My upcoming newspaper column:
Sometimes even I have thought my writing about Donald Trump is overheated. Not anymore. As we slump into the next hundred days, I realize I’ve been too gentle, soft-pedaling the obvious about Trump and those who still defend him. (None of my conservative friends voted for him.) It’s now undeniable the President of the United States of America has an unwell mind. Plus, he’s the most grotesquely ignorant person ever to occupy that office: and, were he to get his way, the last. For one of two reasons so obvious they don’t need saying.
The mind of Donald Trump, our actual president, recently generated the fiction that no one asks why the Civil War happened. Donald Trump, our actual president, is unaware of grade-school history through college degrees, books written, films made, on origins of the Civil War. Donald Trump, our actual president, said Andrew Jackson could have prevented it. Donald Trump, our actual president, said Jackson was angry about what he saw happening with the Civil War, and said, “There’s no reason for this.” Andrew Jackson, who was also a president (and, despite Trump saying he “had a big heart,” promoted unspeakable genocide and was an owner of one-hundred-fifty humans), died sixteen years before the Civil War.
Who believes Andrew Jackson spoke contemporaneously (or at all) about it? Should we consider them ignorant, liars, or hearers of voices in their heads? Whatever our words, “presidential material” would not be among them. And yet, there he is.
Trump, itching for war with North Korea, wanting to abandon the Iraq nuclear agreement, admirer of the planet’s worst despots including admitted murderers, claims the Civil War should have been “worked out.” This is governance by pinball machine.
There’s worse. At his latest “tell me how great I am but first I’ll tell you” rally, Trump leveled his most nasty, divisive attack yet on the press and other scapegoats, like immigrants and Hollywood. On cue, the assembled laughed, cheered, and booed. In Trump country, Fox is the Decalogue, immigrants are evil, and “Rocky” was made in Nashville.
His chief of staff admits they’re discussing how to weaken the First Amendment. Trump complains about the most fundamental of all constitutional principles: separation of powers. It’s too hard to get my way, he whines. How Congress works is outdated, he wheedles. (He feels differently about the Electoral College.) These are direct attacks on the Constitution, which was designed precisely to make change difficult; to prevent people such as he from taking dictatorial control. But oh, how his supporters, lovers of America other than how it works and half the people in it, overlooking the sinister implications, sing his praises.
With our political process in full control of those with massive wealth, few means are left by which we regular citizens can protect ourselves and preserve the republic. Voting remains the most powerful weapon we wield. Facts are its ammunition, our free press the bandolier. Even in his disturbed mind, Trump knows this. His ceaseless lies and attacks on the media as fake are his way of disarming us, quashing knowledge of Russia collaboration, for example, and of impending plutocracy. Pretending the Second is threatened, he’d remove the First. That should disturb everyone, even today’s version of Republicans. Astonishingly, it doesn’t.
Those still supporting Trump, the person, are belligerently blind. Some write to me, obediently repeating his lies. Agreeing the press is their enemy, they reject documentation as fake news. As long as he’s saying what they want to hear, they PREFER a leader who lies. And what they want to hear is – what’s the word? -- deplorable. It’s about “economic uncertainty,” people say. It’s about liberals “talking down” to them. (Being lied to, though: not a problem.) Baloney. It’s resentment of “those people” threatening their mythology, and Trumpists love him for giving it voice. Choosing enmity over enlightenment, when called on it, they claim their free speech is being threatened. You know, that thing Trump wants to punish in protesters and limit in the press.
Americans who cheered Trump’s tirade, even as he built a wall between them and truth, endanger themselves as much as those about whom they don’t care. Trump counts on their indifference. Why hasn’t Andrew Jackson spoken up?[Image source]