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Future of the Republic

So, Donald John Trump became president after all. He won the election and was inaugurated and now he works in the Oval Office and lives in the White House. I’m still surprised. I occasionally read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, but I get most of my news from TV. It turned out that the authoritative news analysts on NBC and ABC and CBS and CNN and MSNBC and PBS and NPR didn’t know what they were talking about.

President Donald J. Trump
President Donald J. Trump

They had been observing the political scene, day in and day out, for the two-year runup to the election, and they had got it wrong.

But the analysts weren’t daunted. The day after the election they sprang up on television again, as knowledgeable as ever, telling us about the voters in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania, explaining why so many of those folks had voted for Donald Trump. And the analysts continued their journalistic probing of president-elect Trump. During the campaign, Donald Trump had been a bullying nationalistic, “America first!” demagogue, attacking the media elite, sewing fear among our minorities, insulting and scaring our allies, delighting in his followers as they chanted “Lock her up!” about his opponent, and claiming if he were defeated, it would show the election had been rigged. But the political commentators, most of them, assured us that Trump would reveal his benign and civil presidential self now that he had won the election.

The commentators were somewhat uneasy and defensive as they ventured that prediction, because it was the same forecast they made when Trump had defeated his last primary opponent. But Donald Trump hadn’t turned presidential. He was still displaying indifference toward the norms of political discourse and a hostility toward what he called “political correctness,” which in his vocabulary meant ordinary politeness. And he lied a lot.

Donald Trump announced his run for the presidency on June 16, 2015. During the endless primary period he demolished each of his Republican rivals, crushing them with scorn, mockery, half-truths and lies. The billionaire won the Republican nomination on July 19, 2016. Without pausing to become presidential, he turned his attention to Hillary Clinton and, using the same low demagogic tactics he had developed in the primaries, he rolled through the sanctified electoral college and handily won the presidency. That was on November 8, 2016. He didn’t reveal a presidential self the next day nor on any of the days that followed to his inauguration.

Donald John Trump’s inaugural speech, much of which was shouted, included an insulting passage about the three presidents seated a few feet from him, conjured up a depressing and bogus picture of our nation’s economy and social state and, with a few notable exceptions, radiated a vague hostility toward other nations of the world. Donald John Trump is our president and is the same Trump we’ve seen for the past year and a half, the same bombastic billionaire we’ve seen for years on The Apprentice TV series and for decades prior to that. He’s not been in disguise. He’s not going to reveal a better self. He has no better self.

Some analysts of the political scene are calling Trump a populist. Theodore Roosevelt was a populist, Robert LaFollette was a populist. Both espoused progressive policies. It doesn’t clarify anything to call Trump a populist; quite the contrary, it puts him in an American tradition where he doesn’t belong. Our President is a billionaire who has gathered to his side the wealthiest cabinet in the history of the United States.

Donald John Trump, our Trump, is a vulgar man. He’s a boastful and clownish billionaire, a mocker, a bully, a distorter of the truth, a fabricator of errors of fact, a liar and a demagogue — one third buffoon and two thirds menace. Through the folly and opportunism of the Republican Party, and the complacent venal delinquency of the Democratic Party, he now commands more power than any other mortal on earth. And we, the people, are the only hope we have.

More Notes

Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.