Ever since Donald Trump rode down the escalator in Trump Tower to a group of out-of-work actors who were paid $50 each to play Trump supporters, I’ve had an itch in my brain that has been impossible to scratch. It started like an almost imperceptible annoyance. By the end of the few minutes that Trump spoke, I was searching for Gold Bond Brain Cream. The itch had become ominous words…”Ask not for whom the Trump bell tolls; it tolls for Democracy”.
It’s been getting steadily more irascible for sixteen months. I don’t even want to know how many words I’ve written about how destructive this orange buffoon is to everything good I’ve ever wanted to believe about the United States. I’ve compared him to George Wallace, Mussolini, and even likened his hallucinatory paranoia to Joseph McCarthy and his right-hand thug, Richard Nixon.
In some obviously delusional fantasy, I’ve conned myself into thinking that somehow MY words would somehow magically reach beyond the confines of my puny web site and cure both my brain itch and what remains of our flailing Democracy, even though the words of VIPs, with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of readers, weren’t succeeding. MY words, not surprisingly, have cured nothing.
Over the last six years and 400+ articles, I’ve written about many of the people who have played pivotal roles in the demise and destruction of our Democracy, our economy, and our sense of decency…from McCarthy and Nixon, to Phil Gramm and Ronald Reagan, to Darth Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, to Arthur Laffer (I’d bet folding money 99% of you don’t know who he is, but he’s had a YUUUGGGEEE role in our economy’s demise).
I’ve written ad nauseum about those who have benefitted with excruciating impunity in wealth and power by convincing so many gullibles that the crackpot economic philosophy of Arthur Laffer and his absurd cogitations on “supply-side” economics–that has NEVER been successful anywhere at any time and which has laid waste in real time to Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, etc.—isn’t a major component in what has literally destroyed the now mythical free market economy that exists only in the la-la-land of conservatism.
Perhaps the saddest, most cruel factor in the demise of Democracy in the U.S. is that a large contributor came from the free airwaves of A.M. radio, then to FOX “News”, and now to the five huge media consortiums that own 95% of “news” media outlets in our country. They’ve robbed a huge portion of the citizenry of their ability to reason so completely that they continually vote against their own interests in sublime ignorance while the few pompous beneficiaries get wealthy, the middle class shrinks, and the working poor proliferate.
As far back as Richard Hofstadter’s 1964 classic “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” charted the genealogy of political fringe movements dating back to the early years of the Republic. The optimistic assessment of that lineage is that few of these movements—anti-Catholicism, Japanese internment camps, anti-Semitism, McCarthyism, Jim Crow, etc. — could sustain themselves sufficiently to thrive in the political mainstream….until possibly now.
All this points to why Trump represents a unique danger in American Democracy. Trumpism does not seek simply to make a point and impart its DNA to more politically palatable successors. When a conservative stalwart like George Will announced that he was leaving the Republican Party, he parted with an altered adaptation of Ronald Reagan’s quote about leaving the Democrats—“I didn’t leave the Party; the Party left me.”
But where Trump is concerned the opposite seems to apply; he didn’t join the Republican Party so much as its most lunatic fanatics adopted him while the established, traditional Republicans played petty one-upmanship games to try and make such a shambles of the country’s first black President that surely no other “uppity Negro” would dare try such a thing for another 200+ years. As for how the the Republican-majority in the House and Senate has spent their time since taking control in 2010…
Consider the absurdity:
Congressional investigations in days:
285 – Pearl Harbor
300 – JFK Assasination
406 – Watergate
478 – 9/11
2922 -HRC emails
Trump is simply the toxic by-product of amalgamations that the G.O.P. created by pandering to a base whose blank stares were mistaken by Republicans for simple gullibility that could be manipulated and harnessed when needed; not utter, irrational fear and loathing that would bring those voters flocking to any despotic redeemer. It should have been crystal clear that they were primed and ready after the near-miss of the despicable Tea Party and their vacuous goddess Sarah Palin wreaked such havoc on the intelligence and sensibilities of the electorate eight short years ago. The miscalculation was in thinking that this mob, who mainline Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge blubberings, could be managed.
I have to wonder how cognitively dissonant the GOP leadership must be to so cavalierly shrug off the demise of Eric Cantor. Of all people, they should know not to step over a poisonous snake without first cutting off its head even if it looks dead.
Trump is the revenge of the Tea Party on steroids. Dog-whistle politics was never going to be adequate for fanatics.
Trump is the snake charmer in a midsummer tent revival: direct, literal, and speaking in a volume that one would think is impossible to misconstrue his intentions. The consequence of Trump’s ministry is that a misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, serially dishonest narcissist is poised to garner some fifty million votes in the midst of the most inordinately belligerent election in modern American history.
After the Republican convention, French President François Hollande remarked that Trump’s excesses made him “want to retch.” It was an extraordinary statement, not only for the imagery but also for the implications—an allied foreign head of state was disparaging a current nominee for President of the United States—and, by association, the millions of Americans who had chosen him as their potential fountainhead.
The anti-immigrant, authoritarian, and nationalist movements taking place in France are also rapidly gaining acceptance in Germany, the U.K., and Turkey. All allies of ours. As troubling as their situation may be, they do not represent the worldwide implications that the fall of democratic standards in the U.S. would portend.
The United States’ assertion of moral significance in the world, in fact the basic, if flawed, idea of American exceptionalism, relies upon the contention that ours is a nation set apart. But in June, Pew Global reported that eighty-five per cent of Europeans had no confidence in Trump’s capacity to “do the right thing” in world affairs (compared with twenty-seven per cent who lacked this confidence in Hillary Clinton and twenty-two per cent who saw President Obama this way).
Accepted premises unanimously agree that some component of national decline historically predisposes a country’s susceptibility to fascist movements. But in the U.S., this movement began in openly brazen display the moment it chose its first black President—which was, perhaps naïvely in retrospect, thought to be a moment of national pride and affirmation that we had finally moved past the underlying bigotry and destructiveness of the Articles of Confederation,(the result of the First Continental Congress, which was later rejected and replaced by the Constitution) but never abandoned by its proponents; eventually leading to the Civil War. Yet even after that national trauma, it obviously still thrives today.
The disgusting truth here, of course, is that, the foundation of Trumpism is birtherism, and that what so many saw as affirmation of progress with the election of Obama, was seen by almost as many others as a national disgrace…and that the image of an African-American receiving the respect and esteem that the Presidency demands nullified what those Americans consider the U.S. to be; or at least what their bigoted view of it dictates it should be.
In the broader context, Trumpism represents the repudiation of the most forceful arguments that American exceptionalism is a real thing. An exceptional country would recognize the infectious nature of fear and hatred more quickly and forcefully eradicate it. An exceptional Republican Party would have more than two lonely Republican members of Congress putting their country before their Party by disavowing Trumpism rather than the spineless drivel ejaculating from GOP luminaries like, “I’m not endorsing Trump, but I’m voting for him” and standing quietly, trembling like cowards, as a hate-filled, serial liar represents their Party before the country and the world.
But, on the verge of the election, the idea that the United States of America isn’t significantly populated by backward-looking bigots, climate-change denying fools, and callous proponents of the barbaric healthcare-for-profit abomination that is destroying the fabric of our morality and mortality, increasingly seems like an indulgent delusion.
The problem of Trump is not simply that his opinions far exceed his knowledge; it’s that what he does is so hostile to democracy, so inclined to authoritarianism and rudimentary fascism, so disrespectful of women and minorities, and can be totally ignored or accepted by what may end up being the majority come Tuesday.
Since I’ve come to grips with the delusion that my words matter, maybe my adaptation of Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis‘ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group will :
First they came for the Mexicans, and I did not speak out—
Because I am not a Mexican.
Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—
Because I am not a Muslim.
Then they came for the Women, and I did not speak out—
Because I am not a Woman.
Then they came for me—but there was no one left to speak for me.