On a recent Facebook post of mine decrying an especially annoying Trump apologist (you know, those weaselly blowhards with no morals or compunctions who twist, spin and defend absolutely everything the man does, no matter how outrageous), a friend of mine commented that she doesn’t know why she even watches cable news any more. I completely understand her sentiment, but it got me thinking . . . this is exactly what Trump wants: for us, the fifty-plus percent of the country that sees the man behind the curtain for exactly who he is – a dictator at heart who’s trying to run the country as if it’s his own private enterprise, all about him – to just give up.
Trump excels at being a media whore, at creating chaos, at throwing a wrench into anything and everything just to get attention and endless press coverage. I don’t think for a minute that he’s smart enough to premeditate and orchestrate all of these shenanigans in his favor – for they often are not – but it is of no consequence. He knows his hypnotized followers (maybe we should call them fans?) will support him no matter what he does – in fact the more unconventional and outrageous, the more many of them like it – so he bulldozes forward, unchecked, shooting from the hip and to hell with the consequences.
And really, what has he got to lose? He’s a septuagenarian billionaire who holds the most powerful job on Earth. He controls a Congress that has abdicated its duty to serve as a vital check on that power. He is therefore free to do as he pleases. Break the law? Who’s going to stop him? And would we really throw a (former) president in jail? Never happen. Nixon was pardoned for the good of the country, and the same courtesy would be extended to Trump (for our benefit, not his – besides, do we really want him all over the media even after he’s out of office?). Even if he ever were charged with a crime, he has the money to litigate and obfuscate the truth until he dies. So if Republicans in Congress won’t put their collective feet down, Democrats must be given the chance to. Someone has to stand up to this man in a way that has real consequence and isn’t just outraged rhetoric.
I’ve said before that we should not take the hard-won freedoms we enjoy in this country for granted. Just because they’ve always been there does not mean they always will. The people who support Trump, whom I still struggle to fully understand, seem to me reckless and extremely short-sighted. Many seem to be the instant-gratification types (witness their rabid reactions at his dictator-style “rallies”), with seemingly limited ability to see, consider or understand the long-term consequences of Trump’s endless need for bucking every tradition, institution and precedent he encounters. There is a reason why commanders-in-chief typically behave with caution, circumspection and decorum – it has kept our democracy relatively stable for over two centuries. And yes, I’m sorry, stability can be boring, but it’s much better than the alternative.
Did you ever stop to wonder how dictators come to power? Does it happen suddenly, or is it more insidious? How did Hitler get so many otherwise rational people to become so blind, rabid and fanatically loyal? To follow him no matter how outrageous his ideas? To throng to large rallies to listen to him spew patriotism, hate and venom? Remind you of anyone? Why does North Korea worship Kim Jong-un like a god, a man who can do no wrong and whose culture of personality pervades every newspaper, TV channel and political discussion? Sound familiar? The pep rallies, the attacks on the press, the punishing of anyone who criticizes him, the propaganda, the distorting of truth and reality, the abuses of power, the scapegoating of those who are different, the pardoning of supporters and chants to lock up detractors, the total control over an emasculated Congressional majority that is too afraid to speak out against a man that they know to be very dangerous for the country – all dictatorial behaviors with dire long-term consequences. Even a Trump News – I mean Fox News – host erroneously referred to Trump as a dictator. Oops.
Change on a national scale typically happens slowly, but Trump has accelerated all that. Childish and insatiable ego aside, it’s as if he is intentionally disrupting everything that many (including his unwitting supporters) hold dear in this country. Does he do this just for attention, like a two-year old who’s learned a cuss word or who pulls his pants down in front of company? Does he do it for the adulation of his primary base of supporters, the Jerry Springer-NASCAR crash-reality show types who thrive on conflict, spectacle and mayhem? Does he do it to enrich himself and his family? Is he being controlled by a foreign power bent on destroying this country? Is he paranoid? Deranged? Bored? Desperate to be loved? Yes. All of these, and more.
Like my Facebook friend, I sometimes tire of the endless Trump coverage we’ve all been subjected to for eighteen long months now. He’s like an annoying child (in oh so many ways) begging for attention while you’re trying to conduct your life. It’s easy, and tempting, to bury our heads in the sand, to switch from cable news to sitcoms, from the New York Times to an escapist novel. We’re tired of the circus, as entertaining as the clowns may be. We want to just throw our hands up and write off the 45th president of the United States as an anomaly, a narcissistic buffoon who will never change his ways. Just ignore him. He wants our attention, so let’s not give it to him.
And that’s when he’s won. To get us to become so weary of his outrageous behavior that we start normalizing it as “just who he is,” to write off his antics as just another day of bizarre and head-spinning headlines that we’ve seen so many times before. Once we do that, he will be even more emboldened and dangerous than he is now, hard as that may be to imagine. For us to give up and become so disgusted with politics as too rigged, too complex or too corrupt to be effectual is to pave the way for an authoritarian figure like Trump to fill the void, to pull off a coup when everyone is so weary from the battle that no one is paying much attention any more.
My spirits were lifted this week when dozens of former military and intelligence officials spoke out publicly and forcefully to denounce Trump’s vindictive and authoritarian revocation of the security clearance of a man who dared speak out against him. Trump then lied, of course, about why he did it. Par for the course. Yawn. Seen it before. What did you expect from this man, whom the wiser among us could see right through even before he was elected? But unless the Trump-enablers in Congress step up and put what is necessary and right for this country above their own petty concerns, until they speak out like these usually apolitical directors and generals from both parties, then there is no hope for a solution.
Current Republican leaders have shown time and again that they have no stomach for calling Trump out for what he so clearly is, and, even worse, they make excuses for him so that Trump-loving voters don’t turn against them. Maybe it’s something like the fear that leaders in Nazi Germany had of speaking out against Hitler, allowing him to eventually become too powerful to stop. Yes, our leaders bear the responsibility for whatever becomes of our current authoritarian leader even more than Trump does. Since they won’t accept that responsibility, the only solution is at the polls in November – for us to elect farsighted leaders who will finally put a stop to this power-hungry despot. I pray that the more rational and clear-headed among us will prevail, and save the less savvy from themselves. Speak out against Trump while you still can, and look forward to the day when our 46th president declares that “our long national nightmare is over.”