Tag Archives: enablers

The Country Is Burning And Our Sad Little “Emperor” Is Hiding

Our would-be “Emperor” has no clothes.

While the nation is being torn apart, those who are (nominally) in charge are playing “duck and cover.” As protestors massed in front of the White House, Trump turned off the lights, reminding the writer of the linked Raw Story of Halloween nights when neighbors who’ve run out of candy turn off their lights and pretend no one’s home.

Not exactly a profile in courage. Or leadership.

The would-be autocrat, the lover of military parades, the bullying issuer of bluster and threats spent an hour last Friday night in the White House underground bunker.  Multiple media outlets have shared leaks from GOP insiders who report that Trump is worried for his safety, and that he’s been frightened by the size and venom of the crowds.

Heather Cox Richardson shared a stunning–and telling– paragraph from an  AP story:

 As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden was out in the streets talking to protesters.

Raw Story described the act of turning off the White House lights as “a metaphor for President Donald Trump’s leadership,” and shared the sentiments of multiple Twitter users, who weighed in using the hashtag “Bunker Trump”–“stoke the hate, then run…how pathetic,” “Lights out at #WhiteHouse is a powerful symbol. Total lack of leadership from @realDonaldTrump.” And another tweet that was particularly on point:

Like all other strong men, Donald Trump is a coward and soft and terrified. Hiding in the White House and turning off the lights is all on brand. These are insecure, sad little men who build themselves up with the iconography of fascism to hide their fear.

It has become abundantly clear that Trump’s tweeted insults are examples of projection.( A recent, telling example: In a telephone conversation yesterday with a number of governors, Trump reportedly accused them of being weak.)

The Guardian called the President “the destroyer.”

Not even Trump’s harshest critics can blame him for a virus believed to have come from a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, nor for an attendant economic collapse, nor for four centuries of slavery, segregation, police brutality and racial injustice.

But they can, and do, point to how he made a bad situation so much worse. The story of Trump’s presidency was arguably always leading to this moment, with its toxic mix of weak moral leadership, racial divisiveness, crass and vulgar rhetoric and an erosion of norms, institutions and trust in traditional information sources. Taken together, these ingredients created a tinderbox poised to explode when crises came.

The Guardian–voicing the obvious–notes that Trump, who was “uniquely ill-qualified”for the Presidency, is ignoring crises he has no competence or desire to address, and meeting unrest in dozens of cities with authoritarian language: “thugs”, “vicious dogs” and “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

The nation waits in vain for a speech that might heal wounds, find a common sense of purpose and acknowledge the generational trauma of African Americans. That would require deep reading, cultural sensitivity and human empathy – none of which are known to be among personal attributes of Trump, who defines himself in opposition to Barack Obama.

A spokesperson for Black Lives Matter was quoted putting into words an opinion held by most thinking Americans since 2016:

He doesn’t have a clue. He’s a TV personality. He has a cult following that’s centred around this white power broker persona rooted in white supremacy and racism. Wherever he goes, he carries that role and that kind of persona, but ultimately right now with what we’re looking for in this country is real leadership. He is incapable of providing that because that’s not who he is.

A civil rights leader also quoted in the Guardian article noted that, while Trump didn’t create hostility and division, he incites it and thrives on it.” And in words that echo many of the comments that have been posted to this blog since 2016, he added:

The problem here is that we can focus this simply on Trump or we can also focus on all of those folks that have enabled Trump: the Republican leadership, the corporation that may make statements in support of this work but, on the other hand, do all sorts of things to prop up, support, donate to Donald Trump. You don’t get Trump and Trumpism without a whole host of institutions and individuals that support and enable him.”

We don’t just need a “blue wave.” We need a blue tsunami.


Bad Monkey

I’m writing this before the November 2d elections, knowing that it won’t see print until the election results are known. The timing won’t keep me from making a prediction: voters will reward sleazy tactics, outright liars and buffoons of all political persuasions.

That’s because the election season that will (mercifully) be over when you read this has been dominated by two parties—not Republicans and Democrats, but those I’ll dub “denialists” and “enablers.”

Denialists have a variety of motives, but essentially, they are fleeing the complexity and ambiguity of modern life. They span a spectrum from the outright delusional—the so-called “birthers” who have convinced themselves that President Obama was born in Kenya, and the one in five Americans who believe he’s a secret Muslim—to the various groups of creationists, climate change deniers and others who are suspicious of science and empirical evidence and looking for any opportunity to reject findings that do not confirm their own beliefs or serve their own interests. They include the revisionists who cling to carefully selected and edited versions of America’s history and constitution.

There have always been denialists on the fringes of American political life. What is different today is that they are being enabled by the emergence of a media landscape in which the time-honored function of genuine journalism—truth-telling—has been pushed aside in favor of what sells, and telling people what they want to hear is a sure winner.  The fact that paying talking heads to spout uninformed—occasionally deranged—opinions is so much less expensive than paying journalists to do actual reporting is just icing on the cake.

In this intellectually dishonest, morally distasteful environment, can we really be surprised that candidates of both parties have participated in a content-free, ugly exchange of untruths and half-truths?

In the run-up to November 2d, it has been impossible to avoid the hammering of negative, misleading ads. I am supposed to be outraged over the “government takeover” of Medicare (and too stupid to know that Medicare is a government program). I am supposed to believe that a candidate for prosecutor who once represented a defendant accused of child molestation is thereby disqualified for office (and to ignore the profoundly unethical conduct of a candidate who would make such a charge). Presumably, I am supposed to listen to the out-of-context charges and counter-charges, the grainy photographs and gloomy atmospherics and make my candidate selection based purely on my emotional response.

No wonder Jon Stewart held a rally for sanity. If the antics of this electoral season are any indication, it’s in short supply.

Actually, it was Stewart who came up with the best description of our current politics. In an interview, Terry Gross of NPR asked him about his focus on politicians and the media, and who was most culpable. Stewart said “Politicians are politicians. If you go to the zoo and monkeys are throwing feces, well—that’s what monkeys do. But you’d like to have the zoo-keeper there saying ‘Bad Monkey.’”