Electing the Boogieman

Donald Trump, by Gage Skidmore
Photo by Gage Skidmore. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/


Politics in the US thrives on political theater to keep the population confused and away from the voting booth and no theatrical act is more worn and overworked than erecting a boogieman to scare the electorate. We’ve all seen it time and again, both parties run candidates for whom the voters have no enthusiasm, then pit their bases against one another with the admonition, “We can’t let him/her win!” Nowhere was this more evident than the 2016 presidential race, which cast as it’s villain Donald Trump, and presented case after case that citizens had a civic duty to keep him away from the White House. In the end, however, this sad trope from business-as-usual politicians failed, and now Trump is the president-elect.

Trump, himself the son of a wealthy real estate magnate, is a billionaire real estate developer, who’s lived and worked in New York City his entire life, and who resides in the gilded penthouse suite of a building that bears his name. During the election, he promoted himself as a tough leader who understands the struggles of the working class, and his supporters, most of whom cannot even imagine the type of wealth he routinely takes for granted, enthusiastically followed his every word. They packed his rallies; they waved his banners; they beat up protesters and threatened the press; they shelled out much of their ever-dwindling resources buying his merchandise, all in the belief they’d found their true champion. We can only imagine what their reactions will be when they wake up to the reality of the massive bill of goods they’ve been sold. At best, Trump may attempt to carry out some of the promises that brought his rabid supporters out to rallies, but since many violate the Constitution he’ll be sworn to uphold as president, it’s highly unlikely that most will get more than lip service as his administration rushes to make his wealthy cronies more so, all at the expense of working families he exploited for votes.

Electing Trump has, so far, managed to keep a lid on the violent backlash he was inciting among his supporters in the waning days of the campaign in the event he did not prevail, but it has opened up a strain of hostility among certain members of society, who now feel untethered in expressing their rage at segments of the population they mistakenly blame for their troubles. Ironically, they have traditionally supported the very forces most responsible for the problems at the root of their distress, unregulated corporations, corrupt politicians looking to curry favor with them, and greedy corporate moguls out to pick the resources of this country clean for their sole benefit. The greatest symbol of this just happens to be the same man who’ll be sworn in as our 45th president in January.

Those who regard the President-elect as a self-made man disregard the large fortune he inherited from his family, when he took over his father’s business. While other members of his generation were just starting to suffer the effects of PTSD and other ailments as a result of the war in Vietnam, he was partying at Studio 54 with the likes of Andy Warhol and Liza Minelli. His first major challenge as a journeyman real estate executive under his father was fighting a discrimination claim by residents of his family’s properties. His business practices throughout have been extremely cutthroat — workers and small business owners who so enthusiastically supported him for president are just the sort of workers and partners most likely to be stiffed when one of his business ventures goes belly up and he has to declare bankruptcy.

One thing has always been consistent about elections and that is that once someone has been chosen as president, that person begins acting presidential, raising himself to a higher level of decorum and going about the business of putting together a government. In the age of incessant media scrutiny, we may hear rumors about potential candidates for various cabinet posts, but very little from the president-elect himself as he prepares to take over the highest office in the land. Trump has taken a different route, obsessively posting rants to Twitter, about vote counts, the press, and popular Broadway shows. He continues to berate Saturday Night Live, a show he hosted in 2015, during the early stages of the 2016 campaign a year ago — which sparked cries of favoritism among his opponents. If media reports are to be believed, he routinely skips security and intelligence briefings choosing instead to decide for himself how to judge the international situation, or to rely on his cadre of far-right advisors with their own agendas and axes to grind. Those who voted for him wanted someone who shoots from the hip. Let’s see how they’ll react when some other country starts shooting back.

There’s a lot of blame to go around in analyzing why Trump became president. The national news media glad-handed him, never taking his candidacy seriously, even after he secured the Republican nomination. The Republicans couldn’t decide if he was their best hope or a pariah from whom they had to distance themselves. Democrats were their usual smug and delusional selves, believing the election was in the bag from the moment Trump started doing well in the primary and rarely tried to convince the voters that Clinton was the better candidate — essentially relying on Trump to defeat himself, which he did seem to be trying hard to do. Most of all it was the electorate, who once again couldn’t be bothered to take responsibility for judging the candidates or reading the messages the politicians were sending. Just like the hapless voters in Kentucky a year ago, they listened to a candidate threatening to take away many programs and benefits they rely upon, and voted for him anyway. Even people who claimed to not personally like Trump or his message may have voted for him, believing he’d “shake things up” but not stopping to consider the things that would be broken as a result.

I firmly believe the Trump administration will be very short. He doesn’t want to be president anymore than many in the country want him to be president. Congress will most likely use some legal means to remove Trump or force him to resign, or simply do all they can to stall or question legislation or to block other goals he has to goad him into resigning, or elements of his own administration may invoke provisions in the 25th Amendment to remove his authority, and force him out. He’s a volatile individual used to getting his way with no concept of how to compromise or negotiate with others, even those with whom he’s supposed to be cooperating. One need only look at how he’s conducted his business to see how he’ll attempt to run the country, and we’re already seeing evidence of this, cutting shady back room deals with corporations and world leaders before he’s even sworn in as president. If he’s determined to try to stay in office, there may be some sort of Gulf of Tonkin type incident internationally that gets misreported by the administration and overblown by the press that distracts Congress and the public away from the President and gives him cover to enact more laws restricting freedom. In any event, the United States may well be done on the world stage. I said in another essay (see related links below) that had Clinton been elected, not much would change. The US is in for an enormous amount of change, and I can’t imagine they’ll be happy with what comes next.


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