Image source: www.change.org
The secret to Trump is probably nothing evil, nothing horrendous, but fairly banal, in a Hanna Arendt sort of way. He’s a grandstanding demagogue who still likes to think of himself as a playboy; self-absorbed to the point of blocking out anything that contradicts his self image; has a pathological disregard of any distinction between what is true and real and what is fake and flashy; and regards his occupation of the White House as just the latest episode in his personal reality show. I use the word occupation advisedly, with overtones of Herr Schicklgruber’s occupation of Poland.
He has taken narcissism to unheard of heights, where his every action is predicated solely by its dramatic and populist effect, and by the reaction of the media, and supporters and critics alike. It’s as though he is constantly pushing the borders of humanity to see what new atrocity he can get away with. As host of his own reality show, The Trump Presidency, he gets to call all the shots at a whim, whether starting trade wars with America’s allies, or hobnobbing with world class dictators who would happily see America ground into fine dust. So long as it makes a stir and feeds his cult, he’ll do it. Child snatching is almost the least of the insidious damage he’s managing to accomplish, which is nothing less than the unravelling of American democracy and its leading world role, whether this is consciously intentional on his part or not. (A debatable but increasingly irrelevant point – the consequences are the same whether his actions result from deliberate cunning, or are merely the tantrums of a petulant child.)
Echoes of the heady days of the rise of the Third Reich are unsettling, only instead of Jews, Trump has settled on (currently) illegal immigrants, who he claims are “infesting” America as if they were some sort of vermin, as the convenient scapegoat for his shallow populism. He can paint refugees as job stealers, criminals and terrorists, irrespective of reality, and his cult will adore his venom. After every outrageous act that rebukes human decency, making it seem that being vile is the American way, he holds a Nuremberg style rally of the faithful, where he goads his supporters into ever crazier frenzy, and goads liberals and opponents into fiery denunciations, not unlike this one.
There has been some forethought going into this progression of calamity. At the same time as his henchman Jeff Sessions started prosecuting refugees for the heinous crime of seeking asylum – a mere misdemeanor under previous administrations, Republican and Democrat alike – Trump stopped funding legal support for refugees in managing their asylum cases. Even the US miitary is being brought into this, in the form of supplying prosecutors and concentration camps. He’s not at the point of exterminating immigrants, but for the moment, he is quite happy to rip their families apart because it’s red meat to his cult realty show audience. That audience lives in a make-believe world of its own, but can’t be discounted as voters. They are what makes Trump, who might otherwise be just a stupid and ill-bred buffoon, dangerous.
This is why liberals and reasonable people should not just shut up and suck it in under the mistaken impression that depriving Trump of the oxygen of attention will make him fizzle out. It won’t: without pushback, he’ll just shove the crap even further and harder. We should not loftily ignore him when he gluttonously goads reactions from supporters and opponents alike, just because publicity and notoriety are what he gorges on. I believe in calling out Trump for what he is: an odious and insidious little creep whose occupation of the White House has lost America the trust and affections of friends and allies, and given much succour and comfort to America’s enemies. And all in the cause of inflating Trump’s own ego. A spotlight needs to be held on the festering swamp that surrounds the White House like an impenetrable moat, if I may mix some metaphors.
There have been presidents in the past who were borderline unhinged – Nixon springs to mind as recent example – but Trump is the first post WWII president to give dog whistles to American neo-Nazis that it’s time to come out of their kennels, at the same time as he is blowing apart the basis of Western alliances, making America completely unreliable as a trading and defence partner, which must be music in Moscow and Beijing.
America can and likely will recover from Trump, but not without sustaining major and in some cases irreversible damage, especially to its international reputation as an advocate of human rights and reliable ally. Of course, America has always been a bit hypocritical about human rights, acting as if they belong only to those who support America’s policy aims, but when Trump started constructing his own American Gulag, a series of concentration camps for the children snatched from vermin refugees, that crossed a line even many – certainly not all – Americans on the far right found hard to ignore.
The phrase clear and present danger was coined in in 1919 by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote a decision regarding the legitimacy of government repression of dissenting speech during a crisis. It’s since been superseded by other Supreme Court decisions, but the phrase has an obvious application today. This is what the Trump Presidency is: a direct and unpredictable threat to America and the wider world. Even the occasional ostensibly promising initiative like the meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, is tainted by the obvious instability and untrustworthiness of the White House occupant. Nothing he does is open, honest, above board, or in the interests of anyone but himself.
Far be it from me to give Americans advice as to what to do under Trump’s looming tyranny. Well, maybe not all that far, so the least they can do to start repairing the tattered trust in Americans, if not in Trump, and recover their own self-esteem, is to take Congress away from him this coming November. It’s a toy this overgrown toddler doesn’t need, so a spot of emasculation is in order.