Wayne Schow

H. Wayne Schow

From the appearance of the spectators as the TV camera panned over the excited stadium crowd, I guessed I was watching a “Monster Trucks” spectacle. But then I recognized the red MAGA ball caps, and I could hear the unison chanting of “Lock her up! Lock her up!” Yep, there at the podium was the smirking inciter-in-chief — and I realized I was accidentally watching a Trump rally.

It was that recent evening in Florida when he announced officially the kickoff of his 2020 re-election campaign. Really? He’s never been out of campaign mode since he was inaugurated, for he obviously likes adulation rallies and tweeting more than he likes the actual work of governing — which requires more than serving up red-meat platitudes to his base.

The rally was like an old-time religious camp meeting. How can one explain the fervored support of these blue-collar folks for the man who in 2016 made such grandiose promises to be their champion, the Donald Trump who has since done very little for working class Americans even while lining the pockets of big corporations and rich persons like himself. The economy may be doing fine by some measures, but who’s reaping the benefits? By and large, not the people wearing red MAGA caps. You would think that these fawning crowds would instead be shaking their fists angrily and demanding his resignation. Go figure!

Chalk it up to the “cult of personality,” I guess. Chalk it up to the susceptibility of these angry folks to Trump’s unending string of blatant lies and distortions, and to the propagandistic right-wing media which reinforce them. “Black is white; down is up!” Orwell’s “1984” is looking more and more recognizable when so many citizens apparently do not care if their president’s word can be trusted.

Trump claims he has gotten more done than any president in our history. That is true only on the negative side of the ledger. He insisted he’d “drain the swamp”: WRONG METAPHOR! What he has brought is a short-sighted “wrecking ball” to undo numerous wise protections placed for the benefit of our citizens, our nation, and our Earth.

Consider a sampler of what the Trump presidency has given us:

n His tax law reform? Do you care that it increases income inequality even more and puts our burgeoning national debt ON STEROIDS?

n His determination to pack the federal judiciary with arch-conservative judges? Do you care that an unbalanced, politicized judiciary increasingly undermines confidence in even-handed justice.

n His amateurish, ill-conceived tariff trade wars? Trump doesn’t acknowledge that those tariffs are actually being assessed against American consumers and producers.

n His refusal to recognize global warming, his unilateral withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, and his rolling back numerous environmental protections? It’s a preference for short term indulgence — with its multiple dangers to our security — over long term responsibility. It’s Esau’s “mess of pottage.”

Meanwhile, for lack of presidential leadership, many of our nation’s most pressing domestic problems go unaddressed because Trump has insufficient vision, lacks interest in details, or is otherwise distracted.

For all his claims to be a great dealmaker, he has proven an unmitigated failure at negotiation because his trusted tools are simply bluster, bluffing, bullying, unpredictability, and name-calling coupled with insincere flattery. His self-proclaimed “great brain” oversimplies, lacks subtlety, and does not understand political compromise.

Here are some big issues on which Trump is MIA: Comprehensive Immigration reform (not really interested; he sees nothing beyond building physical barriers and cruelly exploiting human suffering for political advantage); global warming (he remains in complete denial, in defiance of science); infrastructure renewal (he petulantly refuses to negotiate with Congress); health care reform (he promised better and cheaper, but hasn’t a plan, never had, and is batting close to zero); curtailing the influence of big money and special interests on our politics (surprise — he likes the status quo); gun control (mass murders continue almost weekly, but Trump — in the pocket of the NRA — does nothing).

Under Trump our foreign relations are a shambles. He has weakened our ability to lead international institutions that benefit both ourselves and others. He has abandoned important international agreements. He has insulted a number of our closest allies and given them ample reason to distrust us. At the same time he has sucked up to our enemies — Russia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. Their dictators play on his personal vanity like a fiddle. With Iran, his ham-handed moves have brought us to the brink of military hostilities. God help us. Over and over, his behavior and his rhetoric are an embarrassment to us.

Meanwhile the White House and the Cabinet constantly hover between organizational incompetence and corruption. A record number of Trump’s appointees have departed voluntarily because they cannot respect his modus operandi — or they have been fired or indicted. The actions of more than a few of his Cabinet appointees have been shamelessly corrupt. The White House revolving door is, it seems, spinning. Very many positions in his administration have yet to be filled or vacancies replaced; the best candidates are, not surprisingly, often unwilling to work for him.

If only governing incompetence and personal distraction were the worst of it —but they aren’t. In a less immediately obvious way his actions pose an even greater danger to the nation. With no justification he has sought repeatedly to undermine the confidence of Americans in institutions and norms that are foundational to our democracy — the free press, the intelligence community, the judiciary. In his demagogic rhetoric he is mean-spirited, vindictive. He demonizes the “other,” as if he represents not all Americans but only his party and particularly his political base. He practices the politics of fear and division, further dividing our house against itself.

He has a pathological contempt for truth and accuracy. He is ignorant of fact and history.

Not only does he display an utter lack of integrity in his affairs public and private. He has little, if any, respect for the rule of law, and he will use any expedient means, however reprehensible, to hide his shady past. The Mueller Report documents multiple instances in which he has attempted to obstruct justice, for which, save for the fact he is a sitting president, he would be indicted. His current strenuous efforts to withhold damning information (including his financial records, his tax returns, bank dealings) from Congressional oversight in defiance of the Constitution are compelling circumstantial evidence of criminal conduct.

In his pursuit of the “imperial presidency,” he has cowed even the majority of the members of Congress from his own party, representatives supposedly “of the people,” who dare not speak out in opposition to or condemnation of him.

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post makes this summary assessment: Since his inauguration Trump has compiled a woeful record of cruelty, incompetence, fraudulence, greed, racism, criminality, vulgarity, and buffoonery — hoping his supporters don’t notice.

Notwithstanding what many Americans cavalierly assume, democracy — including our own — is fragile. It requires a fundamental belief and confidence on the part of the citizenry in the integrity of the government, in its balance of powers, in the reliability of its established norms. With an erratic, unprincipled President who clearly is determined to place himself above the law, that confidence is now dangerously eroding — and the very health of our democracy is threatened.

Given the greater cost, can anyone seriously suggest that this performance is worthy of a second term (let alone a “third term,” which the braggart-in-chief is lately demogogically promoting)?

Trump was elected not alone by those who angrily wanted a “wrecking ball” but by many who, with serious reservations, regarded him as the least undesirable of two undesirables. They held their noses, looked away, and cast their ballot for him. Those same voters may well hold the key to the outcome in 2020. Knowing what they know now about him, and if they genuinely care about the health of American democracy and its values, how could they possibly compromise their principles, vote for him yet again, and retain their self-respect?

But this cursory review of Trump and his presidency is but prelude to the main point of this reflection. The questions with which I began—to whom should they now be directed?

We are now fully engaged in a new presidential election cycle (this is obscenely early) much of this time and attention should be directed toward governing. There is much discussion of who will win in 2020. Can Trump do it again? Amazing that this should even now be being considered. Look at the disaster outlined above.

The question now is, when those voters who supported Trump go back into the voting booth, will they ask themselves, how much do I value democracy, the constitution, the integrity of our institutions; before they pull the lever for Trump, will they ask themselves, “Have I no honor, have I no shame?” The answer ought to be a no brainer. If not, woe unto the democratic America we have known.

Corruption within the administration, the cabinet.

Division

Trade bullying

Flawed Economic policy

I could go on.

But at least as bad is the personal corruption of the man, Mueller Report, tax forms emoluments and personal profiting

Fanning the flames of division, xenophobia, hatred of the other

Attacks on important democratic institutions, the press, the judiciary and intel communities, his flaunting of the constitution and congressional oversight. Changing the judiciary.

His inability to consider the interests of the country as a whole, only of himself pure unadulterated selfishness and narcissism.

He is a threat to democracy, his imperialist ambitions (they’ll beg me to serve a third term) He promised to “drain the swamp,” but he has done much more damage than good.

H. Wayne Schow, a native Idahoan, is a professor of English emeritus at Idaho State University. Schow lives in Pocatello.