Even in the Age of Trump we’re seeing limits to the Far Right’s exercise of unchecked power. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the House Republicans squared up what they thought was going to be a slam dunk, only to suffer an ignominious defeat when their attempt to repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act failed, which had been their top priority for the past seven years.
The fiasco showed that although the Republican Right has turned the volume nob to eleven on its shrill assault on public life, their in-your-face agenda has pulled away the curtain revealing them all, including Trump, not only as liars and public policy nihilists, but also as paper tigers.
Trump’s appointments of fossil fuel industry hacks to key environmental positions reveals that his administration and the Republican Congress who confirmed these people don’t care much for the Environmental Protection Agency. They also don’t like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Meals on Wheels, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the FDA, and just about every other federal program that might help people who are not already millionaires.
They also really, really don’t like women having control over their own bodies. And they don’t accept the scientific evidence for human caused climate change.
But we know they don’t love anything more than unbridled capitalism, their own personal enrichment, their rising stock portfolios and profits for their enterprises and big campaign donors.
Daily, our senses are attacked and our intelligence insulted.
Last week White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said:
‘I think one of the really interesting things that people are going to see today – and I think it’s something that should be celebrated – is that the president has brought a lot of people into this administration, and this White House in particular, who have been very blessed and very successful.’ He noted that the officials ‘have given up a lot to come into government by setting aside a lot of assets.’ (Quoted in The New York Times, April 1, 2017, p. A15)
So the Corporatists who have yoked the destiny of this nation to a weirdo class warfare agenda that’s against clean water, clean air, health care for the poor, endangered species, women’s rights, human rights, caring and sharing and just about anything else that is decent and good – they’re the ones who are “blessed” and making all the sacrifices?
Spicer’s riff on the “blessed” nature of the billionaires and millionaires who comprise the richest cabinet in U.S. history reminds me of the views put forth by the 19th Century minister and graduate of Yale Law School Russell Conwell, who went around the nation in the 1880s and 1890s giving a speech titled “Acres of Diamonds”:
I say that you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich. . . . The men who get rich may be the most honest men you find in the community. Let me say here clearly . . . ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men of America are honest. That’s why they are rich. That is why they are trusted with money. That is why they carry great enterprises and find plenty of people to work with them. It is because they are honest men. . . I sympathize with the poor, but the number of poor who are to be sympathized with is very small. To sympathize with a man whom God has punished for his sins . . . is to do wrong. . . . . let us remember there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings. . . (Quoted in Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 1980, p. 256)
In the 21st Century, with income and wealth inequality in the United States now exceeding Gilded Age levels and with a powerful corporate oligarchy bent on twisting representative democracy to serve the narrow interests of a tiny ruling clique, we see entering the discourse a shitty ideological sequel to 19th Century avarice that glorifies greed and capitalist accumulation as “blessed” and virtuous, while denigrating working people of all stations.
But this illusion only rests upon the ruling elite’s ability to appear as a juggernaut, ruthless in deed and bolstered by the apparatus of state power.
Trump denounces The New York Times and The Washington Post as “fake news,” regurgitates falsehoods from his Breitbart propaganda ministry about being “wiretapped” as a grand distraction from his campaign’s collusion with foreign powers. He sends out blatant liars and propagandists like Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer to gaslight the public.
Representative Devin Nunes of California will be forever remembered as the man who blew up the House Intelligence Committee in the name of protecting Trump and his cohort of charlatans and grifters. His gambit of quashing the hearings and running to the White House – which has precipitated a major Constitutional crisis with the total breakdown of the Legislative branch’s duty to oversee the Executive – will likely work in the short term. But such blatant posturing can only fail in the long run as more Americans wake up to the dangers this illegitimate presidency as foisted upon the nation and the world.
The ascendancy of the Far Right in this country, with or without colluding with a foreign power, if nothing else has brought clarity to the depth and danger of the crisis we now face. The elites have failed us so completely to allow this catastrophe to happen. It is now our job to clean up the mess. There are literally few adults anymore in the halls of power.
Trump and Stephen K. Bannon have peppered into key slots throughout the government loyalists and extremists. Some dude named Frank Wuco, an anti-Muslim fanatic known for bizarre conspiracy theories, is now a “senior adviser” at the Department of Homeland Security. Another unqualified ideologue named Danny Tiso is a “special assistant” at the Department of Labor, whose only qualification is that he was a Trump campaign worker in New Hampshire who graduated high school two years ago. At the EPA we find Don Benton from Clark County Washington, who Trump appointed as a “senior adviser” to the agency. The Seattle Times reported that Benton has had “an almost perfect track record of failure and interpersonal conflict, often resulting in legal or disciplinary action, at every public position he’s held.” (Quoted in The New York Times, April 1, 2017, p. A22)
So these are the kinds of people to whom the elites in this country have turned over the levers of power.
The only silver lining to this terrible tragedy is that (with a little luck) the sheer incompetence of Trump and his cronies will explode into a million fiascos each requiring resources and attention that distracts Stephen K. Bannon and other “strategists” long enough to interfere fatally with their over-reaching nefarious plans for the country.