JAZZMAN CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY.
By Jack Random
The rage has subsided, the streets of protest have calmed and the process of accepting a cataclysmic event is well under way. Donald J. Trump will become our next president. We must now accept that the impossible – or what we considered impossible – has happened. An arrogant, bombastic overlord of the business world, wearing the mask of a populist, has stumbled into the White House and will awaken on January 21st the most powerful man on earth.
No one can read the mind of a megalomaniac but I suspect the Donald never actually intended to become president. He wanted to boost his brand and quite possibly launch a cable television network that would rival Fox News . His is an accidental presidency and he now faces a critical choice: He can either be president, a responsibility only he believes he is qualified to undertake, or he can delegate the presidency as his Republican predecessor George W. Bush did. Given the makeup of his cabinet-in-waiting I don’t know which is more daunting.
We who oppose this president also face a choice: We can assume the role of resistance, opposing everything this man says and tweets in his midnight ravings, or we can wait and see what he actually does.
I fully understand the instinct to blanket resistance. I opposed Trump the candidate as much for who he is as for what he proposed. I opposed a candidate who played the white supremacy card to sweep the South in the Republican primaries. To those who say it was only politics I would argue that a candidate cannot play the racist card without harboring racist views. Even his fondness for Russian Czar-President Vladimir Putin may have been calculated to appeal to the white supremacist community .
I opposed a candidate who never failed to paint whole communities, races and religions, with the broad brush of bigoted stereotypes. I opposed a candidate who held facts in contempt and disseminated fake news like it was manna from the gods instead of false propaganda from rightwing media and Russian sponsored web trolls. I opposed a candidate who was caught on tape admitting to serial sexual abuse of women.
Because he so frequently discarded facts and promoted mythology, I did not believe him even when his policies seemed in harmony with my own – most prominently, trade policy.
When all is said and done, I was stunned, enraged and ultimately impressed. The team of Donald J. Trump ran a perfect, Machiavellian insurgency campaign. They parlayed a thirty percent base into a forty-six percent block that swept through the rust belt with a promise of resurgent industrial jobs. They masterfully exploited the anti-democratic flaws of the Electoral College. They took a billionaire elitist and portrayed him as a champion of the working class.
Of course, none of that would have been sufficient without a tone-deaf Democrat who gathered her sense of the people’s mood from pollsters at a Starbuck’s on Fifth Avenue. Hillary Clinton didn’t believe that people were dissatisfied with a healthcare law that failed to fulfill its fundamental purpose: making healthcare affordable. She didn’t bother with a rust belt sweep in the closing weeks because (1) she didn’t believe it was necessary and (2) she couldn’t bring herself to repeat the lie of her opposition to Free Trade – a lie that Bernie Sanders forced her to speak.
Trump stumbled into the presidency on waves of deep discontent and a convergence of circumstance that tipped the election on its head in the waning days of a long and torturous campaign.
If FBI Director James Comey had not issued his eleventh hour reopening of the email investigation, the media firestorm over Trump’s long history of groping and degrading women would have continued unabated. If Hillary Clinton had countered Trump’s march through the rust belt with her own promise of Fair Trade instead of sticking with identity politics, she would have carried the day. If the media had fixated on conflict-of-interest and Russia’s clear attempt to influence our election as they did on the email scandal, we would not be facing the prospects of a Trump presidency.
We are where we are for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is the wholesale failure of the two-party system to address the fundamental needs of its citizens.
We are stuck with an accidental president who will improvise through the next four years. His God is and always has been the profit motive. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. He has no ideology to guide him and no principles to constrain him. His policies are late-night sketches on a napkin. Instead, he has his loyal advisors, each of whom has his own agenda and can’t wait for a chance to influence the new chief executive.
The first hint of the accidental nature of his leadership came in the form of an impromptu trip to Indiana where the president-elect negotiated to keep an American industry from exporting jobs. So said the Donald: “I said Carrier will never leave but that was a euphemism. I was talking about Carrier like all the other companies from here on in, because they made the decision."
For the record, a euphemism is a polite term for something unpleasant – like downsizing for mass layoffs or Free Trade for labor exploitation. Maybe the new leader of the free world meant aphorism. Who knows? Whatever he meant, he probably did not mean that he would repeal the nation’s Free Trade policy and replace it with Fair Trade. For the record and for the next president’s enlightenment, Fair Trade requires that our preferred trading partners respect and protect the rights of labor so that our own workers can compete on a level playing field.
Remember: The next president promised the workers of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that he would bring back jobs. If he thinks negotiating with every business that proposes opening a plant in Mexico will fill the gap, he is badly mistaken and must be called to task. If he leads the repeal of NAFTA, CAFTA and other Free Trade deals and insists on bringing labor to the table, however unlikely, we must support his efforts. Pending further developments, Mr. Trump deserves some credit for being the first Republican presidential candidate to oppose the bipartisan trade policies that have prevailed since the Clinton administration.
On healthcare, the accidental president has painted himself into a corner before taking the oath of office. He wants to keep the popular components of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) while cutting out the unpopular components (insurance mandate). He hopes to pay for it by opening up interstate competition. Wouldn’t it be strange if that approach actually worked – or even if it works better than the ACA? He is walking a tightrope. Cutting twenty million people from the insurance rolls is untenable. Allowing the insurance companies to keep jacking up the rates is unacceptable. Welcome to the White House, Mr. Trump!
On foreign policy, Mr. Trump promised to be unpredictable and seems destined to fulfill at least that promise. So far he has threatened a preemptive strike on North Korea to prevent deployment of a long-range missile, demanded compensation of some sort from China for our trade imbalance, delivered a promise of unconditional support to the Israeli rightwing for expanding the settlements in violation of international law and proclaimed a new world order headed by Emperor Putin and King Trump.
The president-elect has issued a challenge to the American intelligence community, citing WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and the bogus weapons of mass destruction claim that laid the groundwork for the Iraq war. It would carry more weight if he appeared motivated to uncover the truth. Instead, he looks like a man who wants to legitimize his election while affirming his affinity for all things Russian.
To these eyes, Julian Assange is no less credible than Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan. The CIA did in fact tailor their findings, without regard for objective data analysis, to the political demands of the Bush administration. While Brennan was not in charge at the time, he was in charge when the CIA hacked the computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a blatant attempt to alter their findings on torture during the Bush years .
Of course, none of this counts until the next president takes the oath and pledges to uphold the laws of the land. We can only hope that he delivers on some campaign promises (repeal NAFTA, CAFTA, block the TPP, rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and refrain from unnecessary wars) and fails to deliver on others (withdraw from the Iranian nuclear disarmament agreement and the Paris climate change accord, build the wall, bring back the coal industry and deregulate Wall Street).
The one certainty is that we have never had a president like Donald Trump. We know that he has an ego as large the known universe, he loves the camera and he is not bound by what he says on a day-to-day basis. He can love you one day and fire you the next. He can be your best friend and your worst nightmare.
Who knows? Maybe he’ll wake up tomorrow and become the president we want him to be. It’s a crapshoot. They tell me it makes for compelling television (I like a good script myself). It’s like watching a high-speed train trying to stop on a short track. You fear the worst, hope for the best and you can’t take your eyes off it.
1. “Is Donald Trump’s Endgame the Launch of Trump News?” by Sarah Ellison. Vanity Fair, June 16, 2016.
2. “Extremists Turn to a Leader to Protect Western Values” by Alan Feuer and Andrew Higgins. NY Times, December 3, 2016.
3. “The Google Search that Made the CIA Spy on the US Senate” by Jason Leopold. Vice News, August 12, 2015.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF NOVELS, PLAYS AND POLITICAL ESSAYS, INCLUDING THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, VOLUMES I-X, AND WASICHU: THE KILLING SPIRIT. HIS WORKS ARE AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.