Thumbnail: Four years ago, on the occasion of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, I published the following blog post. Unfortunately, his term turned out to be even worse than I feared. Even in our most fearful thoughts, we never considered that he would mobilize white nationalists, anti-Semites, and fascists to come out from under their rocks and be given legitimacy by a U.S. president. We have now seen the fruits of flirting with these hate-filled groups in the vandalized Capitol building and devastated self-confidence in our national destiny.
President Donald Trump.*
Like a major league baseball player who used steroids to win, Mr. Trump will forever have an asterisk next to his name.
He benefited from the bulked-up help that came from the Russians who weaponized their hacking through Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, and DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0. That’s enough to merit the asterisk by any measure, and we haven’t even taken into account FBI Director James Comey’s unprecedented intrusion.
Mr. Trump’s lack of impulse control and his quick Twitter finger attacks anyone who deigns to oppose him, with the notable exception of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, on the contrary, is his cheerleader. The soothing words about this anti-democracy despot have given rise to the renewed use of the term, Manchurian Candidate. Mr. Trump’s deference to Putin is made even more graphic because he has shown no similar reluctance to cyberbully the Pope, Gold Star parents, ethnic and racial minorities, Miss Universe, Meryl Streep, the cast of Saturday Night Live and Hamilton, the Bush family, his Republican opponents in the presidential race, numerous journalists, civil rights legend John Lewis, and more than 225 others.
It’s made it even more ironic by the First Lady’s decision months ago to set her top priority as bringing an end to cyberbullying.
All in all, Trump’s insults often bring to mind a bromide like “he can dish it out but he sure can’t take it,” but there are others: He’ll lie when the truth will do him good. Never do a wrong thing to make a friend or to keep one. If he’ll do that to them, imagine what he’ll do to me. Thou shalt not bear false witness (not to mention thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife).
But the bromide that comes to our mind the most when we think of Donald Trump is this one: Karma is a bitch.
Or as the late banker and former Shelby County Commissioner Jesse Turner often said: What goes around comes around.
What he has put out in the world is returning to him, and that seems like poetic justice since we are hard-pressed to think of any positive enlightenment or emotions he has contributed to our national psyche in the past 18 months.
We Should Be Ashamed?
It’s why it is such an incongruity to listen to all the whining from the Trump team that people are trying to delegitimize the Trump presidency. After all, if he has been anything, he has been the delegitimizer-in-chief.
It’s not that he spent five years intently concentrated on the fabricated and racist birtherism campaign to delegitimize President Barack Obama, who leaves office with a favorability rating one-third higher than Mr. Trump.
More to the point, he’s also delegitimized the value of immigrants to the country’s economy and culture. He’s delegitimized religious diversity – from Mormons to Muslims. He’s delegitimized the stocks of various corporate targets. He’s delegitimized date rape with his bragging about groping.
He’s delegitimized national security interests with his fawning praise for Mr. Putin, his attacks on NATO, and his criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He’s delegitimized science with climate change denials like it’s all a Chinese fiction. He’s delegitimized the truth so often that fact checkers can’t correct all the lies. He’s delegitimized ethics and conflict of interest protections to the point that his administration already looks like the cast for a 21st century version Teapot Dome scandal. He delegitimized policy in favor of spectacle, even once referring to a campaign speech as his “performance.”
He’s delegitimized American intelligence agencies because he didn’t like their conclusions about the Russians putting their thumbs on the scale to get him elected, and without question, he’ll attack the investigations that have begun on that interference as well as contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
These days, he’s also concentrating on delegitimizing professional journalism and specific journalists with charges of “fake news” every time a credible news outlet reports on the latest outrage, percolating scandal, or unqualified appointee with a record of opposing the purpose of the agency they are nominated to lead. His petulant tweets backed up by reality television press conferences, when he bothers to have one, and his barefaced contempt for anyone who asks the kind of tough questions that our democracy demands is a slap to the founders who showed the importance of a free press in the First Amendment.
All of this is why we laugh when we hear Mr. Trump’s surrogates whining that people are trying to delegitimize his presidency. He did that himself. As for us, all of the comments and attacks mentioned above bothered us at the time and they still do. The peculiar notion that we should all become amnesiacs and join hands to sing Kumbaya doesn’t just normalize his behavior, it trivializes it.
In other words, his entire candidacy has been built on the premise of attacking the institutional norms and expectations that are fundamental to democracy itself. And surrounding himself with “yes men” (and women) and apologists who tell us the day after every Twitter rant what he really meant (and it’s often 180 degrees from what he said) insults our intelligence and short-term memory.
Perfecting The Big Lie
So, the president-elect and his minions believe that our concerns about Russian intrusion into our elections are purely attempts to tarnish what he calls a “massive landslide victory,” never mind that he lost by three million in the popular vote to Hillary Clinton and that 12 million voters preferred someone else and he takes office as the most unpopular president in modern times, less than half of President Obama’s approval rating was when he became president.
There are those today assailing U.S. Representative Steve Cohen for saying that his job now is to stop the Trump Administration. Of course, they said nothing when within days after President Obama’s election, Senator Mitch McConnell convened a group of obstructionists to block everything that the president proposed in hopes of preventing his reelection.
And while Trump supporters tell us that our angst and concerns are just sour grapes, we can’t help but wonder what they would have said if the shoe was on the other foot and it was Mr. Obama saying and doing what Mr. Trump has.
Stand For Cities
Because we care about cities, but most especially Memphis, we cannot now simply wish our new president the best, pray for his success, and mouth platitudes about all of us joining hands for his success.
Rather, it is our patriotic duty to oppose the damage that he and the Congressional majority can do with their agenda, which would make our citizens less healthy, our neighborhoods with less money to support their revitalization, our neighbors in need with a more frayed safety net, our sisters with less control over their own reproductive health, our gay friends without legal protections that are basic to other Americans, our families less safe with more and more guns and less and less common sense regulations, our climate more damaged, our middle class under even greater stress, our transportation more car-centric, and our workplaces with fewer protections for workers.
It is a world where only capitalism matters and skews the purpose of government to the point that it only exists to serve the interests of corporations rather than of people. This philosophy has already accounted for historic income disparities and a dwindling middle class, a trend line that will only increase if the majority’s agenda is passed.
It Begins Today
The evidence is right before our eyes. If Mr. Trump is draining the swamp, it doesn’t include Wall Street and Goldman Sachs and other moneyed interests. Also safely on the swamp’s shore in his cabinet are the billionaires and lowly millionaires who were appointed in the wake of the president’s promises to represent the working men and women of America.
Buyer’s remorse is already setting in with many voters who feel the victim of a bait and switch, but regardless of his declining support, he’s in the Oval Office for four years so batten down the hatches and take your stations, because we have a lot of work to do.
And it begins today.
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