Somebody ought to write a self-help book for Republican politicians called “How to Profit from the Coming Trump Apocalypse.” Although, come to think of it, they’re doing pretty well at that already.
The newspapers have been filled with stories of Trump’s tense relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And Trump’s escalating war of words with North Korea is making everyone else tense, as the planet learns more about the man with the nuclear codes.
A Google search for the words “Trump unstable” yields more than 10 million hits. A search on “Trump” and “mental health” returns more than 28 million results, many of them reviews of a new book entitled “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.”
Spoiler alert: They’re worried. So are the Trump allies who were interviewed without attribution for this genuinely frightening Vanity Fair article.
But, while the world obsesses about the president’s personality, few people are talking about the systemic failures of democracy that made him president in the first place. And while we’re distracted by Trump’s theatricality, Republicans in Congress are busy robbing working Americans of their scant remaining resources.
Trump may have been more truthful than he intended when he finally held a joint press appearance with McConnell, in an awkwardly executed attempt to alleviate the rumors about their fractured relationship.
“We are fighting for the same thing,” Trump told the New York Times, speaking about himself and McConnell. “We are fighting for lower taxes, big tax cuts, the biggest tax cuts in the history of our nation.”
While everyone’s watching the President Trump Show – an almost irresistible blend of Shakespearean high drama, silent-movie villainy, and crude vaudevillian double entendres – his Republican co-conspirators on the Hill are busy robbing the audience blind. The pickpockets at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater worked the same kind of racket: rip ’em off while they’re watching the performance.
As a Kentucky journalist with a long-term relationship to Mitch McConnell told the Times, Trump is “all about the show... about getting good ratings for Donald Trump,” while “McConnell has never been about the show. He’s all about business.”
Sounds like a pretty effective partnership. So far, it’s working. On Tuesday, McConnell’s Republican majority advanced a budget plan that included massive cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act to pave the way for massive tax cuts that to benefit corporations and wealthy individuals.
Senate Republicans also moved on Tuesday to allow oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a move that would rob the American people of a shared resource in order to further enrich the party’s fossil-fuel patrons. On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan’s Republicans have been holding children’s health insurance hostage by demanding that it be funded with cuts to Medicare and programs for mothers and children in need.
Meanwhile, Trump hit the hold button on his long-running performance long enough to unveil the outline of a tax plan that pairs cuts to programs for working people with massive giveaways to corporations and the wealthy.
All of which raises the question: If Trump and his fellow Republicans are harming so many Americans, how did they get in office in the first place? During the 2016 election, large majorities of voters considered Trump “risky,” dishonest, and temperamentally unsuited to the job. So how, exactly, did he become president?
Nonvoters are a much larger group than either voting Republicans or voting Democrats, reflecting broad dissatisfaction with available choices. Democrats have failed to convince enough voters that they can bring about needed change. The GOP’s been gerrymandering, race baiting (albeit more subtly conducted than Trump’s), and suppressing votes for decades.
Unless something changes, Republicans could hang on to power indefinitely. That would allow them to stack the judiciary with corrupt ideologues at all levels, undermine our remaining democratic processes, and continue ransacking the American majority on behalf of the wealthy.
The threat of war is very real, of course, although South Koreans are far more likely to suffer horrific losses if it breaks out than Americans are. But Trump, unstable as he is, is not an aberration in today’s political system. He’s a reflection of it. Our political process was broken before he came along. It will still be broken after he’s gone, unless something is done to change it.
Trump must be opposed, just as Ryan, McConnell, and Vice President Mike Pence must be opposed. But so must the system that gave them power. Unless it’s changed, it may produce even more terrifying leaders in the years to come.