Trump’s pathogenic rhetoric.

There is of course no single reason why Donald Trump won the presidential election and it would be grossly inaccurate to suggest that there is a single profile that fits every Trump voter; there may be as many reasons that people voted for Trump as there were Trump voters.  Nevertheless, there is a core of his supporters for whom he can say or do nothing wrong and that fact raises an interesting question.

A week or so I ago I mentioned to a friend that the presidential election opened my eyes to the number of people in this country who are vulnerable to the demagoguery of Donald Trump.  I haven’t led a sheltered life and have been around some people whom I would not describe as particularly deep thinkers.  For most of them, however, I entertained a belief that native savvy and basic decency would prevent them from being taken in by Trump’s appeal to the worst parts of human nature.  I have been wrong to an unpleasant extent.  Why?

The answer becomes clearer once you look at the appeal of Trump as you would look at an infectious disease in which a pathogenic microorganism exploits a weakness in a person’s immune system to cause illness.  In the case of the Trump phenomenon the immune system consists of the power of reason and the capacity for critical thinking.  By critical thinking I mean the objective analysis of an issue in order to form a judgment about the issue.  Objective analysis is analysis that is as free as possible from emotion and personal bias.

What most often allows Trump’s pathogenic rhetoric to get past a person’s “immune system” is the fact that he is saying something that the person badly wants to hear, and that is a confirmation of some bias or prejudice that the person has, whether it be racism, religious bigotry sexism, xenophobia, or some other form of anger or hate.  It is a form of intellectual weakness that we all fall prey to from time to time:  An appeal to the heart bypasses the brain, and emotion overpowers reason.  Critical thinking gets shoved aside when the person hears something that strikes a responsive emotional chord – the person believes Trump because the person wants “validation” of his or her bias or prejudice.

An occasional lapse in critical thinking does not seem so bad when the appeal to our emotions touches a soft spot that we may have for acts of kindness and charity.  It seems a whole lot worse when the appeal is to feelings on the other end of the spectrum.

I am going to say the following because I have no doubt that it is true – and obviously so – to any rational observer employing his or her powers to think critically:  Trump is an amoral, compulsive liar incapable of truly caring for anyone or anything other than himself and those members of his immediate families whom he considers as alter egos.  His narcissism dominates his thoughts and actions to an extraordinary extent.

That is not to say that everything that he is doing or intends to do is wrong.  Such conclusions generally lie in the eyes of the beholders, and honest people can differ.  This is about whom he is and what he is and the harm that someone like him is capable of.  He is unstable, not because he is mentally ill, but because he has no fixed moral or ethical standards or even political philosophy that guides him.  He lives in the moment seeking to wring all possible nourishment for his insatiable ego out of it.  Winning is the only thing that matters to him, and he is constantly looking for an opponent or enemy to defeat in order to prove himself.  There will always be scapegoats; he can’t survive without them.

Why then are so many people unable or unwilling to see what Trump is and the danger posed by how he is trying to govern this country?  I am not talking about the Mitch McConnells and Paul Ryans of this world.  They know full well what Trump is but they will go along for the ride as long as Trump’s political agenda conforms to their own and Trump stays within some semblance of reasonable bounds.  McConnell and Ryan are cynics, not dupes.  No, I am talking about the true believers who have been taken in lock, stock and barrel by Trump and are willing to defend him at all costs.

Some of those true believers are unabashed followers of Steve Bannon who make no effort to hide their prejudices; they could care less about anything that Trump says or does as long as he pursues the alt-right agenda.  Others, however, deny that they are prejudiced in any manner and that Trump’s appeal to them is based on more positive reasons.  They may be fooling themselves, but they are not fooling anyone else.

There is another factor at play.  It has been fashionable for a number of years for academics to decry a wave of anti-intellectualism gripping the country.  Such observations often come from elitists who confuse anti-intellectualism with a refusal to accept their particular points of view.  Nevertheless, I do believe that there has been a rise in anti-intellectualism that has created an ideal environment for Trumpism to spread, much like squalid urban environments contributed to the spread of tuberculosis.

Anti-intellectualism refers to a general aversion to intellectual pursuits that often manifests itself as a tendency to distrust scholars and experts, including scientists.  Anti-intellectualism is not the same as a lack of raw intelligence; it is an attitude based on an emotional response to intellectual arguments and theories.

It is no coincidence that the alt-right movement includes a disproportionate number of people without any scientific background of their own who reject the conclusions of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists on the causes of climate change.  What does their position on a purely scientific question have to do with their intolerant social and political beliefs?  The answer is very little other than anti-intellectualism.  If your aversion to critical thinking allows you to reject the evidence of man’s role in climate change it can allow you to buy into the malignancy of Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.

There was a wide gap in the presidential election in the preferences of those with and without a college degree. College graduates backed Clinton by a 9-point margin (52%-43%), while those without a college degree backed Trump 52%-44%.  According to the Pew Research Center this was by far the widest gap in support among college graduates and non-college graduates in exit polls dating back to 1980.

The statistic is not surprising.  An education either in the sciences or in the humanities is intended to impart a lasting belief in the value of critical thinking that should inoculate college graduates against the effect of rhetoric like Trump’s.  Preventive medicine is never 100%  effective but I believe that the gap between college-educated and non-college educated voters generally reflects differences in the value placed on critical thinking and on the skills necessary to employ it.  This is not to say that many, many non-college educated voters did not see through Trump immediately; it means only that only that training and education in critical thinking does tend to have an effect.

In summary, I do not accept that an otherwise rational and open-minded person condones Trump’s behavior unless Trump has touched upon something angry and intolerant inside that person’s head.  I would never make such a pronouncement about a mere political disagreement, but this is no longer just about politics.  The recent escalation by Trump of his “war” on the media as the “enemy of the people” is undemocratic, un-American, and dangerous.  It is not melodramatic to say that resistance to Trump is now about patriotism, not about politics.  Enough is enough, things have to be called out for what they are, and we all have an obligation to get involved in some way.

Is there any hope that some of Trump’s true believers can be persuaded to re-engage their powers of critical thinking and join the resistance against his attempts to reset American values?  Yes.  David Axelrod said on CNN this morning that he guessed that only about half of Trump’s supporters comprise the “irreducible core.”  Beyond that core there is room for movement.  Just because a person succumbed to an angry or intolerant impulse when entering the voting both in November does not mean that he or she is a bad person or is irredeemable.  We need those folks back on the side of reason, and soon.

February 20, 2017

When the ends don’t justify the means.

In this morning’s Baltimore Sun there were dueling op eds on a bill pending before the Maryland General Assembly, SB739/HB949, that would deny state contracts to and pension fund investments in private companies that participate in any international movement that refuses to do business in Israel or its occupied territories.  The op ed by attorney Rachel Roberts capably pointed out that the bill offends the First Amendment and is decidedly un-American in its attempt to suppress political dissent.

I’d like to make another point, and will begin doing so with a question.  The bill’s primary sponsor in the Senate was Democratic senator Bobby Zirkin and in the House it was Democratic delegate Benjamin Kramer, and my question is:  What the hell were they thinking?  Are they trying to prove that the Democratic Party stands for nothing more than the ends justified the means, which seems to be the guiding principle of the Trump administration?  At a time when American values are under attack by a Republican president does the Democrat-controlled General Assembly want to show how little regard it has for the value of individual liberty and free expression?

Today the Maryland General Assembly moved with unusual speed in passing a joint resolution that allows the Maryland attorney general to file suit in order to restrain President Donald Trump from exceeding the constitutional limits of his power without the attorney general first obtaining the permission of the governor.  Now Democrats in the General Assembly are pressing forward with a bill that would exceed the constitutional limits of their own power.  It is a stunning display of hypocrisy.

The bill is aimed at the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement intended to advance the interests of Palestinians.  The primary goal of the movement is to force Israel to comply with United Nations Resolution 242 and other international law that prohibits Israel from resettling occupied territories (the West Bank and Gaza) with its own citizens.

The State of Maryland has no right to punish private companies for refusing to do business with entities businesses in a foreign country on moral or political grounds  Even within the state private businesses are free to do business with whomever they choose subject to prohibitions against racial, religious and other discrimination.

In the last century it was okay for companies to refuse to invest in companies from South Africa in order to pressure the South African government to end apartheid.  Today it is fine for companies to refuse to do business in North Carolina in an effort to persuade North Carolina to repeal a statute restricting LGBT rights.  But it is not okay for a private company to refuse to invest in Israeli companies in the hopes of convincing Israel to conform its settlement policy to international law?  Who gets to pick and choose which course of action is good and which one is bad?

The issue for me is not whether participation in the BDS movement is good or bad.  The issue is whether state officials should be deciding for companies whether it is good or bad.  What’s next?  A ban by a red state legislature on awarding contracts to companies who refuse to book stays in Trump hotels for their employees or refuse to purchase Trump-branded products?  I find it almost unbelievable that the General Assembly is willing to go down this path.

Equally implausible is the willingness of Maryland Democrats to surrender the moral high ground to Mr. Trump.  Mr. Trump justifies his travel ban on the “greater good” of protecting this nation’s security.  Mssrs. Zirkin and Kramer justify the curtailment on individual rights in their bill on the “greater good” of protecting Israel.  I fail to see any moral distinction between the two purported justifications, neither of which pass legal muster.

Although most of the scholarly objection to this type of bill is centered on the First Amendment, it seems to me that there are issues under the Commerce Clause as well.  Maryland has absolutely no authority to regulate the actions taken by private citizens in the course of foreign commerce.  Under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution regulation of foreign commerce is the sole responsibility of the federal government.  If the state is not trying to regulate foreign commerce by punishing citizens for actions taken in the course of foreign commerce, then what is it doing?

Democrats may want to try to distinguish themselves from the Trump administration by showing that they are willing to stand up for American values, like the rule of law and its regard for individual liberty.  Or, they can pass SB739/HB949 and affirm that they agree with Mr. Trump that the ends always justify the means, and that respect for the rights of individuals is but a secondary concern.

February 15, 2017

 

Baltimore’s own little bomb-thrower.

Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey made headlines a couple of weeks ago with a rant against Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Plank’s Port Covington development, claiming that the proposed development will further segregate the city and saying this about Plank:

“He is not a local. He is not from Baltimore. He does not live in Baltimore. He is not about Baltimore. He is himself, an occupying, colonizing, culturally appropriating force.”

As if that was not enough Dorsey, who is white, also said that a meeting that Plank attended with President Donald Trump and other business leaders amounted to “white supremacy cozying up to white supremacy.”

In a tweet I described Dorsey as a fool for attacking Plank as a carpetbagger, if only because the city desperately needs people who do not live in the city but nevertheless care about it and are willing to invest in it, especially Marylanders like Plank.  In a recent letter to The Baltimore Sun Dorsey proved that he is more than a fool; he is a reckless bomb-throwing idiot.

In his letter Dorsey doubled down on his criticism of Plank for meeting with Trump because by doing so, according to Dorsey, Plank “aligned” himself with the Trump administration and because meeting with the president “normalizes figures like President Donald Trump and White House adviser Steve Bannon.”  Why Dorsey believes that a single meeting with Trump in the company of other business executives to discuss the future of manufacturing in the United States means that Plank has “aligned” himself with Trump is one thing but his accusation that advising the president “normalizes” Trump and Bannon is quite another and displays Dorsey’s true colors.

Dorsey used a term (“normalize”) that gained currency during the presidential campaign of Mr. Trump as another way of saying that someone did something that added an air of legitimacy to Mr. Trump or his message; in other words, something that tended to counter the impression that Mr. Trump was not a “normal” (legitimate) candidate and should not be treated as such.  In the eyes of many opponents of Mr. Trump it referred to the act of improperly treating someone on the lunatic fringe as if he was a normal person.

I have news for Dorsey:  Mr. Trump is the president of the United States and we need to accept that reality if we are going to deal with it successfully.  The mindset that he is not “legitimate” leads to misguided and dangerous concepts such as the proposition by Dorsey that people of good conscience should not undertake to advise or counsel the president.

On the contrary, when for example it comes to foreign policy and the use of military force we may in the future be damn glad that someone as cool-headed and savvy as James Mattis is willing to serve in Mr. Trump’s cabinet.  Dorsey apparently believe that Mr. Trump should get all of his advice from people like Steve Bannon and the latest whack job who seems to have his ear, 31 year old advisor Stephen Miller, to whom I now refer as Oberführer Miller because of his pronouncement that “the media and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”  (Stay tuned, by the way, as more about the background of Miller is published.)

Dorsey’s mention of Bannon in his letter is ironical, because Dorsey is the mirror image of Bannon, albeit on the other end of the political spectrum from and a lot less sophisticated than Bannon.  As I observed in a prior post Bannon is by nature an anti-establishment bomb-thrower more interested in disrupting the status quo rather than repairing it; during Mr. Trump’s campaign his approach appealed to disaffected voters willing to blow up the establishment in hopes that something better would arise from the ashes.

I am as concerned as Dorsey about the direction Mr. Trump and his administration are taking this country, to the extent that I set forth in detail in the above-referenced post my thoughts on how the tide could be reversed.  The difference is that Dorsey appears to believe that Mr. Trump somehow can be run out of office and that if Mr. Trump is deprived of all sound advice from sensible and successful citizens like Plank his departure will be hastened.

Think about it for a moment:  Why would depriving Mr. Trump of advice from “normal” people hasten his exit?  Because without sound advice Mr. Trump might continue to make calamitous decisions that lead to his downfall?  Is that what we or Dorsey really want?  It seems like a risky strategy to me, given the rather dangerous world in which we live.

I recommended an approach based on the strategy of persuading Mr. Trump that he needs to distance himself from the influence of Bannon.  I don’t know if my strategy can succeed; if anything Mr. Trump seems to be growing more erratic and unpredictable.  I do know that I am not willing to adopt the same strategy that got us into this mess, which is based on the idea that you blow everything up and then hope against hope that order magically emerges from chaos.  Whack jobs on the left are no more helpful than whack jobs on the right.

Dorsey’s antics are just one more reason to be disheartened about Baltimore.  Bomb-throwers typically do a lot more harm than good in local government and the Baltimore City Council has enough problems without having to deal with someone like him.

February 14, 2017

Reclaiming American values: A strategy.

There is growing recognition that the administration of President Donald Trump is a direct threat to the values and security of this country.  It is more than a disagreement over the direction of domestic and foreign policy; it is the realization that the president and his closest advisers want to make a fundamental change to who we are as Americans and what we stand for, and the change is a dark and troubling one.

Trump’s presidency has picked up where his campaign left off and is defined by  intolerance and antipathy:  He is against immigration, pluralism, and secular government and attacks the press and other dissenters with open hostility and not-so-veiled threats.  There is a persistent nastiness in his approach to governance that is unprecedented, at least in this country.  Trump ridicules and insults anyone with whom he disagrees.  No one escapes his disrespectful wrath; not even “so-called” federal judges.

One of the most important principles under attack is the value placed on reasoned discourse and the search for objective truth in the formation of public policy.  An op ed by Charlies Sykes in the New York Times is essential reading.  Sykes, a former conservative talk show host from Wisconsin, describes how the Trump administration is deliberately conditioning the public to reject reporting from news sites outside of the conservative media ecosystem, continuing a decades-long process by conservative media in which Sykes himself participated.

Trump and his cronies are attacking fact-based reporting and analysis much as an army would attack the intelligence gathering and command and control facilities of an enemy to destroy the enemy’s ability to gather and use accurate information in order for the enemy to defend itself. When Trump states that he is at “war” with the mainstream media what he really means is that he is in a battle with the role of objective truth.

As described by the editorial board of The Baltimore Sun, Trump seeks to re-write American values.  He has to be stopped from doing so.

Stopping Trump requires exploiting his narcissism to turn him against Steve Bannon. 

To prevent the Trump administration from doing irreparable damage to this country a wedge has to be driven between Trump and his chief political strategist, Steve Bannon.  It is Bannon who is supplying the ideological direction of the administration.  Trump has no ideology of his own and has hitched his political star and personal success as president to one borrowed from Bannon and the so-called alt-right.  To reduce the influence of Bannon Trump will have to be convinced that Bannon is taking him down the primrose path to humiliation and rejection by the majority of Americans.  Rejection is one thing that Trump cannot tolerate.

To understand Trump’s personality is to understand the danger he poses as president.  Understanding his personality also provides the knowledge necessary to halt or at least slow his assault on American values.

Trump is a narcissist and a megalomaniac.  Although it generally is unethical for professional psychiatrists and psychologists to “diagnose” public figures who they have not personally examined, the extent of Trump’s personality disorder – and the manner in which it could influence his judgment as president – has caused a number of psychiatrists and psychologists to put aside such ethical concerns.

The overwhelming consensus is that Trump has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), with pronounced megalomania.  Megalomania is a symptom of NPD, and includes a highly-exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or power.  At its extremes megalomania can be delusional, meaning that a person believes that he or she has capabilities out of keeping with reality.  Trump’s recent statement that “the world is in trouble, but we’re gonna straighten it out, OK? That’s what I do, I fix things” is a perfect example of megalomania.  Needless to say megalomania can lead to serious miscalculations and errors in judgment.

After the election three psychiatrists, two from Harvard Medical School and one from the University of California – San Francisco, wrote to then-President Obama.  Acknowledging the limitations on diagnosing a person they had not examined they nevertheless expressed their concern in the form of a recommendation that President Obama order a neuropsychiatric examination of President-elect Trump:

“His widely reported symptoms of mental instability – including grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality – lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office.”

A narcissist on the magnitude of Trump is as incapable of having strong ideological beliefs as he is of feeling empathy – there simply is no room for such things in an ego consumed by servicing its own needs.  That is where Bannon comes in.  Trump is an empty ideological vessel that has been filled with the mean-spirited world view of his chief strategist, Bannon.

Bannon and his alt-right agenda are a means to an end for Trump, and so far have served Trump extraordinarily well, catapulting him to an electoral victory that few predicted.  The relationship between Trump and Bannon is somewhat like the textbook symbiotic relationship between a shark and a remora fish, although in this case it is difficult to ascertain which one is the shark.

Bannon wants to destroy American society and replace it with xenophobic white nationalism.

Bannon allegedly told an interviewer in 2014 that “I’m a Leninist.  Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too.  I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of  today’s establishment.”  Bannon later said that he did not recall the conversation but other statements that have been confirmed are equally inflammatory and he frequently describes himself as “virulently anti-establishment.”

 

A change agent is one thing; a bomb-thrower at the heart of power is quite another.  A change agent wants agency heads committed to improving their departments.  A bomb-thrower wants cabinet members who lack any real belief in the mission of their departments, such as a Secretary of Education who disdains public education and an EPA administration who doesn’t believe in environmental regulations.  For a bomb-thrower turmoil and dysfunction is an end in itself.

Bannon is one of those individuals who lives for a fight and once referred to himself and his colleagues at Breitbart News as “the Fight Club.”  Put that together with the bigoted and sexist slant of Breitbart while Bannon was editor and you have probably the scariest chief strategist ever to advise a president.  Bannon has found himself in the ideal position to do the most damage to the establishment.

Trump’s fragile ego makes him vulnerable to popular pressure.

How does Trump’s personality disorder inform the plan to drive a wedge between him and Bannon?  Dr. Julie Futrell, a clinical psychologist, explained the effect of Trump’s narcissism on his judgment:  “Narcissism impairs his ability to see reality so you can’t use logic to persuade someone like that.  Three million women marching?  Doesn’t move him. Advisers point out that a policy choice didn’t work? He won’t care.”

Dr. Futrell is correct that reason and logic are not likely to dissuade Trump from taking a course of action to which he has committed.  And a single march or demonstration is not going to have much of an effect either.  At the core of Trump’s personality disorder, however, is a highly fragile ego.  Although it will take considerable effort to penetrate the layers of defense mechanisms that protect that ego, it can be done.

Trump himself has told us where he is vulnerable by his obsessions with the popular vote (in his head he lost it only because of massive voter fraud), the relative size of his inaugural crowd, and the fact that his television ratings on “The Apprentice” were greater than his successor on the show, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  When the president of the United States is so inappropriate that he begins an address to a National Prayer Breakfast by finding a way to mock Schwarzenegger’s inferior television ratings you know get a sense of how important “winning” is to his ego.  That is the weakness that must be exploited.

Trump has a never-ending need for approval and adulation.  Conversely, he can’t stand the idea that people neither like nor respect him and will cling to the fantasy that it is a limited number of people opposing him as long as he can.

Trump will never accept responsibility for his own unpopularity if the public turns against him.  His fury will first be directed at the mainstream press against whom he already has declared “war.”  If the rejection and humiliation broadens and intensifies Bannon will try to persuade Trump that Trump is a martyr to a great cause and that glory will come Trump’s way if he stays the course.

Eventually, however, Trump may come to believe that Bannon and his agenda are the cause of his declining popularity and that he can recover the adulation that he craves by moderating his goals and objectives.  Because of his shallowness Trump can turn on a dime when it comes to philosophy and policy, as we already have found out.

Trump also will turn on Bannon in a heartbeat if he no longer perceives Bannon as useful.   Trump is capable of true loyalty only to those persons he sees as alter egos of himself, such as Ivanka and Jared.  If we are lucky Trump can be persuaded that Americans believe in redemption (because they do) and that he can restore his popularity and salvage his reputation as president by turning away from Bannon and his agenda.

What will it take to convince Trump to distance himself from the alt-right?  In my opinion it will take an expression of grassroots resistance to his ideas not seen in 50 years in this country:  Massive and repeated demonstrations, boycotts, civil disobedience and job actions – peaceful protests in all shapes and sizes.  Enough that at some point the resistance to Trump achieves critical mass and Ivanka or Jared turns to Trump and say “the people hate you, Dad.”  That is when there will be a glimmer of hope.

Robert Young, a professor of coastal geology, wrote an op ed in the New York Times in which he said that the proposed March for Science in Washington, D.C. is a bad idea because it is likely to politicize the discussion over such topics as global warming even further.  He advocated instead that scientists try to establish more one-on-one relationships with the elected leaders that they hope to influence.  His theory is that leaders will trust and listen to scientists once they get to know them personally.

I’m sorry Professor Young, but that is hopelessly naïve.  Under normal circumstances you might be right but these aren’t normal circumstances.  You misunderstand the nature of what scientists and the rest of us are up against – Trump and the alt-right aren’t interested in the truth.  This war is not going to be won through logic and friendly persuasion.  The tide can be turned only by intense and relentless public pressure.  People who in the past wouldn’t dream of joining a protest need to rethink their reluctance to do so.  If they won’t do anything else they need to write letter after letter to their representatives in Congress hoping to encourage senators and representatives to join the resistance.

Success won’t be easy and the effort has risk.  Bannon is fiendishly clever and will use every weapon in his arsenal to maintain his grip on Trump.  After spontaneous demonstrations followed the issuance of the Muslim ban the White House announced that President Obama’s executive order protecting the rights of LGBT federal contractors would not be rescinded – at least not yet.  The reason may be that, as reported, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared prevailed on Trump not to rescind the order.  It also may be the case that Bannon is willing to proceed incrementally and doesn’t want to put too many protestors on the streets at the same time.  Trump is impulsive; Bannon is not and he is in this for the long haul.

It is vitally important that the resistance be a grass-roots movement.  A broad base will make it harder for Bannon and Trump to write off the opposition to the alt-right agenda as the product of the mainstream media or Democratic politicians.  The initial response to demonstrations and other protest actions by the administration will be an authoritarian one.  The administration will double down on attacks on the press and opposition politicians.  The base of the movement must be too wide for the administration to blame it on the mainstream media or a handful of bad actors.  If the American people want their country back then they are going to have to take charge of doing what is necessary to get it back.

There is the risk that Trump may simply unravel as his defenses break down under the pressure.  His comment to Bill O’Reilly of Fox News that more or less dismissed the crimes of despotic Russian president Vladimir Putin as being no worse than what is done by Americans is a sign that his judgment is getting worse, not better.  Trump isn’t thinking straight even by his warped standards.

This is more than political melodrama – the apocalypse could actually be upon us.

By way of conclusion I want to say this:  It is with sadness that I wrote this post concluding that demonstrations and protests are going to be necessary to preserve American values.  I lived through the anti-Vietnam War protest movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s and know first-hand that, once started, the direction and intensity of protests can be difficult to control.  I simply  don’t believe that we have any real choice.  Things don’t just seem bad; they are bad.

Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote in the New York Times that “the Trump administration is not a Republican administration; it is an ethnic nationalist administration” and that “it’s becoming increasingly clear that the aroma of bigotry infuses the whole operation, and anybody who aligns too closely will end up sharing in the stench.”  Brooks’ dire predictions about the direction of the country came on the heels of an article by Eliot Cohen in The Atlantic to which Brooks referred.

Cohen is a former state department official in the administration of President George W. Bush and is now the director of the Strategic Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.  He was one of the intellectual architects of the neoconservative movement.  I don’t agree with all of his theories but he is a genuine scholar not given to hysteria.  Cohen’s article is another opinion well worth reading and he had this to say about the presidency of Donald Trump:

“Precisely because the problem [with Trump] is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.”

Cohen believes that damage will be done but in the end Trump will not succeed in perverting the values of this country.

“He will fail most of all because at the end of the day most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

I share Cohen’s optimism about most Americans and that is why I wrote this post.  The decent people to whom Cohen refers, however, better act and act soon if they want America to emerge intact from the Trump presidency.  They need to get out of their comfort zones and fight for our country

February 5, 2017