A Faustian Bargain – at Retail

Donald Trump runs a grievance-based presidency. He ran a grievance-based campaign for 15 months … so who can be surprised?

One only need remember Trump’s announcement of the hoards of Mexican gangs streaming across porous U.S. boarders, undetected, to rape, murder and drug addict helpless citizens. Of no less weight on the outrage-scale, Chinese currency-manipulators, were monetarily raping American commerce and financial markets. Both groups, when not engaged in the above-mentioned nefarious activities, were in the hot pursuit of stealing American jobs thus making America “un-great.” Add to this mix the world’s Muslim community, spending every waking minute hatching new terrorist attacks against the homeland, and you have the most dramatic introduction of a presidential candidate in the history of the country.

It was catnip for the media. ….

Every Trump speech or informal utterance took precedence over regular scheduled programming. Ah, the ratings.

But the picture is not complete unless one adds Mr. Trump’s unrelenting claim of being treated unfairly. Treated unfairly by whom one may ask? That would be anyone with audacity to disagree with him, those refusing to kiss the tiny ring finger and, particularly, the media lying with non-stop impunity with the one exception of the acid trip gone bad that is Fox State News.

For all of Donald Trump’s public life dating back to the 70’s there was a common thread which connecting all the unfairness, all the grievances …. boogie-men. The list of boogies is long and dark and grows longer with each passing day. In the beginning it was just the axis of immigration, i.e. Mexico, China and Muslim countries, as a block. But all of those appeared to take a back seat to Trump’s head boogie – the Kenyan born, Muslim practicing arch nemesis …#44.

Now, lest one forget, there’s also the wildly corrupt Mr. Mueller along with Justin Trudeau and the Canadians who were recently unmasked as national security threats and thereby slapped with tariffs. Finally.

This list of enemies goes on. NATO, the EU, the media, at all times the media, the Iranians, and now Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, his cousin Vinnie. New and previously unimaginable boogies are lurking – NFL African-American players along with the NBA’s finest, Steph Curry and Lebron James. However, not all is darkness as we are often reminded – there are exceptions – …Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duarte and Recep Erdogan – the axis of virtue, all.

A steady serving of grievance stew topped with a dollop of victimization was and is delivered daily on social media and television concocting a tantalizing aroma too strong for Trump’s legions to resist. Give him credit. He was the first to recognize their free-floating anxiety as a political opportunity. Fears of technology, globalization and the ever-present elite covered the country’s fly-over states like a residue. Trump sensed how invisible these people felt by the elites, in the halls of power …. for campaign after campaign cycle. It was low hanging fruit for the picking – that every other politician had missed.

Trump sensed, intuitively, this gaping hole was missed by the 17 Republican hopefuls along with “Crooked Hillary,”during the run up to the election. “The Deplorables” as tone-deaf Hillary called Trump’s base, were electrified to hear someone saying the politically incorrect things they’d been thinking as they watched the country turn brown before their deflated eyes.

They suddenly had a voice. Never mind he was a corrupt billionaire. He was a celebrity, media savvy and had a message – “I’m rich, have power and there’s a lot of you …. Together we’re going to burn the place down. “Build a wall” and “Lock her up.” Damn right! And, still chanted to this day at Trump rallies.

Back during the campaign, when confronted by issues of economic unfairness in coal country, Clinton explained there was no need for worry … she had a plan. There was a plan for everything. If nothing else, she was a policy-wonk It was hard to imagine why a plan converting 4th generation West Virginia coal miners into solar panel installers wasn’t met with inspiration. Particularly when waiting behind door #2 was a much simpler and more desirable option – cleanse the US of Mexicans, Chinese and Muslims. As no one in the media objected enough to abate these ideas could anyone be surprised that its logical conclusion played out with baby cages.

So for Trump’s base and the viewers of his state run television, it was hardly revelatory to learn after Charlottesville, in the summer of 2017, that torch carrying Nazi’s are good people too. That a young woman was run over and killed in the process was simply the cost of doing business.

The Republicans have had a long history of getting their constituents to vote against their own self-interest, but Trump has perfected it to an art. The sheer number of Trump’s base who will be hurt by presidential orders and legislative actions is rich with irony. The Washington post cites that food stamp cuts by this administration will hurt a good swathe of Trump’s base. As will escalating trade-tariffs. Health care, rather than increased coverage and lower premiums, is playing out with the opposite effect. It’s worth noting that, during the campaign, 40 percent of Trump voters did not understand Obamacare and the ACA were one and the same. One plan had a boogie-man attached to it and had to go. Nice, simple, easy to understand. This was all fine lest one develop a pre-existing condition. Perhaps he forgot to mention that.

As Bob Corker, senator from Tennessee, has noted there is a recent phenomenon at town halls. Constituents refuse to listen to any discussion of policy issues. They only want to know if a representative is for or against Donald Trump. Corker has since stopped holding them and announced his retirement.

Tribalism is here.

Trump’s claim during the campaign of being able to shoot someone on 5th ave. and his supporters wouldn’t care seems less far-fetched by the day. Again, think Baby Cages.

Can the reality ever match Trump’s rhetoric? Of course, not. But even if there’s a reduction in the nuclear threat posed by the North Koreans, the Iranians scale back their exporting of terrorism, corporate America shows record profits for a few years, the most important question that needs to be asked, of everyone …… is it worth it?

The country has been fractured like an egg-shell. And even the strongest masking tape won’t put it back the way it was. The forces of worst instincts have been unleashed and emboldened. Think ICE and the sprouting second amendment vigilante groups that are taking immigration problems into their own hands.

John Meacham, the historian, says America has had rough patches in the past and this is just one more chapter.

But those periods did not include an unregulated-internet spewing hatred and conspiracy theories into personal computers and smart phones on a 24/7 basis. Nor, the equivalent of a state run propaganda network that is comfortably claiming public servants who have devoted decades of commitment defending the country under administrations of both parties are now  criminals.

And, a Republican congress incapable of showing any spine, whatsoever, lest Trump unleashes his 50 million Twitter followers in their direction, caves like a house made of paper-mache. Party before country, appears to be the motto.

No, these are different times with dark forces at work the founding fathers couldn’t fathom.

It’s also important to remember the law of unintended consequences is always in effect. So think of all the times, recently, we have said, “Why, that couldn’t happen.” And yet it does. There are things looming we can’t begin to imagine but they will happen. It starts at the top.

So it’s not a stretch to say one could see many American institutions, once thought unassailable, are now compromised and distrusted.  The FBI, to mention one, its reputation diminished to the point where convincing a jury its case built upon facts, is now called into question.

International security agencies must now certainly ask themselves should they trust their U.S. counterparts with sensitive and possibly life saving intelligence risking it might be relayed to the Russians via the U.S. president – as Trump betrayed Israeli intelligence to the Russians visiting the White House.

Corruption and influence-peddling churning at a never before seen scale is now the norm. Insider-trading violations are texted from the White House lawn. A country left so divided that its resulting tribal factions can’t listen, let alone talk to each other, becoming more divided by the day. It boggles the mind to think about all the above in the context of another 9/11 type terrorist attack and who and how it would be handled.

Perhaps Omarosa could be called back if there were a true emergency.

Although one could say all of the above makes for compelling reality TV. Which it does. But whom do you know that would want their children watching this?