Trump is America’s Id

Donald Trump is America’s id.

He’s the embodiment of the ragged excesses of a perverted interpretation of the American Dream where wealth, power, and social status supplant rights, liberty, and equality.

He’s the one-dimensional ego-driven Hollywood movie villain who flaunts his deep-seated narcissism, rejects society’s moral and cultural values, dismisses the possibility of mutually beneficial outcomes, and crushes the weak and powerless in pursuit of his depraved ambitions.

He’s the type of man who considers fairness, kindness, empathy, honesty, gratitude, and humility to be signs of weakness.

He’s a moral and political nihilist who equivocates bigots with those who champion equality and subverts the traditions and legal and political institutions that have helped govern the United States for over two centuries.

His words and actions prove every day that his inauspicious rise to power is dangerous for the United States, and the world.

On Michelle Wolf’s Comedy Routine at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner

Outside of the context of the extremely high profile of the event and its attendees, I might’ve found Michelle Wolf’s roasts hilarious. But I think they’re troublesome for this reason: We need a more reasonable discourse. Being cruel to the “other side” accomplishes substantially nothing besides producing additional rancor and further entrenching both sides against each other.

Many of the arguments I’ve seen today defending Ms. Wolf are examples of the “whataboutism” that Trump’s detractors accuse his supporters of using in their arguments. “But they called Obama [this], why can’t Ms. Wolf say [that]? But they called Hillary [that], why can’t Ms. Wolf say [this]?” Its usage plagues both sides.

As citizens, we need to be better than this. There are better ways to oppose Trump’s administration than to compete in a proverbial race to the bottom.

Given the setting, I think her humor crossed a line into being cruel. Challenging the Trump administration’s attempts at subterfuge is important; however, the means Ms. Wolf employed seem to have had a deleterious effect. The discussion today is more about whether or not she made fun of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ appearance than discussing how her comedy broached the fact that Ms. Sanders lies to the American public on a regular basis.

The Trump administration will now become more guarded and defensive because of Ms. Wolf’s words. Effective use of humor should lower adversaries’ defenses, not make them more acute. Ms. Wolf’s humor was ineffective, at best, and cruel, at worst.

A Kleptocrat with a Predilection for Protectionism

Donald Trump’s foolish predilection for protectionist/isolationist policies has been my main substantive complaint of him, other than my complaints that he’s an unabashed kleptocrat and all-around despicable human being.

A certain amount of domestic steel and aluminum production is necessary for national security interests. That production can be subsidized without negatively impacting broader aspects of the economy.

These tariffs, however, will have a deleterious effect on our economy. Things like cars and buildings will cost more to produce and build, which will needlessly increase their prices. Manufacturers will also move to outsource production to avoid the more expensive tariff-laden steel and aluminum.

Trump will surely place an “America First” spin on this decision, but in implementing these tariffs he is actually placing America’s economy last.

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality benefits innovation and the greater good by limiting the ways in which Internet service providers (ISPs) can take advantage of their power over the Internet, an increasingly important utility. The Internet has become even more crucial since the FCC reclassified broadband access as a telecommunications service in 2015, thus effectively enforcing the principle of net neutrality.

The Trump Administration has made it a priority to rollback regulations, ostensibly, to allow market forces to nurture innovation and competition. The FCC’s repeal of net neutrality, however, will instead stifle real innovation while allowing ISPs to merely innovate ways to divide and re-package bandwidth in ever more profitable ways.

Regulations are meant to protect the pubic from market conditions that heavily favor one entity or industry so that the greater good is served. The regulation that enforces net neutrality accomplished that goal. The FCC’s decision to repeal it is misguided and will have deleterious economic effects until net neutrality is restored.

National Monument Fail

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante were designated national monuments because the landscapes and cultural significance of those regions are unique in America. A monument is defined as “an outstanding, enduring, and memorable example of something.” That’s exactly what those regions are. They are outstanding, enduring, and memorable examples of the unique American Southwest landscape that Native Americans called home long before Europeans arrived.

Donald Trump, who has ostensibly never set foot on a non-urban landscape in his life, and the corrupt Republican Utah politicians who listen to oil and gas companies more than their constituents (or, apparently, Utah’s healthy tourism industry, which would benefit greatly from these areas remaining national monuments) are forcing their myopic, foolhardy ambitions upon us by announcing and supporting, respectively, the intention to reduce the sizes of those national monuments.

Trump’s intention to shrink those national monuments is misguided and emblematic of his steadfast determination to undermine the carefully considered decisions of prior administrations, seemingly more out of spite than any carefully considered reasoning on his part. His remarks1 made it clear that he either didn’t know that hunting and cattle grazing are, in fact, allowed in Bears Ears2, or he did know and he lied to make it appear that he fixed something (that didn’t need fixing) to obscure the fact that this gesture is actually about opening these areas for commercial mineral exploration.

Hopefully, legal action will successfully prevent this latest travesty perpetrated by the Trump administration from becoming reality.

Footnotes

  1. “Families will hike and hunt on land they have known for generations … .  Cattle will graze along the open range.” Source: “Remarks by President Trump on Antiquities Act Designations,” Whitehouse.gov, published December 4, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/12/04/remarks-president-trump-antiquities-act-designations.
  2. “Bears Ears National Monument: Questions & Answers,” U.S. Forest Service, accessed December 4, 2017, https://www.fs.fed.us/sites/default/files/bear-ears-fact-sheet.pdf. In case the previously referenced Bears Ears document is deleted from the U.S. Forest Service’s website, you can access a copy of the document here: https://theanalitica.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/bear-ears-fact-sheet.pdf.

The Fallacy of Political Identity

Liberalism is rooted in the ideas of individual liberty and equality for all people. If you’re an American who believes in the values that founded this country, you are, by definition, a liberal.

Use of the word “liberal” as a pejorative by some “conservatives”, however, reveals the hypocrisy inherent in political identification. Those who use “liberal” disparagingly often champion aspects of liberalism associated with individual liberty, but reject aspects of it that call for equal rights—for example, people that adamantly protect their right to bear arms, but oppose legal marriage rights for homosexuals, or oppose women’s right to choose abortion. (One might try to reject this example as a hasty generalization, but the prevalence of this ideology is self-evident.)

Bifurcating the population into “liberals” and “conservatives” is nonsensical. It’s a form of stereotype no more valid than racial stereotyping, yet it is somehow accepted in political discourse.

Similarly, political parties are just a form of tribalism in civilized society. Political parties aren’t even beholden to their respective ideologies. They can, and have shifted their ideologies drastically through time to adopt to the will of their constituents.

The right to bear arms, for example, is one of the most liberal ideologies a civilization has ever granted to common citizens.* Yet, Republicans and “conservatives” now seem to “own” the Second Amendment as their cause.

It’s time we embrace the messy truth that our ideologies are composites that only superficially align with defined political identities. The more we can move away from political tribalism and toward a unified discourse that produces the best ideas for the greatest good, the better off we’ll be as people, and as a nation.

 

*I think it’s easy to forget how extreme the idea of a ruling class allowing commoners to own weapons to defend itself against the ruling class was and, arguably, still is. The right to bear arms has been around over 240 years now (via the Second Amendment), and we’ve been living with its existence our entire lives, but it was, then, an extreme example of liberalism in the founding of the United States.

A New Strategy For “Resisting” Trump

Theodore Roosevelt, in his famous “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick” speech at the Minnesota State Fair in 1901, said, “If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble.”

Donald Trump continually blusters, lacks civility, and his “big stick” (his Twitter feed, and his ongoing campaign rallies, sans a campaign) will not save him from the trouble he causes for himself over the course of his presidency.

Donald Trump’s self-destruction is the only cure for the scourge of his presidency. Impeachment, censure, combative rhetoric, and other stronghanded political maneuvering from his opposition will only embolden him and his base. We need to let Trump, himself, make the rhetorical missteps to fracture his support.

Trump has been careful not to significantly harm himself politically amongst his base, but shareholders of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts (NYSE: DJT) and creditors of other businesses he has taken through Chapter 11 bankruptcy know that failure, betrayal, and profiteering are in his DNA.

The rhetoric from Trump’s opposition in both parties is often centered around a desire to shut him up. Instead, we need Trump not to shut up. We should encourage Trump to give in to his basest, most despicable, most narcissistic instincts to further expose the hypocrisy and self-serving fraudulence at the root of his presidency.

We do, however, need to strategically direct Trump’s reckless bellicosity against his base’s interests. With great care, his opponents may be able to guide the boorish septuagenarian into a box where his only option is to punch his way out in ways that harm his political interests.

Surely, Trump has been steadfastly beholden to the will of his base, but he has lived a life of privilege that is antithetical to the ideals he represents to that base. His natural instincts are to belittle the very people who most support him. Let’s encourage his natural instincts to emerge.

So, I say, rant on, tweeter-in-chief. Your base is watching.

Hypocrisy at the E.P.A.

Scott Pruitt’s plan to rollback the Clean Power Plan regulations is deplorable. It’s the latest example of his duplicitous ideology contradicting the E.P.A.’s mission. The politics related to climate change are confounding, but regulations borne out of concerns for climate change still produce worthwhile ancillary results: clean air and water. I think we can all agree, regardless of political affiliation or beliefs on the validity of scientists’ conclusions regarding climate change, that reducing pollution is an important goal—one that the E.P.A. should steadfastly support.

The Unfortunate Politics of Gun Control

Gun control is unnecessarily wrapped up in politics in much the same way as climate change.

Republican politicians’ stances on those issues are used as important standards for their acceptability as candidates, regardless of the fact that there is technically nothing inherently conservative about either gun ownership, or rejecting the conclusions of climate scientists. To take a strong stand for limiting gun ownership, a Republican politician would have to do so with the understanding that they likely won’t get re-elected, and that most of their Republican colleagues won’t go along with them.

Democrats are also culpable. They’ve taken only half-measures in response to these incidents. Since gun ownership is not inherently a conservative phenomenon (despite the fact that Republicans seem to “own” the second amendment as their cause), they do not want to appear to take too strong a stand against gun ownership for fear they will lose moderates and Democrats who own guns. So, Democrats have crafted proposals that tweak gun ownership regulations only slightly. Many of their recent proposals would not have prevented the Las Vegas shooter’s ability to obtain the weapons he used to carry out his attack.

Guns are not the whole story. Guns are the means, but the shooter’s mindset provides the impetus to commit mass murder. As such, there are, at least, two ways to approach this problem.

We can try to make almost impossibly large strides in understanding why people commit these acts so that they can be prevented in the future. This research-intensive approach, however, is made more difficult by the fact that the perpetrators often commit suicide, or they are killed by police. Furthermore, the subsequent methods to monitor and identify prospective shooters, and to intervene before they commit murder, would likely infringe on suspected individuals’ rights. (It brings to mind the concept of “PreCrime” from the film and short story, Minority Report.)

The other option is to more strictly regulate the guns murderers use to commit these acts of violence. This option is comparatively simple, in a vacuum, but, in reality, it’s difficult to implement because of the politics involved.

I doubt that anything will change regarding gun ownership. No amount of tragedy seems sufficient enough for the 535 members of Congress to work cohesively towards defining what the right to bear arms should mean in the twenty-first century. If we are serious about eliminating mass shootings in this country, however, inaction is not an option.