Jan 22

A Liberal’s Guide to Giving Trump a Chance


Right-wingers want liberals and centrists to give Trump a chance. They repeatedly tell us to give the guy a break. They say we’ve no idea what he will do as president, and that’s almost right. During his campaign, he was artfully vague about how he would do anything. Nonetheless, we already know plenty about him. Do we need to learn more than this to decide?

  • The kind of Cabinet and staff Trump has chosen. Trump’s vice-president pick was a cultural extremist as governor. He was responsible for blocking women’s health benefits and LGBTQ rights at every corner. One of Trump’s first staff selections was someone who described his earlier enterprise as “providing a platform for the Alt Right.” (If you’ve been living in a cave, Alt Right is White Supremacists 2.0.) From there, it went straight downhill. His current Cabinet is made up of fairly extreme Right-wingers and billionaires. There has been no nod in these selections toward the majority of Americans who don’t consider themselves either Right Wing or billionaires. And before the Even Steven Right goes crazy…America is not predominantly Left Wing either. But when you ignore the combined number of centrists and liberals, you’ve ignored a large percentage of the country. That’s equivalent to giving about 60% or more of the country the finger.
  • Trump’s staff and Cabinet part 2. Trump has picked people to head government departments who have been radically antagonistic toward the same departments prior to their appointments. Many of these departments and their consequent regulatory powers are designed to protect the quality of life for the Americans. Perry, during his famous debate fumble, said he wanted to get rid of the Energy Department. Now, he’s up for head of the Energy Department. There is a list of similar candidates with similar disdain for the departments they are heading. I’m not ready to have regulations and agencies that protect our quality of life neutered. I’m guessing most Americans aren’t either when they think about it. Another middle finger to the majority.
  • Campaign rhetoric: We’re told when Trump says monumentally stupid or unconstitutional things that we liberals take him too seriously and literally. Fine. So what’s the opposite of that? He has no gravitas and he speaks only symbolically or suggestively? When does Trump mean it, and when doesn’t he? Either he wants to desecrate the First Amendment by registering Muslims or he doesn’t. With something that important and potentially shameful, there’s little room to fuck around with word games. We need a leader, and we want a leader. But we can number the things candidate Trump said that Americans should be ashamed to accept in the hundreds. I won’t follow anybody where that’s going.
  • Campaign rhetoric part 2. Trump supporters generally tell us it was the heat of the campaign that forced him to make his more despicable statements. But isn’t the campaign really an audition or a job interview? Isn’t that where you show your best side, not your worst? We accuse most candidates of sugar-coating their less than admirable qualities but, suddenly, a politician appears who is crude, discriminatory and lies consistently. We’re supposed to forget all that, and transition into a new, improved Trump after the inauguration? (Trump’s first day as president was filled with petty arguments over crowd size at the Inaugural ceremony the day before. To quote his 13-year-old girl-like tweets: #sad.)
  • Campaign rhetoric part 3. We’re supposed to admire Trump for boldly speaking his mind. A madman screaming on a street corner boldly speaks his mind as well. Enough said.
  • Trump the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow… except when he’s gaslighting. Trump isn’t different from the steaming pile he was on the campaign trail, but he does love a good gaslight. For example, recently he implied horrible things about the CIA, that included at tweet hinting that they were a vestige of Nazi Germany. The tweet’s available for the public’s viewing. At the CIA yesterday, he said he never had a problem with the CIA, and that the feud was the product of the dishonest media. That’s gaslighting: the con man’s game that assumes people are too lazy to remember or to check the facts. Unlike Ingrid Bergman in the movie “Gaslight”, we know we’re not crazy.
  • Trump tries to psychologically separate the people from the free press: The first step of an authoritarian government is usually to shut down the free press. That doesn’t necessarily mean boarding up the front door of The Times. It can also mean making the press a convenient scapegoat so that many people no longer look for information from anyone not connected to Trump. Whether it’s his remarkably thin skin or something more devious, Trump cannot stop himself from attacking the press unless they say the things he wants to hear. It’s always a matter of convenience. Does it support his propaganda or are they automatically labeled “the dishonest press?” This isn’t just about PR. It’s about the flow of information, the freedom of opinion and the right to dissent.
  • Trump’s authoritarian, messianic complex. I believe in America. The document that establishes the country starts, “We, the people…” Trump gave good lip service to that right after the election and in a tiny part of his inaugural speech. But nothing indicates that he is willing to compromise or really negotiate with anyone who doesn’t fall in line behind him. He will steamroll over anyone who disagrees with ways he thinks America will be great again. At the RNC convention, it sounded very much like he was telling us only he could save us. I liked “Stronger together” better. He’s got a definite authoritarian flair, a quality struggling people too often see as attractive – until their democratic rights and their quality of life end up in the dumpster. Trump draws an intensely dark and outrageously inaccurate picture of America. (Listen to him describe the “typical” lives of black Americans.) But dictators need a morass, real or contrived, to save unwitting followers from. Trump creates the picture a particularly ugly one. Those who don’t seek information independently (see free press above) will believe it and seek Trump’s authoritarian salvation.

I’m sure I missed a lot, but I think this alone is plenty. Trump will inevitably carry out some things. But at what cost? There’s a necessary tokenism in doing the right thing occasionally. It’s reassuring to those who need to believe. But we’ve got to be “big picture” thinkers or we’re going to be in trouble. The Trump “big picture” doesn’t look good.


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