For Trump’s first address to Congress, we were treated to a perfectly choreographed bit of kabuki theatre—from its opening condemnation of “hate and evil in all its forms,” with its hand-on-heart sincerity to the lofty closing call to “embrace this Renewal of the American spirit.”
Every last detail was perfect—even down to the blue ties sported by Tweedledum and Tweedledee Mike Pence and Paul Ryan, who sat behind Trump with alternately smug and deeply empathic expressions against a backdrop of the red and white stripes of our flag. Yes, that’s not red but blue ties—signaling that Republicans are now the party of unity and reconciliation. Now that they own the government, they are willing to extend an olive branch across the aisle and work with the Democrats for the sake of our Great Nation. (And if the Dems don’t agree, who’s the spoiler?) What patriots!
Trump was at his best—the consummate con man. Like an abuser after a night of pummeling his wife on the kitchen floor, he returned with a beautiful smile and a bouquet of roses, saying “I love you. I really do.” He proved that his many years on The Apprentice served him well, i.e., he could read for an hour from a Teleprompter and exhibit impressive showmanship. Razzle dazzle ‘em Trump read his lines (“America is strong, America is proud, and America is free”) with just the right inflection to portray both supreme confidence in his bullshit and utmost sincerity about his scripted pose.
And what a message! An appeal for national unity married to pie-in-the-sky promises and continued threats against illegal immigrants veiled as the solution to all of America’s problems. Trump promised to bestow upon the American people everything from the best health insurance (while dismantling Obamacare); great, high-paying jobs (solving capitalism’s unemployment problem in one fell swoop); better bridges, airports, and tunnels; clean air and clean water (while legally dumping toxins into our rivers and streams); and an end to the drug epidemic (while decimating social services). Also, let’s not forget: crimeless city streets (after all those immigrant scumbags have been run out of town). Trump is draining the swamp, keeping out the bad hombres, constructing pipelines, cutting taxes (on the rich), and heaping money on the Military—which will “extinguish” ISIS for all time! Oh, and achieving world peace (while winning wars).
In short, a bravura performance climaxing in a full two-minute nationalist orgasm of deafening applause for the Navy Seal in Yemen who Lost His Life for Us, with a full-frontal portrait of his wife raising her eyes heavenward and mouthing “I love you” to her dead husband. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
I expect high ratings from everyone but the most staunchly grouchy party-spoiling Scrooges in the Democratic Party who want to hold onto their “trivial” grudges about creeping fascism in America. I expect encomiums from the liberal Press who will no doubt be taken in by such a switcheroo from Trump’s rantings, ravings, and tweetings and breathe a sigh of relief at how “Presidential” he sounds. And of course from a huge swath of the American people, who seem to love being sold a bill of goods that allows them to feel temporarily uplifted before they are smashed against the pavement again.
I have to admit, if I’m going to be fair and impartial, that false promises are not just the province of Trump or Republican Presidential candidates. Obama rode to victory on the promise of “Yes We Can!” and became for millions the black Knight in Shining Armor who would reverse two hundred and fifty years of slavery and racism in America, save the downtrodden, and ride America to glory on an injustice-smashing steed. Americans adore being courted by a smooth-talking Presidential suitor who whispers sweet rhetorical nothings in our ears. The tropes are standard appeals to freedom, national pride, a triumphalist view of America, and most of all, an uber-patriotic swoon in the direction of our Men in Uniform.
And we love false promises to continue for the duration of a President’s term. The bottom line in these promises is always the same: “Thou shalt want for nothing.” We will all get what we want when we want it and what we need when we need it. There will be a chicken in every pot and everyone will be happy. Yes, Trump actually promised happiness to every American! (While you’re at it, President Trump, do you think you can get me that 90-inch flat-screen TV I’ve been coveting?)
Who needs Prozac or whiskey or weed or heroin, for that matter, when we’ve got Trump—our Magic Man who tells us: “Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing and hope…Our children will grow up in a Nation of Miracles.” And the exalted shall attain the Kingdom of Heaven.
For that matter, who needs democracy, so long as we have Trump? Let’s just keep smoking what he’s selling and live in a pipedream haze in a virtual reality world.
Down here, where some reality still exists, what his speech amounted to was a brazenly manipulative appeal to xenophobia and nationalism that justifies his continued assaults against illegal immigrants, the Enemy within that is at fault for all our problems—unemployment, crime, poverty, you name it. This kind of scapegoating is part of his larger program to push a fascistic agenda on people with the hope that all the little folks will continue to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Ever the man of action, Trump has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create a new office called VOICE—Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement—to “give a voice to those who have been ignored by our media.” Yes folks, we need another agency (now that Trump is slimming down on agencies like the EPA) to oversee propaganda against the bad guys responsible for everything wrong with America. Trump pulled at heartstrings to great effect, showcasing four mourning members in the gallery whose son, father, and husbands were murdered by illegal immigrants and assuring them that he would never stop fighting for them.
Kick out those dirty Immigrants and you’ll be safer, richer, and happier. That’s the message.
“Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope. American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream. Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect.” Who wrote the lofty, soaring, symmetrical cadences of this horse manure? In reality, where Trump & Co. are concerned, denying the credibility of scientific research (on climate) is not too much to hope. Destroying the ecosystems of this world is not too big a nightmare. Lining the pockets of plutocrats is not too much to expect.
When the loft in “lofty” sentiment is punctured, what remains is this: a foreign Enemy we can hate and scapegoat for all our troubles when the promises fall short and we aren’t “happy.” And if the scapegoat-the-foreignor trope ceases to work, there’s always the list of Undesirables to choose from—black criminals, Muslim interlopers, Jewish “elites,” etc.—all excellently suited to rally the white Christian population that Trump’s Rasputin, Steve Bannon, is courting. In the meantime, expect the incidents of hate crimes against blacks, Muslims, and Jews to accelerate.
My fellow citizens, let’s hold onto our elevated American spirits, because we’re in for a bumpy ride. We look forward to being graced again soon with another Presidential address to fill our lives like air in a rising balloon.