about his favorite Bible verse: “An eye for an eye”.
Trump will do anything to win; and he despises losers.
But as President of the United States, he is in way over his head and has not a clue how a reasonable political system works, to benefit and protect everyone. Whether his incompetence is a blessing or a curse depends on point of view. “The Swamp” is ever darker and more murky in his first months. He needs to be called on abuse of power.
Reprehensible as it is, I can almost understand Trumps attempts to destroy people like myself – people called “liberals”, “Democrats”, “the opposition”. It is how Trump does business. This man seems to have no moral boundaries other than the exercise of raw power to win by any means necessary. Wednesday he publicly and pretty clearly threatened the Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada about playing ball with his regime’s agenda to kill Obamacare or else.
Heller has been reading the political tea leaves in his own state about general support for what is derisively called “Obamacare”, which the Republicans through various and sundry means have been trying to kill since its enactment in 2010. Heller was seated perfectly for an on-camera real-time tongue lashing by Trump, like would happen on “The Apprentice”, I suppose.
Publicly Heller laughed off Trumps public demand; privately, he and everyone else knows how political death – that of he and others – is achieved in this media and big money obsessed time in our history.
Trumps sole objective is winning, for himself alone. Period. This has been publicly known long before he descended the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy in March 2016.
Trump is not alone. The Republican far right wing, which controls the Republican party, and thus effectively controls the country at this point in time, has the same general objective as Trump. They quite certainly despise Trump, but are terrified of him. And he has been useful to their own agenda to control policy. But six months in – one eighth of his first term – their own chickens are coming home to roost. Still, long term damage is being done and it will impact us all unless we, as individuals, get more active.
The fearful and angry base – about one in four Americans – which elected Trump Nov. 8, 2016 based on his own endlessly repeated false promises to them, will find out soon enough that he did not give a damn about them. Repealing “Obamacare” and other similar initiatives from the current Republican leadership, national and state, “evangelical Christian” or otherwise, has nothing to do with anything other than raw exercise of power.
“Caveat Emptor” – “let the buyer beware”.
There is much more to say. I’ll close with just a couple of recent comments from other sources that speak to me a bit on this 21st day of July, 2017:
My friend Bob, a few years senior to me, had this letter printed not long ago in the Columbus (OH) Dispatch. I share this with Bob’s permission. His letter basically reflects my views, though as we all know, respectful differences of opinions make for a viable society, or family, or church, or most anything….
Bob is an old hand at managing very large and very complex political (people) systems. He preceded this letter with this comment to me: “Here’s a letter the editor I had printed a couple of weeks ago – I softened its contents in order to improve the chances of it being printed.” That’s a word to the wise about how to have impact.
“Keep the faith; U.S. will recover.
Thanks to The Dispatch, along with many other media outlets, for giving us the real news about our fake president.
I hold out much hope that eventually the majority will wake up and take appropriate action to return our great nation into the hands of those who still believe in the common good.
Right now the Democrats are in disarray and have lost their direction, while the Republicans are a general disgrace. We must gather the true and honest traditional conservatives and the open and realistic progressives to make our country great again and recover it from the hands of those in control.
As I reflect upon our nation’s history during this week of our Fourth of July remembrances, I hold out great fear and great hope. We will either slip further under our present fake leadership or get real and recover.
Thanks again to The Dispatch for pushing us toward the “get real and recover” option.”
My response to Bob: I don’t see the Democrats – my party – “in disarray” based on my own personal experience within the party. “Democrats” are truly a coat with many colors. We all have our opinions. I have, also, often said that my political hero – really mentor – was progressive Republican Minnesota Governor Elmer L. Andersen. He and others like him were a credit to political society…and they have been banished from today’s Republican power structure.
What is your opinion? You have a lot to lose by being silent with your own constituency (we all have a constituency) at this crucial juncture in our American history.
AGE OF ANGER, A HISTORY OF THE PRESENT: Some weeks ago my friend, Marie, mentioned a book being passed around in her circles. I ordered the book, “Age of Anger, A History of the Present” by Pankaj Mishra (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017). I picked it up at the book store a couple of days ago, and it will be my primary vacation read the first week of August. Here’s the Preface, and the Quotation which leads the first Chapter – gives you an idea of what’s to be covered. It sounds like an interesting read.
Pankaj Mishra: “I started thinking about this book in 2014 after Indian voters, including my own friends and relatives, elected Hindu supremacists to power, and Islamic State became a magnet for young men and women in Western democracies. I finished writing it during the week in 2016 in which Britain voted to leave the European Union It went to the printers in the week that Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. Each of these earthquakes revealed fault lines that I felt had been barely noticed over the years, running through inner lives as well as nations, communities and families. The pages that follow try to make sense of bewildering, and often painful, experiences by re-examining a divided modern world, this time from the perspective of those who came late to it, and felt, as many people do now, left, or pushed, behind.”
and the quotation leading the Prologue in the same book:
“Everywhere, people are awaiting a messiah, and the air is laden with the promises of large and small prophets…we all share the same fate: we carry within us more love, and above all more longing than today’s society is able to satisfy. We have all ripened for something, and there is no one to harvest the fruit…” Karl Mannheim (1922)
As I say, this is my vacation read. Stay tuned.
Get engaged. It is the only thing you can, and you must, do.
POSTSCRIPT: More about the issue, overnight: Just Above Sunset “Ten Times Harder”
Note comment from Dave at the end of the blog itself (below the other comments).
from Anonymous: The Peter Principle is a concept in management theory formulated by Laurence J. Peter. It states that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.”
The Peter Principle is a special case of a ubiquitous observation: Anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails. This is the “generalized Peter Principle”. Peter noted that there is a strong temptation for people to use what has worked before, even when this might not be appropriate for the current situation. Wikipedia
from Sandy: I totally agree with everyone you wrote about Trump and your other friends too! It is just sickening what he is doing and has done. It is incredible to me that the poor people that voted for him are so clueless and uneducated that they actually believe that he will “make America Great agiain” It is painful to watch everyday and what has been going on and frankly no one in Washington seems to be doing a good job. It is a total mess for sure! Thanks for you highlights and insights!
from Norm: Right on, Dick!
Trump is clearly in over his head albeit with the sole purpose of winning through the power of his office and particularly to undue as much of what President Obama set in play as he can. His main mission in life at the moment appears to be to eliminate any and all legislative and executive office references to Obama.
It is not unusual for a new president of a different party to come in and change some of the things put into play by his or her predecessor, of course. On the other hand, they generally have ideological or other reasons for doing that. Just wanting to eliminate it because Obama put it into play is rather odd to say the least and consistent with your description of the tower man who is streaking slowly towards puberty as everything being all about him.
I wonder how many mirrors he now has in the White House and all of his other residences to look at himself every time he wants to do so? I wonder if some of them even have an message that plays when he steps in front of them that tells him how great he is?
Of course, his promise of bringing back all of the well paying jobs in the extraction industries that existed in the 60′ and 70’s or so was pure B.S…and he knew it…as did many of his avid supporters…”but at least he will try” I heard from many of those folks.
I ran into a fellow a few months ago while waiting for an appointment who was wearing a Viet Nam Veteran cap. Being a veteran myself of the VNW era, I asked him where and when he had served. He told me and then he quickly and rather enthusiastically made it clear that he was a Trump supporter and that he wanted him to bring things back to the 60’s when he apparently was doing better than he apparently was when I talked to him.
That was the first time that I had actually had someone tell me that he hoped Trump would bring things back to the way that they were in the 60’s, i.e. the “good old days” as I am sure that the thought that he remembered them to be.
To be fair, he said that he had worked in heavy construction for most of his post military service life and his body had eventually broken down requiring lots of medical care…and he felt kind of left out of things…just the kind of folks that Trump appealed to in his campaign.
I am afraid that the avid Trump supporter that I talked to that day last March is going to be disappointed with what the tower man delivers to him including the possible losing of his coverage for medical care.
Nice job, Dick.
from Bob: I think this piece sums up what we’re dealing with:
NYT – Declaration of Disruption – Peter Wehner – JULY 4, 2017
ONE of the essential, if often unstated, job requirements of an American president is to provide stability, order and predictability in a world that tends toward chaos, disarray and entropy. When our political leaders ignore this — and certainly when they delight in disruption — the consequences can be severe. Stability is easy to take for granted, but impossible to live without.
Projecting clear convictions is important for preventing adversaries from misreading America’s intentions and will. Our allies also depend on our predictability and reassuring steadiness. Their actions in trade and economics, in alliances with other nations and in the military sphere are often influenced by how much they believe they can rely on American support.
Order and stability in the executive branch are also linked to the health of our system of government. Chaos in the West Wing can be crippling, as White House aides — in a constant state of uncertainty, distrustful of colleagues, fearful that they might be excoriated or fired — find it nearly impossible to do their jobs. This emanates throughout the entire federal government. Devoid of steadfast leadership, executive agencies easily become dysfunctional themselves.
Worse yet, if key pillars of our system, like our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, are denigrated by the president, they can be destabilized, and Americans’ trust in them can be undermined. Without a reliable chief executive, Congress, an inherently unruly institution, will also find it difficult to do its job, since our constitutional system relies on its various branches to constantly engage with one another in governing.
But that’s hardly the whole of it. Particularly in this social media era, a president who thrives on disruption and chaos is impossible to escape. Every shocking statement and act is given intense coverage. As a result, the president is omnipresent, the subject of endless coast-to-coast conversations among family and friends, never far from our thoughts. As Andrew Sullivan has observed, “A free society means being free of those who rule over you — to do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene.”
A presidency characterized by pandemonium invades and infects that space, leaving people unsettled and on edge. And this, in turn, leads to greater polarization, to feelings of alienation and anger, to unrest and even to violence.
A spirit of instability in government will cause Americans to lose confidence in our public institutions. When citizens lose that basic faith in their government, it leads to corrosive cynicism and the acceptance of conspiracy theories.
Movements and individuals once considered fringe become mainstream, while previously responsible figures decamp to the fever swamps. One result is that the informal and unwritten rules of political and human interaction, which are at the core of civilization, are undone. There is such a thing as democratic etiquette; when it is lost, the common assumptions that allow for compromise and progress erode.
In short, chaotic leadership can inflict real trauma on political and civic culture.
All of which brings us to Donald Trump, arguably the most disruptive and transgressive president in American history. He thrives on creating turbulence in every conceivable sphere. The blast radius of his tumultuous acts and chaotic temperament is vast.
Mr. Trump acts as if order is easy to achieve and needs to be overturned while disruption and disorder are what we need. But the opposite is true. “Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour,” Edmund Burke wrote, “than prudence, deliberation and foresight can build up in a hundred years.”
Mr. Trump and his supporters don’t seem to agree, or don’t seem to care. And here’s the truly worrisome thing: The disruption is only going to increase, both because he’s facing criticism that seems to trigger him psychologically and because his theory of management involves the cultivation of chaos. He has shown throughout his life a defiant refusal to be disciplined. His disordered personality thrives on mayhem and upheaval, on vicious personal attacks and ceaseless conflict. As we’re seeing, his malignant character is emboldening some, while it’s causing others — the Republican leadership comes to mind — to briefly speak out (at best) before returning to silence and acquiescence. The effect on the rest of us? We cannot help losing our capacity to be shocked and alarmed.
We have as president the closest thing to a nihilist in our history — a man who believes in little or nothing, who has the impulse to burn down rather than to build up. When the president eventually faces a genuine crisis, his ignorance and inflammatory instincts will make everything worse.
Republican voters and politicians rallied around Mr. Trump in 2016, believing he was anti-establishment when in fact he was anti-order. He turns out to be an institutional arsonist. It is an irony of American history that the Republican Party, which has historically valued order and institutions, has become the conduit of chaos.