Thursday, February 09, 2017

An American Disgrace: 19 Days of Madness

What a mad, magically horrifying carpet ride it’s been so far. Trump might very well be insane, is certainly showing himself to ill-prepared to lead the country, more interested in watching TV and his own “ratings” than actually helping the people who got him elected and is in the process of installing the most right-wing government in the history of the nation. What more general conclusions can we glean from the first 19 days of Trump-in-Charge?

With the Senate confirmation of Jeff Sessions (The Hill), it appears Conservative America is even more racist than it was in the 1986 and the Republicans plan to capitalize on racial animus among the white working class, and maybe middle class, to levels not fully seen since the Reagan years, if not earlier.

With the confirmation of Betsy Devos yesterday (NYT), they appear to be replacing NCLB with MCLB (many children left behind) and accelerating the insinuation of business interests and market forces into every aspect of our lives.

With the seven-nation immigration ban (Doc Cloud), they are scrapping the very heart of what America stands for - the melting pot moving toward the clam chowder pot – and fulfilling a promise to make America whiter, more Christian and less free. 

With the constant lying and ceaseless attacks on media, judges and really anyone who challenges their newfound power, including protesters in Minnesota (WP, NYT, BBC, Daily Kos), they are condemning not only the first amendment but democracy itself to the dustbin of history. As David Frum argued in the new issue of The Atlantic, the pieces are falling into place for a future American autocracy led by a reality-star billionaire whose sole interests appear to be power, wealth and popularity.

With many of his other cabinet picks, we are being pushed even beyond the radical laissez-faire governance of libertarian-leaning Tea Party apparatchik to one that is only interested in serving the interests of corporations - a further step toward a Russian-style kleptocracy (Vanity Fair). We have the potential to have a labor secretary who hates labor, an EPA head who hates the environment, an Energy secretary who doesn’t believe his department should exist, a head of HUD who knows nothing about housing or urban development and a Secretary of State who has consistently chosen his corporate interests over those of the country, to name but a few.

With the nominations of two architects of the 2008 financial crisis and recent executive order to set the stage for dismantling the Dodd-Frank financial oversight bill (Fortune), they appear to be poised to reward those who got us into that mess and set us on a path toward another financial meltdown. As a reminder, during the campaign, Trump said "I'm not going to let Wall Street get away with murder." But now, he's working to gut the very rules that prevent that from happening and, even more offensively, Trump signed a presidential memorandum last Friday that instructs the Labor Department to delay implementing an Obama-era rule that requires financial professionals who charge commissions to put their clients' best interests first when giving advice on retirement investments. God forbid!

With the sum total of the racist, sexist, Islamophobic, heteronormative, fact-challenged rhetoric and rulings of Trump and the Republican Congress, they are essentially attempting to mainstream the alt-right as a new white-nationalist movement led by the white working class, who will not benefit under this administration's policies, but can express their rage openly and violently. They are attempting to instill fear and hate as the path away from democracy and toward a permanent corporate state.

But that's not it. The Republican-led Congress are poised to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission (Tech Crunch), the very commission charged with protecting voting machines from hacking, by say Russians ... or, I don't know,  the GOP itself. They have already made corporate and individual money easier to siphon to candidates through Citizens United and facilitated voter suppression by stripping the Voting Rights Act of most of its power. Now they are saying "hack us, I dare you." With Session in charge of the Justice Department, gerrymandering set to become even more pronounced with their majority control of state governance, voter suppression on the rise and a firm commitment to avoiding a repeat of the 2012 Presidential Election, where Obama won largely by getting out the minority vote, they can continue to repeat results like 2016 – where Democrats won the majority of votes for the presidency, the Senate and Congress, but lost all three.

These are dangerous times indeed and those who voted for Trump must now answer for the choice they made, and those who didn’t vote at all, for the choice they failed to make. Yet it must be remembered in these dark times, that it was less than one in four Americans who selected these men to lead us and that many more have taken to the streets, the air waves and other channels of dissent to again have their voices heard and their will enacted. The cornerstone of a representative democracy is that the representatives in fact represent the interests of those who have chosen them to rule, a tenet lost in the current, confused maelstrom in which we find ourselves.

P.S. A few other tidbits are worth at least touching on, as they provided further insight into our Commander-and-Thief. Trump broke his own promise of less than a month ago by tweeting an attack on Nordstrom for dropping his daughter's line (NYT), right after a defense briefing he might want to pay attention to after the debacle that was his failed offensive in Yemen (Yahoo). This was a day after he called his defense secretary, of all people, at 3 a.m. to ask an economics question (on a strong versus weak dollar) one assumed he would know, given he made the argument that China has been manipulating our currency for years a centerpiece of his campaign (The Atlantic). And, finally, in maybe the most bizarre of stories within the spectacle-infused, alternate-reality world we have inhabited for 19 days, the USDA quietly took down all of its online information on animal abuse, including puppy breeders that mistreat their dogs (WP). Yeah, why should those upstanding Americans be harassed by government officials … or future dog owners have any sense of where the animals they care for came from?

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