A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics
Trump may be living in the past with his ideas and policies, but they are 100% 21st century GOP.
It seems as if the pace of Trump Administration abominations is accelerating. Every day Trump’s soldiers issue another decree that hurts the economy, harms our future potential, endangers our population or curtails the civil rights of a group or all of us. Meanwhile, Trumpty-Dumpty sets verbal dumpster fires all over the place as a distraction: Most recently he has picked fights with the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a distinguished if unchangeably rightwing Senator, his own Secretary of State, the trigger-happy dictator of North Korea and the National Football League.
These reality TV shenanigans claim most of the news, while Trump’s troops continue to reset the long-term course of U.S. policy in civil rights, the environment, foreign policy and energy policy. Just take a look at what has happened in the past week or so; I put the harm each action does in italics:
It’s a breathtaking display of ignorance and obstinacy. In every area, Trump prefers to believe long disproven myths and his own self-serving ideas than to follow science, empirical observation and the recommendations of experts. In every case, the basis for his views are observations that apply to past decades, myths that have long been proven false or the imaginary creations of the Internet rumor mill. People used to believe that the crime rate was higher among immigrants, but now we know it’s much lower. Same thing with the job-creating impact of lowering taxes on the wealthy. Economic research has proven it doesn’t happen. Extending an unharmonious relationship with Iran only makes sense to someone whose pride is still wounded by the 1979 hostage crisis, which is a far less crime against the amour-propre of a country than overthrowing its democratically elected leader, which is what we did to Iran.
With Trumpian ignorance comes a full dose of venomous small mindedness. He never forgives or forgets a slight or a grudge. Take Trump’s feud with the NFL because its players demonstrated respect for the American way by kneeling during the singing of the national anthem to protest police violence against people of color. While it continues his subtle campaign to demonize people of color, it also enables him to stick it to an old adversary, the NFL. Some history: the U.S. Football League was minting small money as a way to see football during the NFL off season until Trump bought a franchise (probably with OPM) and bullied the other owners into competing directly against the NFL. The USFL soon went bust, losing millions of dollars for all its investors. It’s the perfect Trump move—he comes into something successful and botches it up. Kind of like the casino business and the White House. In any case, his NFL feud plays to his core of racists and jingoists, while allowing him to exact some sick revenge on someone who vanquished him decades ago.
Thus in every way, Donald Trump lives in a past comprised of misbegotten ideas, obsolete notions and old grudges.
But he nonetheless represents the party that he leads. Virtually all of the current GOP subscribes to his full range of crackpot ideas, from lowering taxes on the wealthy to building a wall to supporting the religious imperatives of rightwing Christians to hating Iran to turning back the clock on environmental, labor and safety regulations.
The 21st century GOP pursues the selfish economic interests of the ultra- wealthy by pandering in word and deed to the social imperatives of rightwing Christianity and white racists. Virtually all of the GOP platform is based on the same old ideas and disproven myths that animate the Trump program. It takes ignorance to believe much of their economic nonsense, which explains why the wealthy sought allies among the most uneducated and intellectually vulnerable part of the populations—those with irrational beliefs.
These views do not represent the opinions of a majority of Americans, or even a majority of the approximately 50% who choose to vote, much less in off years. But a constitutional bias in favor of rural states and rural areas within states, gerrymandering by the Republicans, a wave of voter suppression laws and a mass media prone to tolerating Republican lies have enabled the minority that do hold these views to predominate.
Yes, the irrational, voluble, mentally unstable, ignorant and self-centered Trump scares me. But the rest of the Republican Party scares me just as much.
Copyright 2017 Marc Jampole