Seemingly more interested in “ratings” than executing his agenda, Trump has had one of the most inauspicious starts to a Presidential term. His poll and favorability ratings are falling, his claims of a mandate misguided and his promises to the people who voted for him already in tatters.
There is a surreal element to a President being labelled a liar after only three days in the White House, not only by the New York Times but the Wall Street Journal, for continuing to claim that at least three million Americans voted illegally – all for Hillary Clinton, of course. But that was just the latest lie in the past five days, with the other about the size of the crowd that witnessed his inauguration (NYT). Both issues, along with his incessant bragging about the number of people cheering him on at the CIA this past weekend, all reinforce the notion that Trump will run the country as he did The Apprentice, based predominantly on ratings, and that the truth is an inconvenience he is not terribly interested in supporting.
Of course, if Trump only cared about his ratings and popularity, there would be little reason for fear. The problem is the very real policies he is already starting to pursue, including an agenda to undermine any attempts to deal with global climate change (The Free Thought Project), an isolationist cum imperialist foreign policy that hearkens back to the Monroe Doctrine (Salon), an anti-labor stance that appears set to hurt the average American worker even more than the 40-year attack on their wages and benefit (Morning Consult), and the realization of his anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, anti-LGBT campaign rhetoric (CNN).
Of course, with the Orwellian ramblings of his Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Raw Story) and aid Kellyanne Conway (Crooksandliars), who is much smarter than the media gives her credit for being, it might be hard to know what Trump is actually thinking, except for his continued addiction to twitter (Business Insider). Trump appears to live in a bubble that mixes his megalomaniacal nature with one of the most easily bruised egos of any leader in the world. Since his popularity is likely to decrease over time, who knows how he will confront the increasingly vociferous attacks of not only his enemies but former supporters.
The real problem, as I’ve written before, is the general direction he appears poised to take the country. He has selected an administration team made up of individuals who generally detest the very offices they will head, of millionaires and billionaires who consistently support corporate interests over those of American citizens and filled with far too many members of an alt-right that has just been fully mainstreamed, a mere six years after the Tea Party took them from the fringe to the seat of American political power. His agenda will be uber-nationalistic, pro-corporate, anti-environment, anti-Muslim, anti-feminist, anti-poor and working class, anti-environment, anti-science and anti-truth.
At its core, the administration appears to be fulfilling our worst fears – an acceleration of the march toward fascism. If that sounds extreme, think of how fascism rose in the past. It’s central tenets revolve around manipulating the truth to serve their interests, merging politics with the corporate power structure, uber-nationalism, scapegoating one or more groups that are already oppressed, controlling the media, using militaristic rhetoric (if not action), building coalitions around hate and attempting to quash all attempts at dissent. Fascism essentially begins with this last element, controlling the flow of information so that critique is eliminated through intimidation, control and, if necessary, violence. But we have seen each element of these tenets promoted by our new President and his most fervent supporters.
Only the future will tell whether his supporters continue to believe his bluster and misinformation campaign as they see their quality of life decline and the country itself fall into peril.