Like millions of Americans last Thursday night, I watched and listened to Donald Trump’s acceptance speech. The speech was about what I expected, but the reaction of the crowd was frightening, for more than a few reasons.
The speech ticked off and highlighted every concern and fear of the right-wingers, evangelicals, and “disenfranchised” white middle class males, and Trump’s answer to each concern was that he was going to fix it fast on January 20th, and that’s the equivalent of Peter Pan’s Neverland being transported to American politics.
Why? Because, first, Trump offered no specifics, and, second, that the vast majority of the problems that he highlighted (and I will admit that most are problem areas, if not always of the severity he claims) either cannot be “solved” by the President without action by the Congress as well, and Congress NEVER acts that fast, if it acts at all, or are problems that cannot be effectively addressed by the federal government at all. For example, except for the Capitol Police, under the jurisdiction of the Congress, police forces are under the jurisdiction of state and local governments. The various trade agreements that he deplores require Congressional action to be changed. So do most federal regulations, because they’re required by law.
Then there is the rather significant point that virtually every proposal he made requires more funding and more resources, and yet he proposed a massive income tax cut at a time when the federal deficit is already far too large.
The crowd, good Republicans all, was oblivious to all of this, and their chants, and Trump’s cheerleading, reminded me all too much of movie footage of Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s. What too many people either forget or never knew was that the German people felt the same way about the German parliament as many Americans do about Congress, and most either agreed or looked the other way when Hitler effectively abolished parliament, placing the blame on the communists.
At the same time, as I noted close to a year ago, Trump is raising issues that affect and worry possibly as much as half the U.S. population, if not more, although at this point a majority doesn’t appear to agree with his proposals for dealing with them. But if people perceive that these problem areas are getting worse and that Clinton doesn’t care or won’t address them effectively, Trump has a good shot at being elected President.
Add to that Trump’s total disregard for facts, his apparent failure to understand the Constitutional structure of our government (or his blatant demagoguery ignoring its limitations), and his supreme egotism, and combine those with the simplistic views of the current Republican party, and, if Trump is elected, the scene is set for some form of governmental/political catastrophe.
Are the Democrats much better? Their platform certainly promises more than Congress will ever deliver, but what Clinton proposes is at least technically doable, if not necessarily desirable, but Clinton’s less flamboyant approach isn’t likely to win over middle class males feeling disenfranchised, and those Americans with immigration and terrorists at the top of their worry lists.
In the end, the question is whether a woman promising the costly and largely possible, at the expense of the wealthiest Americans, can top a man promising to do the impossible in a campaign based on fear and nostalgia for a past that never was.