I read an interesting post the other day. The gist of it was that Trump is a president who can’t be controlled by veteran lawmakers, lifers the author called them, “a cesspool of dictators.” Nor can he be controlled by their allies, the entrenched elite of life in D.C. None of them care anything about ordinary people. If anything, they’re the enemy. In Trump there is at last a president who can’t be bought and sold by them. He’s a president for the common man and woman. The author would like to get rid of all veteran lawmakers, and her immediate solution is term limits, always a popular offering. Her post was heartily approved by quite a few commenters. She took exception to contrary opinions, mine in particular, labeling them as the product of being brainwashed by drinking the liberal media “Kool-Aid”.
It’s a mindset endorsed by an increasingly shrinking number of tea partiers and hard right libertarians who remain hopeful that Trump will turn out to be what he advertised himself to be during the campaign. In one sense, they have a point. His predictably unpredictability makes it impossible for the customary ways of negotiating public policy to work. His word cannot be trusted. Truth, and facts are fungible. His boasts of indisputable competency are offset by his history of incompetency. However integrity is defined, he seems to have little of it. Of empathy, he knows nothing. Working with him on important issues has to contend with his ignorance of basic facts, superficial awareness of complex issues, disinterest (or inability) to engage in informed conversation, and the megalomania that appears to drive his very being. In that context, it’s true that he cannot be controlled. In another way, it might be said that he’s just not trustworthy. To his credit, he’s consistent on a few things: the border wall, undoing anything connected to Obama, and business practices free of regulatory oversight.
He has indeed claimed to be for the (white) common man and woman, and his followers have embraced it in the face of all evidence to the contrary. They remind me of people we’ve all met who inexplicably trust persons out to hurt them and mistrust those out to help them. It speaks, if nothing else, about how alienated a portion of the population has become, epitomized by the so called white working class. Part of it has to be due to dramatic increases in income and wealth inequality, the stagnation of lower income growth, and the demise of unions as powerful representatives of workers. Another part is undoubtedly due to growing recognition that those of European descent are on their way to becoming a plurality, not the majority, and it signals the end of their domination of cultural standards. They’re indications of an increasing awareness of class differences, either real or imagined, that help drive feelings of alienation. The (white) alienated are not unhappy about backing someone who promises to stem the tide of change, and undermine the elite, even if he has no allegiance to them, except at campaign style rallies where, with P.T. Barnum like showmanship, he promises what he can deliver only as a side show illusion.
It’s not that the author doesn’t have a legitimate gripe. Lifers, as she calls them, can become egotistically focussed on the power politics and social climbing that define what the capital city can be. As one grows in seniority, it’s hard not to be influenced by a constant flow of favor seeking sycophants. I imagine it’s why she favors term limits. I worked in and around D.C. for enough years to see for myself what a seductive place it can be. I also know that gaining understanding of complex issues, and mastering the art of guiding legislation through to completion, is not something easily or quickly learned. Moreover, I’ve known, and know now, members of congress who keep their integrity, don’t lose their humility, and never forget the people they represent. It means I’m not a fan of term limits. They’re arbitrary, absolve the electorate of responsibility, and would lead to career legislative aids becoming the de facto congressional power. Current majority leadership has failed us, and it’s time to get rid of them, but that’s up to the electorate backing qualified candidates. It’s also up to fair, not gerrymandered districts, a decent level of civic education, and more robust voter turnout. It’s a national disgrace that 50% plus one of a small minority of eligible voters get to decide who represents every one.
The author of the post is certain that I, and presumably anyone else not in her camp, have been brainwashed by drinking the liberal media “Kool-Aid”. That’s why we can’t see the truth that she sees. Liberal media, I presume, is any source that’s not her source. It reminds me of a local friend who admonishes me to be more broad minded and watch Fox News to get the truth. As it turns out, it’s his only source of broadcast news, and all his other sources are from the hard right wing – and beyond. A neighbor, a wonderful lady who carries a pocket full of dog treats, loves every dog in the neighborhood, and knows all their owners, is like him. She was stunned, I mean stunned, to learn that Rush Limbaugh is not a reliable source of truthful news about what’s going on in the world. It seems to be a pattern for those who are certain the rest of us have drunk the liberal media “Kool-Aid.” They want us to broaden our views by narrowing our intake to right wing propaganda.
Remember Jim Jones? It was back in 1978 that he induced his followers isolated in a compound in Guyana to drink poisoned “Kool-Aid,” committing ritual suicide to avoid an imaginary apocalypse of which they had all been convinced. He did it by isolating his people and limiting what they could learn about the world outside. That’s where the drink the “Kool-Aid” thing came from. It happens in a less dramatic way when people restrict themselves to one source of information about the world around them that turns out to be, um what would the word be?, ah, yes, fake news that labels all other sources fake. It may not be as fatal or evil as Jim Jones, but it is damaging to the health of the community, and it is evil.
Getting a fair and balanced no spin handle on the what’s going on isn’t easy. Those of us who try go to a wide variety of sources, check and verify, and do our best to sort out reporting on what’s happening from editorial comment on what it means. For what it’s worth, I write editorial commentary as a progressive Christian from a centrist point of view, but I try to make sure it’s grounded in verifiable fact.
As for the author of the post that started this column, her Trump, it turns out, isn’t insulated from outside control. He’s obligated up to his carefully coiffed hair to those who have lent him money. He’s controlled by his insatiable ego driven appetites. He’s easily influenced by anyone who offers a little something for his business interests. He bathes in flattery. Those who once worked their influence through campaign contributions and deep knowledge of the issues they represent have learned that, when it comes to the Trump administration, simple old fashioned bribery disguised as business deals and campaign cash work very well all by themselves. In the end, he will be controlled by our Constitution and the rule of law.