“I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President.”
This from White House Secretary Stephanie Grisham, following up Trump’s denial of former White House chief of staff John Kelly’s claim that he told Trump if he surrounded himself with yes-men he’d get himself impeached.
This from the politburo of the USSR. This from the state-run press of North Korea. This right before a well-choreographed flag-spinning ceremony dedicated to our fearless leader and mighty national savior, protector of all we survey and further than even our most majestic and quickest thoughts can reach. This from a place with no functioning democracy. This is not the type of talk that is accepted in non-tyrannies.
Trump’s PoliFact scorecard has 5% True, 10% Mostly True; 14% Half True; 21% Mostly False; 35% False; 15% Pants on Fire.
Compare that to Obama’s: 20% True; 27% Mostly True; 26% Half True; 12% Mostly False; 12% False; 1% Pants on Fire.
Adding up Mostly False through Pants on Fire, Trump = 71%; Obama = 25%
Politicians will spin the facts; that’s why we need fact checkers; but Trump blatantly lies all the time, and allowing that to go unchecked in the highest office of the land is not conducive to a functioning democracy.
This running tally by the ACLU of President Trump’s actions and statements against press freedoms also highlights his anger issues, extreme narcissism, and eagerness to subvert democratic norms in favor of the confusion and chaos-sowing approach favored by petty tyrants.
It all just goes much too far.
And then of course there’s the the Mueller report. David Frum in the Atlantic gives a nice synopsis of the findings:
“A foreign power interfered in the U.S. election to help the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign welcomed the help and repeatedly lied about it. The lying successfully obscured some questions the investigation sought to answer; in the end, it found insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy. President Trump, in public and in private, worked to stop the investigation.”
And now a clear and verified attempt to leverage US foreign aid to coerce a foreign country into helping Trump dig up dirt on a political rival.
And of course, there’s his consistent praise of authoritarian leaders.
And while there may be no easy answers to the question of how to control immigration, cruelty at the border harms both our national interests and all our souls.
Is he crazy just like a fox? Does he just not understand what corruption is and why it is harmful? Does he just believe that the ends justify the means? (they don’t: that rabbit hole only takes one deeper and deeper into worse and worse means and more and more confused ends: reference the rise of Lenin and Stalin). Whatever is going on with Trump, accepting it is not something that happens in a functioning democracy.
“So we clearly don’t have a functioning democracy! Like I said all along!” That kind of talk helps the chaos win. And it isn’t fair. We as a nation have not completely caved in to Trump. We’ve pushed back on his rhetoric, his policies, and on his corruption. No human system is perfect. But we have had better moments and we are now duty-bound to move away from this mistake and towards a better government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
This is not a time for either crowing or cynicking. We humans are all bound up in each other and we are all to some degree responsible for everything and everyone. We are all in this together. Without rule of law, chaos reigns, and chaos is not kind. We must therefore work together to push towards a wiser and wiser rule of law. And this basic system of popular elections, balance of powers, anti-corruption safeguards, freedom of speech and press, capitalism tempered with judicious regulation and redistribution: this is workable: this can help us all move together towards more health, wealth, stability, awareness, honesty, clarity, accuracy, competency, kindness, and shared joy. We should work here with what we’ve still got.
The Democratic candidates have been incorporating the existential crisis of democracy at home and abroad in their campaigns. That’s cool. But maybe this election they should take that a step further and pledge that, if elected, they will put some of their more ambitious plans on the shelf for four years so they can focus on bringing us as a nation back into a stable, calmer, more politically coherent and manageable place.
A wealth tax is still probably sensible, since we are like $22 Trillion in debt, our infrastructure is aging, climate change is happening, and, as I pointed out earlier, if done correctly, a wealth tax can be a gentle, fair, and relatively painless correction against overconcentrations of capital and the concomitant power. And environment, education, health care, foreign policy, and gun control all need immediate attention.
But for this first term, why not keep the emphasis on nudging? For example, shore up Obamacare, allow states and municipalities sovereignty over their own gun laws, use a wealth tax and an expansion of the HaHaThat’sWhatYouGetForDying! Tax (that linguistic choice as a brechtian fourth-wall break: as a way to openly confront the sleight of hand when they started calling the “inheritance tax” the “death tax”) to fund green-leaning infrastructure projects and other clear public goods like education and healthcare.
And why not at least a gentle turn towards more fundamentally sensible healthcare? One that prioritized healthy eating and exercise over pills? I can’t even imagine the math for how much incredible much money we’d save if everyone got really into eating real food, instead of all this processed upchuck. But this by the way.
I’m saying to the democratic hopefuls that maybe you should make a curtailed contract with all of America for this first election. In the second one, you can reassess and perhaps chase a more ambitious agenda. But for now be the presidential candidate that we can all get on board with. Don’t promise everything in your first term. Promise a consistent effort to help us move away from the damage that Trump has done to democratic norms, and a gentle push towards a more sustainable and workable government, economy, and political reality. Gentle! Break your website down into “If I’m elected for four years” and “To be considered if, after four years, I think it wise to run again”. That wouldn’t be betraying your vision. It would be noting that part of what needs to happen here is for the political passions to cool while we as a nation get to work on our shared objectives.
Also, could we reach together for our shared spiritual center? Like we talk about in https://www.from-bartleby.com/a-simpler-shared-something-deeperism/ and Duties of a Republics Citizenry [See The Something Deeperism Institute for more on this general worldview that we humans can relate meaningfully to the Truth, just not 1:1/literal/definitive/exclusive.]
Author: Pigeon Wright, professor of wandering around talking to himself
copyright: Andrew M Watson