Thursday, February 9, 2017

An Eclipse Falls Over America: In the Long, Dark Shadow of Donald J. Trump

A full solar eclipse is due to descend across the United States this August, always a rare, fascinating, welcome event. An eclipse of another nature has already occurred this year, with an unusual election resulting in a highly unwelcome outcome.  A man has ascended to the presidency who in his first three weeks in office is losing no time in wrecking havoc on our values, our governmental system,  and our place in the world. Fake news, propagated by the Executive branch, has become the order of the day, our legal system and respected jurists have been disparaged by the President and his office, journalists and dissenting politicians who dare question the veracity of his statements, preferences, and policies are ridiculed, threatened, and silenced, and any semblance of order and comity in handling the affairs of state seem lost in  chaos and conflict, whether the issues at stake are trivial or crucial.  Welcome to the presidency of Donald J. Trump, and the eclipse that his long, dark, murky shadow has cast over the United States of America.

Donald Trump, to be sure, had a lot of help along the way in his unlikely rise to the highest office in the land. As a classic narcissistic opportunist with no real value system other than seeing himself succeed and then praising himself to the hilt, he had looked for a new challenge after making his fortune, by hook or by crook, in the business world, and followed that with moderate success in reality show entertainment, based on his facility and comfort in "firing" people. Our nation's political system was in the doldrums, the past 35 years having seen the middle class loose its earning power and shrink in size; the truly wealthy assume control over an obscene percentage of the nation's wealth; a major outsourcing of the country's heavy industry and corporate employment; a gross sexual escapade in the Oval Office; an unnecessary, falsely contrived and initiated foreign war spreading endless, expanding warfare throughout much of the entire Middle East; a major economic downturn, triggered in part of the unrestrained greed of financial institutions, from which only the most wealthy fully recovered; and a popularly elected President being stymied from enacting much of his agenda, as the opposition party's top priority was to block his purposes and goals, rather than acting in the best interest of the nation in working to resolve mounting, pressing problems. The nation  wanted, and needed real change in political leadership. For years the leadership of both parties had not successfully met the public's basic needs. The establishment had failed. The stage was set for an anti-establishment reign. Would it be a responsible leader, ready for the call to serve, or an opportunistic charlatan, ready to capitalize on the situation?

Unfortunately, the latter prevailed.  The Democrats had the chance to run an anti-establishment candidate, Bernie Sanders, who had rallied the bulk of the enthusiasm of the party's voter base in the primaries, but the party leadership was committed to Hillary Clinton, the ultimate establishment candidate. The Republican's wild card candidate incrementally defeated all of the party's establishment candidates in the primaries, and had no problem capturing the massive anti-establishment vote in the final election, in spite of his major flaws, inadequacies, inexperience, and general unfitness. The desire of many of the country's voters for change was just too great. The anti-establishment enthusiasm that Bernie Sanders raised among Democratic base voters did not transfer to Hillary, her negatives played against her, while Trump could override his, with his voter base resistant to being dissuaded.

So would Trump's presidency be as bad as his distractors feared, as bad as the very nature of his personality and campaign suggested it would be?  If the first three weeks are any indication, Yes, even worse!  His cabinet appointments, his confused, contradictory policy statements, his criticizing and bickering with anyone who crosses him in any way, his incessant tweeting over trivia, his absolute lack of integrity, his first three weeks have been a disaster. He promised to change the system, to serve the basic needs of the people who supported him, who wanted their needs met in ways that hadn't recently been happening.  What he is doing, rather than strengthening and improving their services, is the opposite, tearing down the foundation of an effective system, leaving only the remnants of a democratic, representative, functionally-interactional system surviving.  Appointing an erratic mix of millionaires and billionaires to constitute his cabinet and top appointees, they stand ready to serve the distinct interests of the selective few they represent.  Most cabinet appointees are in fact on record as favoring the literal elimination or destruction of the purpose and role of the Departments they have been named to head. Go down the list: Education, Energy, Environmental Protection, Health, Housing, Human Services, Labor, Treasury, etc., Trump's picks to head up these services seem more devoted to weakening or ending the services and protections these departments provide, rather than to their strengthening and improving.

Perhaps worst of all is the presence of Steve Bannon as his chief advisor. The Fake News King at Breitbart News, perfect to be the chief formulator and purveyor of whatever a self-serving leader wants to do to further his own divisive interests. Both Trump and Bannon love conflict, to insult, battle, put others down, and through the battles, the glory of winning, through any means possible. Compromise, negotiation, accepting differences, cooperation, integrity, all out the window in their value system. Foreign affairs, obviously, will suffer immensely in the Trump world, its his way or the highway. Bannon has already said he feels war is inevitable. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy, one that he can control. Insults and threats are already flying, are the bullets, missiles, and bombs of full-scale warfare next? Our western allies are looking askance at Trump, the western alliance is already fraying, our leadership in it questioned. Other nations, including potential friends and foes alike, are seeing us in the worst possible light. The statement coming from Iran's leadership, that Trump is revealing "the true face of America", is representative of this negative impression we are casting to the world.

It is up to us, the collective energy of that portion of our nation's population that wants a responsible government, guided by the progressive principles that have led to our nation's positive development over the centuries of our existence, the energy that has led to our overcoming crises, downturns, external challenges, and internal reversals in the past, to once again rise up to a major challenge. The Republican party is beholden to Trump, he has captured their reins, to the embarrassment and chagrin of Republicans who still have a sense of integrity and true patriotism. The Democratic party has their own issues, their heart may be in the right place, but establishment leadership is still entrenched, resistant to the real change the party and the nation need. The real energy needed to bring down Trump and the negativity and disruption that his leadership portends, for the nation and for the world, will have to come from the collective action of the people. Its up to us to show, to ourselves and to the world, that Trump's being the "face of America" is at worst a temporary anomaly, that our true face, and more importantly, our heart and soul, are much, much more responsible, caring, and deserving of respect than the image that the dark shadow of Donald Trump is currently casting upon us.  Eclipses pass. So too must this one, but only with committed help, in the form of energetic resistance and positive action, from all of us.