Political Neverland

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.

6 thoughts on “Political Neverland”

  1. darcherd says:

    There was an interesting theory in a recent issue of The Economist to the effect that both Republicans and Democrats are appealing to a nostalgia for the Eisenhower era, though for different aspects. Republicans long for a return to a time when authority was respected, America was supreme in the world, and minorities “knew their place”. Democrats long to return to a time when a man could leave school at 16, get a job that paid well enough to support a family, keep that job for life and then comfortably retire. In other words, the time when Baby Boomers grew up. The author also theorized that much of the perceived “doom and gloom” and feeling that America has deteriorated and is in a bad place (despite much actual statistical evidence to the contrary) has as much to do with the deteriorating bodies of those Baby Boomers and their perception of their own lost youth and vitality as it does with actual facts.

    Hmmm. Well, maybe. But there does seem to be a bit of unwillingness to accept the world as it is – and more importantly, as it is likely to continue – on the part of both parties, for different reasons.

  2. Frank says:

    Regarding the “baby boomer perception” theory: As a boomer, myself, I am offended, hurt and angry…oh, and the worst part is that it sounds sort of true.

    Regarding the comparison of Trump to Hitler or Mussolini – I have noticed for some time an uncanny resemblance in facial expressions, especially the way the mouth is held, between Trump and Mussolini. It may mean very little, but with the body of historical comparison between pre-WWII Germany and the current USA situation…it is weird…and not in a good way.

    Trump may be a “doer” and is certainly not afraid to go “out of the box,” however, the job of President of the U.S. is not the same as running a for profit business. I am increasing sceptical of Trump’s ability to convert whatever prowess he has as a showman and a deal-maker into a usable talent for running the Country. Further, one mistake at the wrong time and place can cost huge amounts of problems, some lethal to far too many humans, to allow a novice, no matter how good a showman, to “play” at being President. There is no bankruptcy for fall back on when President, no chance to make your fortune back. The comparison to Reagan falls apart, as he had government experience, and was not so incredibly egocentric, allowing him to collect people around him to delegate to.

    I’m not happy with Hillary, for a number of reasons, but she appears, at worst, to be more of “the same old thing.” Compared to the havoc that Trump is likely to cause, the same old thing doesn’t sound as scarey.

  3. John Mai says:

    It’s unsurprising, the people of any nation respond well to anyone who reinforces their fears and promises a solution, however vaguely worded.
    The comparison to Hitler and Mussolini is valid, but one could compare him to Mao, Pol Pot or really any leader who stirred up the fears of the populace and convinced them that their way of life is under threat, and that only quick, decisive and dramatic action will save them.
    I’m becoming more convinced that Trump doesn’t actually want to be president, not in the sense of actually leading the nation, but instead seeks only the title of President, “the most powerful man in the world.”
    It seems to fit his apparent egotism.
    The idea of him in the White House is the only time I’ve ever been truly afraid of anyone seeking that office.

  4. darcherd says:

    I’ve also seen the comparisons of Trump to Hitler and Mussolini, the followers of both those men were both dedicated and disciplined, e.g. Mussolini’s black-shirted fascisti and Hitler’s Brown Shirts. I do not see the anywhere near the same degree of dedication, organization or discipline in Trump’s supporters, so I think the risk of Trump being able to implement a totalitarian dictatorship is pretty small.

    What I do fear is that the best – the very best – we can expect from a Trump presidency is another Silvio Berlusconi, i.e. a businessman turned politician whose naiveté about the true business of governing renders him ineffective and whose mouth and behavior turn him and his country into international laughingstocks. In the worst case, he will be another Vladmir Putin, a strong man whose power base rests on a combination of populism and nationalism and whose respect for democracy and the rule of law run a very distant second to his lust for power and need for self-aggrandizement.

  5. aleciaf says:

    I’ve come to the realization that the real job Trump desires is Queen of England. He wants to be the figurehead, he wants to wear the Crown Jewels, and he has no desire to handle either domestic or foreign affairs, but he wants to be able to go on TV and brag about it. He is a demagogue, and he is very, very scary.

  6. Chad B says:

    Whether Trump wins or loses, I’m scared to see such a large percentage of the electorate willing to vote for such a seriously flawed candidate just because he’s considered an outsider.

    It seems like we are finally hitting a critical mass of uninformed voters. Add to that the voters who are so angry at a dysfunctional system, that they are willing to burn the whole thing to the ground…

    If politics continue to become more polarized, perhaps some charismatic politician promises to fix all the problems by abolishing Congress…

    How safe is our democracy when Congress’s approval rating is below 9%. Congress gets beaten by cockroaches, herpes and even Nickleback…

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