Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Three reasons why Trump Candidacy May Not be a Total Negative

Laurence Peters

In the immortal words of what has become a Monty Python theme tune--”always look on the bright side” dare I propose three reasons why we might take a more positive look at the Trump candidacy? Yes the billionaire buffoon has lowered the tone of American politics immeasurably by his juvenile name calling, brought racial hate  of the kind we have not seen since the 1960s back into the mainstream of American politics, embarrassed us on the world stage with his shameful ignorance etc etc. So what good has come out of the billionaire bloviator’s candidacy? I count at least three reasons why the Trump run at the nation’s highest office might not be a total zero.

First--it has exposed the fact that the Republican party really had no core principles that it was willing to defend. Trump ripped apart any of their so carefully harbored beliefs in free trade, entitlement programs, immigration policy, foreign policy and fiscal conservatism. He also tore the mask of the rhetoric about the GOP being an open inclusive party, the party of Lincoln and all that nonsense. Post Trump the GOP must decide if it is going to follow the blustering liar into the political wilderness of right wing extremist politics or if it is going to reject him. If it decides to reject him it will then be forced to examine its core principles and offer a coherent and rational alternative to the democrats. This will not be a bad thing. The elite GOP leadership has been allowed for too long to have it both ways---to allow corporate interests to hold sway over major policy decisions while feeding their base with red meat "social issues" like abortion and a variety of constitutional amendments that would only come to pass if there were a political earthquake. The shake out has begun and the result--possibly the establishment of a third party following the November election returns may make our politics more interesting and more democratic.

Second it is clear that the task of repairing our politics is more urgent than ever. Trump rose to prominence by calling both parties corrupt and beholden to monied interests. This call for a less corrupt system struck a deep nerve and allowed Trump to knock over his primary opponents as if they were paper dolls (rolled from US currency we might hasten to add). Trump reminded us that if monied voices that continue to call the shots for both parties then we will see the further decay of the vital institutions like political parties, informed political candidates who possess integrity that give meaning to our democracy. While Trump pointed to the problem in typical fashion he could not point to any solution other than electing him, the patriotic billionaire who clearly had the nation's best interests at heart. What he should have said and the democrats should have jumped on is that Trump's diagnosis means that we any new democratic administration should repeal the zany Citizens United decision. Money is not speech and it never was. The power to dominate the media through buying politicians and media is antithetical to democracy. The rise of Trump helps us learn the importance of that lesson and the reasons to address the source of the problem and not indulge ourselves with the nonsensical notion that we now need to be ruled by the top 1 percent because only they are the ones that cannot be bought!

Thirdly,  Trump has given us all a teachable moment by providing us with a startlingly vivid insight into how American style fascism might quickly become a reality in this country. As Sinclair Lewis showed us (and Slate magazine has pointed out) in his prescient semi satirical novel, It Can't Happen Here published in 1935. Sinclair's book teaches us that the descent into fascist madness begins by populist patriotic appeals that quickly descends into nationalism and finding scape goats for our economic and security woes. Trump rose in the polls by demonizing Muslim and the Mexican immigrants--and even went so far as casting them all as either terrorists or rapists.  Then we were treated to the threats of violence with regard to people who disagree with them--first at the Trump rallies and then outside of them and lately with threats of appealing to gun owners to take unspecified actions against elected officeholders. We should have learned from the Nazis in the 1930s that this is how democracies are destroyed by resorting to violence over the ballot box. We learned during this dark Trump dominated period in our politics who process the enablers --the elites who refused to condemn these anti democratic sentiments and the craven political hacks who try to defend their champion using phrases like he's only “telling it like it is." and other apologies for inexcusable behavior.

It is no accident that Trump in a moment of self revelation proclaimed his love for "poorly educated people. Trump's rise reminds us in the last analysis why education matters. No matter that Trump seems not to have read a history book let alone one on foreign affairs we all need to reflect on Jefferson's caution that if a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."