Sunday, December 11, 2016

Deciphering the suffering to come

Political Twitter is a fascinating resource. I follow several writers from newspapers and magazines and they send links to the most important stories they have seen, sometimes their own work and sometimes not. This weekend, a hell of a lot of folks are mentioning
this Lauren Duca essay from Teen Vogue. Many express shock that an article that could be in The New Yorker or The Nation is written by a young woman who is the weekend editor for Teen Vogue and often covers the Selena Gomez beat. The fact is that Ms. Duca has written for The New Yorker and The Nation, and there should be no shock that she could write this, only surprise that Teen Vogue decided to publish it.

Ms. Duca's point is that Donald Trump lies. A lot. And like many people who lie constantly, he's doing it for a reason, trying to make people around him question reality. Sadly, "the people around him" now describes the entire planet, as he becomes the leader of the most powerful country on that planet. As the stories about Russian interference in our election gain traction and Trump brazenly puts forward a tool of the Russian oligarchs to be Secretary of State, people on the left and right are talking openly about a constitutional crisis. Trump's team, on the other hand, dismisses the CIA as the people who brought us the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq story, yet another lie. The intelligence agencies had serious doubts about Saddam's arsenal. It was other serial liars, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who pushed this lie hard enough to make it official policy of the American government.

While this essay is about the lies Trump tells and the actions he takes that show his true intentions, I use a photo of Chinese Communists writing wall posters during the era of divided government near the end of Mao Zedong's life, when the clique that wanted to seize power were denouncing The Gang of Four, Mao's wife and her closest associates. Foreign intelligence agencies made a detailed study of these posters, which would change several times a week, to see which faction looked to be more likely to survive the power struggle that was taking place inside a government completely opposed to transparency.

And now we have a situation not unlike Red China in the 1970s, opaque one party rule where there appear to be competing factions. To us on the left, the Republicans appear ruthless and monolithic, but it is much more a collection of factions that are willing to deal with one another about their particular pet projects, something along the lines of "I'll help you destroy women's rights to reproductive freedom if you will let me gut these environmental protections". From Trump's nominees for important posts so far, his goal is to tear down as much of the government as humanly possible, but we still don't know how far he will take this and if any Republicans will stand in his way.

There are only the smallest glimmers of hope in the very dark clouds that gather above us. The team Trump has assembled is exactly what we could have expected from Ted Cruz or any other hard right Republican, except when it comes to policy towards Russia. Openness to Russia and playing hardball with our NATO allies was the only plank of the Republican platform that Trump's team worked tirelessly to change at this year's Convention, and there are a lot of old school Cold Warriors like Lindsey Graham and John McCain who are dead set against this change in policy. As we saw clearly during the Obama Administration, a single Senator with a bee in their bonnet can hold up nominations nearly indefinitely.

When it comes to domestic policy, change tends to be slow. Some policies like women's reproductive rights and environmental protections now appear impossible to save from the GOP over the next few years, but other issues like Social Security and Medicare might be spared the axe. In foreign policy, change can be as quick as September 11, 2001 or December 7, 1941. Come January 20, 2017, we will have an incompetent president, already in bed with the murderous and dominant Vladimir Putin and surrounded by advisers itching for war.

One match can start a fire. With this gang of villains, it might well be an American hand that throws the match. Let me end with a poster from Great Britain in World War II that is beginning to eclipse the "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters from that same era.


zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Welcome back, Prof. Great post.

One other ray of sunshine: since the election, something like 4000 women across the nation have filed for elective office.

Matthew Hubbard said...

I wish them all the best.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Also and FWIW, I am currently thinking I will re-activate my blogging, once we get out of the holiday horrors...

Matthew Hubbard said...

Let me know when, I'll add you to my blog roll.