It is no secret I had grave concerns about the suitability of Donald J Trump. Now I’m having trouble sleeping at night. I’d like to pull together several articles I read today. Each paints a concerning picture in its own right. Together, they almost spell Armageddon. I’ve always been concerned about not what is happening today, but where it is leading. This is not just some small country having a few political issues. This is one of most powerful countries in the world – the outcome affects us all, especially other democracies. We’ve already seen our own government embrace Trump’s immigration bans.
The first is an article by Jennifer Wilson on this site, Trump’s Chief Strategist: I want to bring everything crashing down.
The relationship between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon is an unholy alliance, in which the shared goal is the destruction of institutions, and the undermining of the authority of traditional agents of governance and administration in the US.
There is a Twitter hashtag of #PresidentBannon indicating he is seen as the power behind the throne. He may have more difficulty than he thinks, trying to use Trump for his own agenda, as we shall see later in this article. That aside, he is a nasty piece of work with a lot of power as Wilson evidences.
The second article, How to Build an Autocracy, is written by David Frum, who was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush during 2001–02. Not exactly, one suspects, a man wearing a democratic button.
First Frum paints the future.
The business community learned its lesson early. “You work for me, you don’t criticize me,” the president was reported to have told one major federal contractor, after knocking billions off his company’s stock-market valuation with an angry tweet. Wise business leaders take care to credit Trump’s personal leadership for any good news, and to avoid saying anything that might displease the president or his family.
The media have grown noticeably more friendly to Trump as well. The proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner was delayed for more than a year, during which Time Warner’s CNN unit worked ever harder to meet Trump’s definition of fairness. Under the agreement that settled the Department of Justice’s antitrust complaint against Amazon, the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has divested himself of The Washington Post. The paper’s new owner—an investor group based in Slovakia—has closed the printed edition and refocused the paper on municipal politics and lifestyle coverage.
Then he goes on to look at the global situation, citing a “democratic recession” – democracies are in decline.
The exercise of political power is different today than it was then—but perhaps not so different as we might imagine. Larry Diamond, a sociologist at Stanford, has described the past decade as a period of “democratic recession.” Worldwide, the number of democratic states has diminished. Within many of the remaining democracies, the quality of governance has deteriorated.
What has happened in Hungary since 2010 offers an example—and a blueprint for would-be strongmen. Hungary is a member state of the European Union and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. It has elections and uncensored internet. Yet Hungary is ceasing to be a free country.
He then looks at Trump’s relationship with the congressional Republicans.
Trump has scant interest in congressional Republicans’ ideas, does not share their ideology, and cares little for their fate. He can—and would—break faith with them in an instant to further his own interests. Yet here they are, on the verge of achieving everything they have hoped to achieve for years, if not decades. They owe this chance solely to Trump’s ability to deliver a crucial margin of votes in a handful of states—Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—which has provided a party that cannot win the national popular vote a fleeting opportunity to act as a decisive national majority. The greatest risk to all their projects and plans is the very same X factor that gave them their opportunity: Donald Trump, and his famously erratic personality. What excites Trump is his approval rating, his wealth, his power. The day could come when those ends would be better served by jettisoning the institutional Republican Party in favor of an ad hoc populist coalition, joining nationalism to generous social spending—a mix that’s worked well for authoritarians in places like Poland. Who doubts Trump would do it? Not Paul Ryan. Not Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. For the first time since the administration of John Tyler in the 1840s, a majority in Congress must worry about their president defecting from them rather than the other way around.
It is a long article, but well worth reading in full.
Jane Caro has written The Virtual Reformation. Caro looks at why we are where we are.
Social researcher Hugh Mackay has dubbed our times an ‘Age of Anxiety’. All the old certainties have been turned upside down and the only thing that we are told we can rely on is an ever-increasing pace of change.
To a jittery population that is cold comfort. In our existential dread we thrash about for people to blame: the left, the right, Muslims, refugees, feminists, believers, unbelievers, terrorists and that reliable old omnibus – political correctness. The one thing we all agree on is that the future looks alarming and unpredictable. We are, we believe, in uncharted waters.
But perhaps that is not so. Perhaps human beings have been through something like this before.
Final words of warning from Andrés Miguel Rondón, In Venezuela, we couldn’t stop Chávez. Don’t make the same mistakes we did.
The recipe for populism is universal. Find a wound common to many, find someone to blame for it, and make up a good story to tell. Mix it all together. Tell the wounded you know how they feel. That you found the bad guys. Label them: the minorities, the politicians, the businessmen. Caricature them. As vermin, evil masterminds, haters and losers, you name it. Then paint yourself as the savior. Capture the people’s imagination. Forget about policies and plans, just enrapture them with a tale. One that starts with anger and ends in vengeance. A vengeance they can participate in.
That’s how it becomes a movement. There’s something soothing in all that anger. Populism is built on the irresistible allure of simplicity. The narcotic of the simple answer to an intractable question. The problem is now made simple.
If we look at all those threads, we can see the interweaving. For days I had been thinking of Mugabe and seeing Trump as the Western version. Then I read about Chávez.
As Frum highlights in his article, it is not now we need to worry about – it is in four, five, six years time. Unless we stop it now. Unless the American people stop it NOW.
There is a another article which is the match that will light the flames: in these days of fake news, however, I am wary. While the article is reported in many places, I can’t find it on a mainstream website such as Washington Post – but then, does that mean anything these days?
John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist who taught psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, minces as few words as the president in his professional assessment of Trump.
“Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president,” says Gartner, author of “In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography.” Trump, Gartner says, has “malignant narcissism,” which is different from narcissistic personality disorder and which is incurable.
The diagnosis is particularly worrying due to the behaviours of the patient. Behaviours that benefit only themselves – at any cost. Yes, Gartner broke his professional code to speak out, because he believes people need to know.
Robert Kuttner writes in The Huffington Post of The Inevitability Of Impeachment.
Only with his lunatic effort to selectively ban refugees (but not from terrorist-sending countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt where Trump has business interests) has Trump discovered that the American system has courts. It has courts. Imagine that.
The more unhinged he becomes, the less will conservative judges be the toadies to ordinary Republican policies that they too often have been. Anybody want to wager that the Supreme Court will be Trump’s whore?
In the past week, Republicans from Mitch McConnell on down have tripped over each other rejecting his view of Putin. They have ridiculed his screwball claim of massive voter fraud.
I believe this was written BEFORE the President fired his acting attorney general. I’m waiting for him to try to fire a judge, which he is not empowered to do.
We have every reason to be concerned. We also need to heed the lessons available to us and ensure this doesn’t happen in Australia.
— Kiera (@KieraGorden) February 1, 2017