THE “LOGIC OF TRUMP”: IMPLICATIONS FOR “THE RESISTANCE” (Part Two of Two)

by John Stafford

INTRODUCTION

This article is the second in a two-part sequence. The first article provided an assessment of the Obama Presidency.The second addresses the rise of Trump. They are written in tandem, in an attempt to provide insight into the question of how a nation as great as the United States has produced a president as appalling as Donald Trump. This is a critical question, because in order to effectively oppose the administration, one must understand the “logic” behind it. In my view, “The Resistance” (which I fully support) is at times misguided due to an incomplete appreciation of the dynamics that have engendered Trump.

There are three sections. The first describes the forces that have given rise to Trump. The second outlines the realms of societal damage occurring under Trump. The third discusses the implications of these observations for “The Resistance.”

THE FOUR FORCES BEHIND THE RISE OF TRUMP

While there are many factors behind the rise of Trump, I argue that four are most salient: (1) Immoral GOP policy; (2) anti-globalization backlash; (3) anti-Obama backlash and “white-supremacist” resurgence; and (4) anti-establishment sentiment.

1a. Immoral GOP Policy

In my view, this is the single biggest factor behind the rise of Trump, and yet the least discussed. Here, I posit two arguments. First, the U.S. Republican Party is pursuing profoundly immoral policy on the major issues of our times. Second, and importantly, this pursuit has produced a dynamic that continuously generates absurd political candidates.

Current GOP leadership is pursuing aggressively immoral policy in a number of areas. Three are especially critical. The first is climate change. We live in a world where 350 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide is deemed to be the safe limit; current levels are above 400 parts per million and rising; 16 of the hottest 17 years on record have occurred since 2000, with 2016 being the hottest year since modern record keeping began in 18801; 98% of the world’s climate scientists believe that climate change is real, anthropogenic, and represents a major risk to humanity; and warnings abound on the dangers of climate change (e.g., Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Affairs asserts that, “Global warming poses the biggest long-term threat to the survival of the human species.”2). In addition, 195 of 197 nations (all but Syria and Nicaragua, until the U.S.A. recently joined their ranks) met in Paris to formalize their commitment to dealing with this existential challenge.

Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by China and pursued an aggressive fossil fuel expansion strategy.3 This plan involves repealing Obama’s Clean Power Plan, withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, supporting the development of the coal industry, opening ANWAR and some of the nation’s national monuments to oil and gas drilling, using seismic tests to explore for oil and gas under the Atlantic Ocean, repealing CAFÉ (average fuel economy) standards, etc. This strategy is spectacularly immoral.

Income inequality is a second area of GOP policy immorality. We live in a country where the 400 wealthiest citizens have more wealth than the poorest 155 million citizens4; the ratio of American CEO compensation to average worker compensation is now over 300 (it was 40 in 1980 and is currently 16 in Japan)5; and income inequality in the U.S. is at an all-time high. The two prior peaks in U.S. income inequality (1928 and 2008) were followed by economic recession, but unlike after 1928, when income inequality was reduced dramatically, it is now increasing. Jeffrey Sachs writes, “Income inequality has reached astronomical levels, with the top one percent of American households taking home almost all of the gains in economic growth in recent decades, while the share of the bottom 50 percent plummets.”6

There are numerous dangers from exorbitant income inequality. A range of economic luminaries, including Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty, Alan Krueger and Raghuram Rajan argue that increasing income inequality diminishes economic growth.7 Larry Summers’ Secular Stagnation hypothesis suggests that modern economic growth rates are low in part due to excessive savings (leading to diminished demand) and insufficient investment–phenomena that are partially attributable to increases in income inequality.8 In The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett document the connections between rising income inequality and the increase in social ills (e.g., declining public health, increased societal violence, increased mental illness, etc.).9 In Collapse, Jared Diamond documents the historic correlation between soaring income inequality and societal collapse.10 And the Seattle Times’s Jon Talton writes, “For society, we see fewer who have the means to move up and start companies, or to become professionals or skilled workers. This makes for an inefficient and increasingly creaky economy. One can ignore the morality of the situation entirely and still be concerned.”11 Finally, many analysts have noted the connection between increasing income inequality and the nation’s political gridlock–attributable to the widening divergence in the policy interests of the nation’s classes.

The Trump / GOP response to this crisis is to take aggressive action to further increase income inequality. This approach includes seeking further tax cuts for the affluent, repealing regulation partially designed to manage inequality (e.g., Dodd-Frank), the diminishment of union influence to undermine collective bargaining, etc. Referencing the 2016 GOP presidential candidates, Jackie Calmes of The New York Times writes,

The tax plans of the Republican presidential candidates would cut federal revenues as much as $12 trillion over a decade, a post-World War II record eclipsing the deep tax cuts of George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy…. Also, at a time when many Americans lament the growing gap between rich and poor—and the shrinking middle class in between—the Republicans’ plans would mostly benefit the richest individuals and corporations, according to analyses by research groups that lean left, right and center.12

Writing elsewhere, David Leonhardt concurs, starting, “The budget calls for shifting many billions of dollars a year from the middle class and the poor to the very richest Americans. The very rich would receive this money through tax cuts. The rest of the country would lose out thanks to cuts in government programs that touch almost every citizen, including Social Security, Medicaid and food stamps.”13 Such regressive tax changes are also spectacularly immoral.

Health care is another area of Trump / GOP policy immorality. The U.S. has a high cost, poor outcome health care system. Jon Talton writes: “As a landmark Commonwealth Fund report laid out in 2015, the United States spends much more on health care than other high-income nations and sees some of the worst outcomes. The result is a huge weight on the U.S. economy and desperation for millions of Americans.”14 A primary driver of our dysfunctional health care system is the fact that the U.S., unlike almost every other industrialized nation, does not provide some form of universal health care coverage to its citizens. Talton elaborates, “every other advanced nation has some form of a universal, publicly financed health-care system…Powerful health-care interests want to keep it that way. They profit enormously and they are helping call the tune for the GOP Congress.”15

Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) partially addressed the US health care crisis by combining consumer mandates to purchase insurance, insurance company mandates to sell insurance to a broader pool of citizens, and government regulation of the ensuing market to dramatically increase U.S. health care coverage rates. This approach has led to a decline in uninsured Americans from 17% to an all-time low of 9%.

The Trump / GOP response to this success has been predictable—to work aggressively to reduce the number of Americans with health insurance, a move in the opposite direction to the rest of the industrialized world. In order to do this, first, they have had to lie about the success of Obamacare. Reed Abelson and Margot Sanger-Katz note how Trump’s repeated assertion that, “…Obamacare is collapsing,” is contradicted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which states, “…the Obamacare markets will remain stable over the long run, if there are no significant changes.”16

The GOP proposals (both the House and Senate versions) would remove coverage for 22-23 million Americans, in part by dramatically cutting Medicaid, the nation’s primary insurance program for the poor. The beneficiaries of the reduction in health care coverage for the poor and elderly would be the affluent–insurance companies that would benefit from declining regulations and wealthy citizens who would benefit from tax reductions. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, $33 billion of the tax cuts would benefit the 400 wealthiest U.S. households.17 Stephen Ohlemacher of the Associated Press also notes, “About 90 percent of the benefit from repealing the tax would go the top 1 percent of earners, who make $700,000 or more, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.”18 And Judith Solomon of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities observes, “It’s taking from the poor to confer benefits on the rich…So it’s Robin Hood in Reverse.”19

Bernie Sanders refers to the GOP health care reform effort as, “…literally insane…a disgrace…a moral abomination.”20 Paul Krugman calls it a “…a sick joke.”21 The Seattle Times’s Danny Westneat says the bill should be called, “…the Better Care for Millionaires Act.”22 David Leonhardt writes: It’s hard to find any independent experts who support the Republican approach to health reform. The lobbying groups for doctors, nurses, hospitals and retirees oppose it, as do advocates for treatment of cancer, heart disease, lung disease, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and many other conditions. Among policy experts, conservatives, moderates and liberals have all blasted the bill.”23 In a variety of public opinion polls, support for the GOP health care reform effort is between 10 and 20%.24 The GOP efforts to deform health care in America are spectacularly immoral.

Thus, in three of the nation’s most important areas of public policy—climate change, income inequality, and health care—the GOP is aggressively pursuing blatantly immoral policy.25 Pursuing an aggressive fossil fuel strategy in the era of all-time highs in atmospheric carbon dioxide; large tax cuts for the affluent in the era of all-time highs in income inequality; and huge reductions in health care coverage to further enrich the affluent in an era when the U.S. has uncommonly low coverage levels are clearly destructive to the nation and its citizens.

In each of these areas, Trump and the GOP are doing what is morally wrong and socially destructive in service to the nation’s financial elite. Fossil fuel expansion serves the nation’s massive energy firms; such tax cuts serve the wealthy; such health care reform serves insurance companies and the affluent. When analyzing the contemporary situation, psychology professor Phillip Cushman argues that the modern Republican Party has, “…had to mortgage their integrity to the very richest of Americans, who demand tax cuts and devious welfare-for-the-rich and deregulation deals that make any sort of rational and creative legislative response to difficult 21st century challenges impossible to craft.”26

1b. The Connection Between Immoral Policy and the Rise of Trump

In my view, the ongoing GOP commitment to immoral public policy leads to one of the most important (but seldom mentioned) phenomenon in modern American politics: the inextricable link between immoral GOP policy and the regular emergence of unqualified and often absurd political candidates (e.g., Bush II, Palin, Trump, and virtually all other 2016 GOP presidential candidates). One analyst, on the Claremont Review of Books website under the pseudonym Decius, asserts, “Only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could Trump rise.”27

The GOP produces unqualified and often absurd presidential candidates precisely because its policy is morally abominable. Such strategies and outcomes follow a certain logic. Immoral policy requires the denigration of fact, science, truth and logic—because immoral policy is never logical. In order to effectively compete for the GOP presidential nomination, a candidate must be willing to support the aforementioned immoral policy positions, and concurrently eschew the fact, science, truth and logic that contraindicate them. Thus, highly-qualified, serious-minded, conservative candidates are dissuaded from competing. In short, the allegiance to immoral policy necessitates the generation of absurd political leaders.

Where are the highly intelligent, highly qualified, fact/science/truth/logic-based, potential conservative political candidates of the day? They are on the sidelines, cordoned off from the GOP ring, by the highly influential funding sources, GOP policy organizations, and GOP leadership that demand fealty to policy immorality. Paul Krugman makes a similar observation regarding GOP policy when he writes, “…the GOP’s policymaking and policy analysis capacity has been downgraded to the point of worthlessness. There are real conservative policy experts, but the party doesn’t want them, perhaps because their very competence makes them ideologically unreliable–a proposition illustrated by the rush to enact this [health care] bill before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office can estimate either its costs or its effects. Basically, facts and serious analysis are the modern right’s enemies; policy is left to hacks who can’t get even the simplest things right.”28

Thus, the recalcitrant adherence to immoral policy structurally locks the GOP into the regular generation of unqualified and often absurd candidates, as well as the production of poor policy analysis. In our era, the U.S has witnessed the rise of Bush II, Palin, and Trump–individuals who never should have gotten close to the national political arena–as leading Republican figures. And the 2016 presidential race featured a mind-numbing assemblage of unqualified candidates who provided an astonishingly ridiculous series of debates. Trump, while certainly extreme, is not an aberration of the process that structurally produces incompetent candidates. Rather, he is the “logical” culmination of it. Krugman amplifies this point when he reminds us, “But it’s important to realize that he [Trump] isn’t someone who suddenly intruded into Republican politics from an alternative universe. He, or someone like him, is where the party has been headed for a long time.”29

  1. Anti-Globalization Sentiment

Trump is one of a number of candidates internationally (Jaroslaw Kaczynski of Law and Justice in Poland; Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom in Holland; Marine Le Pen of the National Front in France; Viktor Orban of Fidesz in Hungary; Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Justice and Development in Turkey; Rodrigo Duterte of PDP-Laban in the Philippines, and others) who has railed against the vision of a world order based on globalization. The globalization vision calls for the establishment of a community of intertwined nations—connected via the principles of free trade, open foreign direct investment, floating exchange rates, and open immigration— multi-lateral agreements (NAFTA, TPP), and international institutions (the UN, World Bank, IMF, WTO, European Union, NATO).

The future of this vision of globalization has become an international dividing line. While the Brexit vote and the Trump election demonstrate powerful discontent with this form of globalization, Macron’s defeat of Le Pen in France and other elections around the world demonstrate continued support for these strategies. It is also important to recall that anti-globalization backlash often follows periods of economic crisis. For example, Trump’s call for tariffs in the aftermath of the Great Recession recalls the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act enacted after the onset of the Great Depression. (It should be noted, many economists have condemned both tariff proposals.)

Much has been written about the anti-globalization movement. One key point, Tony Blair and others have suggested, is that we are more toward the beginning than the end of this worldwide movement against this vision of globalization. Therefore, it is crucial that we recognize how the anti-globalization sentiment within some segments of American society have buttressed further the Trump / GOP agenda.

  1. Anti-Obama Backlash and the Reassertion of “White Supremacy”

Unfortunately, racism has a long history of expression in the United States. Certain segments of society do not brook progress in race relations without a fight, and the Obama-era legacy of gains in minority rights is not an exception. Christopher Parker, University of Washington political science professor, observes, “Every period of racial progress in this country is followed by a period of retrenchment. That’s what the 2016 election was about, and it was plain as it was happening.”30 Indeed, recent analyses of the 2016 presidential election suggest that the lower-educated white middle class, who allegedly voted for Trump due to economic malaise, were actually motivated more by xenophobia and racism. According to Parker, “The story we’ve told ourselves—that working-class whites flocked to Trump due to job worries or free trade or economic populism—is basically wrong, the research papers released this week suggest. They did flock to Trump. But the reason they did so in enough numbers for Trump to win wasn’t anxiety about the economy. It was anxiety about Mexicans, Muslims and blacks.”31 This conclusion is consistent with the fact that this demographic segment remains loyal to Trump despite the reality that many of Trump’s policies, including his proposed health care repeal, run counter to their economic interests.

Other periods of racial progress in the U.S. have similarly instigated anti-minority backlash. For example, the Civil War was followed by Reconstruction and the codification of many new-found rights for blacks. However, many of these reforms were soon rescinded by white racist state governments in a reactionary process that culminated in the apartheid system known as Jim Crow.32 As historian Eric Foner explains, “What remains certain is that Reconstruction failed, and that for blacks its failure was a disaster whose magnitude cannot be obscured by the genuine accomplishments that did endure.”33 Similarly, Seattle author Glenn Young discusses the rise of the Redeemer Movement in the post-Civil War South, which, “wanted and got single-party rule by the white elites, for the benefit of the white elites only.” According to Young, the Redeemers established the new Jim Crow laws, and utilized the Ku Klux Klan, “as their terrorist arm.”34

Roughly a century later, the progress of blacks during the Civil Rights era was followed by the backlash of Nixon’s Southern Strategy—successfully garnering the support of Southern whites who were disillusioned with the social and political progress of blacks.35

Obama, as the nation’s first minority president, became the ultimate threat to the prevailing racist order. Racist opposition to Obama was present from the beginning: the comically embarrassing Birther Movement; South Carolina’s Republican Representative Joe Wilson telling Obama, “you lie,” during a speech to Congress; the mutinous “Cotton Letter,” signed by virtually all Republican Senators, expressing a lack of solidarity with Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal; the refusal to consider Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court appointment; racist comments cast toward the first family. The list goes on.

Trump is the modern leader of this vile lineage that seeks to thwart racial progress in the U.S. (Young refers to him as the de facto leader of a “New Redeemer movement”). One of Trump’s objectives is not just to replace Obama, but to reverse his legacy—to expunge the achievements of a black president. As Russell Riley, presidential historian at the University of Virginia, writes, “I’ve reflected back and simply cannot find another instance in recent American history where a new administration was so wholly committed to reversing the accomplishments of its predecessor.”36 As well, Paul Krugman, observing the GOP response to Obamacare, warns, “More broadly, Obamacare must die precisely because it’s working, showing that government action really can improve people’s lives–a truth they don’t want anyone to know.”37 In the Trump era, the pursuit of white supremacy and opposition to minority group progress has expanded to include Hispanics, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, among others.

  1. Anti-Establishment Sentiment

A fourth factor behind the rise of Trump is a certain anti-establishment sentiment. The 2016 elections revealed a powerful national desire for a change in the status quo. Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump led populist, middle class movements that inveighed against the prevailing political order. Much has been written about this phenomenon and why it appeals to those on the Right and the Left. However, what is important to understand here is the connection between GOP policy immorality and the rise of populism on the Right. Policy immorality engenders political gridlock, contributing to a political landscape that is more susceptible to this strand of populism.

  1. Summary

In summary, Trump’s rise is largely attributable to a sinister amalgamation of four forces—GOP policy immorality; anti-globalization sentiment; anti-Obama and anti-minority group sentiment in an attempt to reassert white supremacy in America; and anti-establishment sentiment.

Virtually all of Trump’s policy initiatives can be interpreted through this lens, which magnifies the “logic of Trump.” The fossil fuel expansion strategy, tax cuts for the affluent and ACA repeal are pure policy immorality. Trump’s denigration of NATO and the EU, opposition to NAFTA and the TPP, and the cutting of the State Department budget along with reductions in foreign aid, are clear anti-globalization measures. Similarly, genuflections toward ethno-nationalist leaders (e.g., Putin at times, Erdogan, el-Sisi, Modi and Duterte) are expressions of anti-globalization sentiment as these leaders are not supportive of the globalization initiative. There are numerous examples of Trump’s racist, “white-nationalist” philosophy: referring to Mexicans as rapists; the mind-numbing, “build the wall and make them pay for it”; the travel bans that target Muslim nations; the opposition to Black Lives Matter; the decision to drawback from federal consent decrees with municipal police departments that are designed to decrease police bias against minorities; the renewed emphasis on the racist war on drugs; the increase in deportations and decrease in immigration quotas; etc. Finally, “Drain the Swamp” (whether realized in any meaningful way or not) is an expression anti-establishment sentiment.

Furthermore, current Trump / GOP initiatives simultaneously serve multiple purposes. For example, withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement is a Trump masterstroke because it represents a departure from the status quo, exemplifies policy immorality, rebuffs a globalization initiative38, reverses an Obama accomplishment, and favors the white “Global North” at the expense of the minority “Global South,” which will suffer the brunt of the consequences from global warming. In short, it achieves everything (of zero substance) at once.

REALMS OF AMERICAN DEVASTATION

The concentrated media focus on non-policy issues—ties to Russia, emoluments, tax returns, social media messages, and the like—obfuscates the immense damage the Trump administration is doing in more consequential realms. Five areas where Trump and the contemporary GOP are doing the most damage are especially vital.

  1. Policy Devastation

In addition to the policy immorality mentioned above, Trump’s diabolical objectives also include lowering the top marginal tax rate by nearly 5 percentage points; repealing the alternative minimum tax (intended to prevent the affluent from using financial gimmickry to avoid their tax obligations); repealing the inheritance tax; lowering the capital gains tax, cutting the corporate tax rate; delaying and perhaps repealing the fiduciary rule; dramatically increasing the deficit; significantly reducing Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps); diminishing protections for federally protected land in twenty-seven national monuments; pursuing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines; drastically cutting funding for the National Parks Service; repealing the moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands; removing regulations on methane leaks from pipelines; repealing other pipeline safety standards; repealing CAFÉ (average fuel economy) standards for cars; repealing recent fuel efficiency standards for trucks; closing the office of International Climate and Technology; withholding contributions to the United Nations climate fund; repealing the Clean Water Rule, which restored Clean Water Act protections to the nation’s streams and wetlands; reducing funding for Puget Sound cleanup; eliminating federal support for salmon recovery; dramatically reducing the size, scope, and influence of the EPA by cutting its budget by over 30%; declining to reappoint half of the expert members of the board that advised the EPA on the integrity of its science; decreasing funding for Sound Transit III and a variety of other transit projects nationwide; reducing Amtrak funding; increasing military spending while reducing the State Department budget and foreign aid to developing countries by one-third; instituting a racially-motivated travel ban; proposing a border wall; increasing deportations; reinstituting the racially-biased and unsuccessful domestic war on drugs; pursuing a charter school and voucher-friendly approach to public education; partially repealing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); cutting $1 billion from after-school programs; supporting House passage of the Choice Act to repeal Dodd-Frank; diminishing the influence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; repealing net-neutrality laws; repealing overtime protections for government workers; opposing minimum wage increases; curtailing women’s reproductive rights and options; and launching the voter fraud commission, among other initiatives.

Paul Krugman asks us to pause and consider the carnage this administration has already left in it wake when he writes, “Think, for a minute, of just how much damage this man has done on multiple fronts in just five months.”39 And, the worst is yet to come.

  1. Reactionary, Racist Philosophy

Trump’s efforts to harness white-nationalist sentiment in order to “restore” Caucasian supremacy in the U.S. are, of course, appalling and dangerous, and have ignited a resurgence of xenophobia and racism in the country. Moreover, Trump’s racist narrative of American greatness is at odds with the real narrative of American greatness—the compelling magic of its amazing diversity.

In this area, Trump is working against long term demographic trends–the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the U.S. will become a majority-minority nation by 2044.40 Columnist Leonard Pitts argues that many Americans are concerned about, “the coming America in which white people no longer bear the stamp of demographic primacy, in which they find themselves reduced from lead actor to member of the ensemble. That America is still coming. But notice was just served [via the election of Trump] that it will be resisted every step of the way.”41

Trump’s project is a reactionary, xenophobic, racist endeavor that deploys a false historical narrative in an attempt to forestall the inevitable and desirable future of an ever-more pluralistic America and the ever-more pluralistic profile of those who lead it.

  1. The Abdication of the U.S. Leadership Role in the International System

Equally appalling is Trump’s decision to remove the U.S. from its seven-decade position as leader of the global international order. In the aftermath of World War II, the United States assumed the lead in shaping and executing this vision of globalization. Trump and the GOP are redefining America’s role in the world. As former Yale political science professor Walter Russel Mead explains, “For the first time in 70 years, the American people have elected a president who disparages the policies, ideas and institutions at the heart of the postwar U.S. foreign policy.”42 And, as Stewart Patrick argues, “Since the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, 13 successive U.S. presidents have agreed that the United States must assume the mantle of global leadership…. That is about to change. U.S. President Donald Trump has promised a foreign policy that is nationalist and transactional, focused on securing narrow material gains for the United States.”43

Trump disagrees with the philosophical tenet that the U.S. and other nations are better off when they operate in concert. On May 30, 2017, the Wall Street Journal published a controversial Op-Ed from written by Trump advisors H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn. Among other things, McMaster and Cohn opined, “The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”44

David Brooks responded by asserting,

That sentence is the epitome of the Trump project.… In the essay, McMaster and Cohn make explicit the great act of moral decoupling woven through this presidency. In this worldview, morality has nothing to do with anything. Altruism, trust, cooperation and virtue are unaffordable luxuries in the struggle of all against all. Everything is about self-interest.45

He then went on to conclude, “I wish H.R. McMaster was a better student of Thucydides: He’d know that the Athenians adopted the same amoral tone he embraces: ‘The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.’ The Athenians ended up making endless enemies and destroying their own empire.”48

In an Atlantic article entitled, “The Death Knell for America’s Global Leadership,” David Frum asserted that Trump administration officials, “have reimagined America in the image of their own chief: selfish, isolated, brutish, domineering, and driven by immediate appetites rather than ideals or even longer-term interests.”46

And, in the Seattle Times, retired U.S. Ambassador John Koenig, who held senior positions of service in Cyprus, Germany, Greece and NATO, responded,

Today, America steps forth not as a sometimes misguided champion of values or proponent of enlightened self-interest. Trump’s America proclaims itself an unabashedly immoral actor, its policy openly selfish, subordinating principle to fear and greed, and destroying the foundation on which international cooperation rests. We strut as a bully in the world but cower timorously at home. This is a deeply inhumane and brutish foreign policy posture, likely to cause untold human suffering and disaster.47

To hear such different voices as these three drawing such similar conclusions is distressing because a plethora of analysts argue that American abdication of its historical leadership position will dramatically weaken our country. Recently, we have heard analysts refer to Angela Merkel, Shinzo Abe, and Justin Trudeau as the remaining leaders and defenders of the liberal international order that America built. In effect, Trump has ceded America’s preeminent, longstanding position as the leader of the global order by recasting the U.S. as merely a self-seeking nation-state. In my view, Trump’s international vision represents the constrained and dangerous vision of a constrained and dangerous mind.

In addition, Trump’s reclusive, nativist approach enables other nations to fill the void and assume more aggressive international leadership roles. For example, China is pursuing a more integrated global vision via its “One Belt, One Road” transcontinental infrastructure development initiative, its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and other programs. In fact, China has been surprised at the U.S. repudiation of its longstanding global leadership role and has been happy to step into the gap. Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, has pointed out, “We have the impression the United States has become a country out of our recognition.”49 And, Thomas Friedman, reflecting on how China has come to see the U.S. president and his ethno-nationalistic retrenchment project, reports that, “We may call him ‘Trump’ in America, but here it’s pronounced ‘Chump.’50

Finally, in a recurring theme of this article, there is a powerful connection between the Trump / GOP espousal of domestic public policy immorality and the Trump / GOP decision to relinquish international U.S. leadership: the former necessitates the latter. How can the U.S. inspire and guide the liberal international system when it is committed to exacerbating global warming, increasing income inequality, and decreasing the percentage of its citizens with health care?

In attempting to restore American greatness, Trump is unwinding one of America’s greatest modern achievements–the creation and leadership of a powerful, globalized international order.

  1. Enduring Economic Damage

Trump/ the GOP present many false choices on policy, including, most saliently, on climate change. The GOP narrative holds that there is a trade-off involving fossil fuel exploration and economic growth: if the U.S. pursues clean energy, it may be better for the environment, but it will be worse for the U.S. economy. Although this scenario may be true in the short term, many economists argue it will not hold down the road. Eventually, the global economy will transition to clean energy, and it will be those countries that aggressively developed clean energy technology will benefit economically from its global adoption. According to a joint AP/New York Times article, “Should the United States pull out of the [Paris] pact and seek to protect old-school jobs in coal and oil, it would risk losing the chance to lead the world in developing environmentally friendly technology–and generate the jobs that come with it. What’s more, over the long haul, climate change itself threatens to impose huge costs on the economy.”51

We must take care when comparing a nation’s evils across eras; however, it is useful to note the thematic similarities between Republican Party support for a pro-fossil fuel strategy in 2017 and Democratic Party support for the continuation of slavery in the mid-19th century. As with the earlier case, today’s continuation of the immoral policy promises immense short-term financial benefits to an established elite while threatening the nation’s economy in the longer term.

One might be tempted to make the mistake of believing that slavery, while morally wrong, was a net positive for the American economy. Yet, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, preeminent researchers at MIT and Harvard respectively, and authors of the classic Why Nations Fail, dispel this myth. They demonstrate that while slavery is economically beneficial in the short run to the slaveholding elite, it is ultimately highly damaging to national economic growth. An economy functions at its highest possible level when each individual is employed at their most productive possible avocation. A slave-based economy systematically violates this tenet. Individuals who could have been doctors, engineers, and teachers work instead as agricultural laborers, and, thus, far below their productive capacity. Such a situation destroys the national GDP.52, 53

As with mid-19th century pro-slavery policy, an established financial elite continues to benefit from contemporary policies while threatening the structural stability and longer-term economic outcomes of the nation as a whole. While China sees the reality of this strategy, Trump and the GOP continue to ignore it. As Paul Krugman observes, “Republican leaders have spent the past couple of decades… trashing democratic norms in pursuit of economic benefits for their donor class.”54

  1. The Denigration of Science, Fact, Truth, and Logic

Trump and the GOP are destroying the societal ethos of fact, science, truth, and logic. Trump tweets out his views on topics as varied as global warming and vaccine schedules while lacking the qualifications to do so. When confronted with evidence contradicting his opinions and policies, he attacks academics and the media, and his staff invokes “alternate-facts” (a frightening expression). Overall, the Trump administration is cutting science budgets, suppressing scientific research, conducting legislative deliberations out-of-view of the public, and ignoring Congressional Budget Office scoring of legislation before deliberating on it. These policy changes engender a counter societal ethos, one which elevates each person’s opinion to the realm of the reasonable, irrespective of how uninformed or illogical it is. The U.S. has been referred to as being a “post-fact, post-truth” society. Nothing could be more dangerous in the long run.

Tom Nichols, professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College warns,

Too few citizens today understand democracy to mean a condition of political equality in which all get the franchise and are equal in the eyes of the law. Rather, they think of it as a state of actual equality, in which every opinion is as good as any other, regardless of the logic or evidentiary base behind it. But that is not how a republic is meant to work, and the sooner American society establishes new ground rules for productive engagement between educated elites and the society around them, the better.”

Nichols goes on to call our modern society an “idiocracy”55 and attributes this movement toward an egalitarian-opinion-based society to the internet, where there are a billion websites–what he refers to as “a vast wasteland” of information–where uninformed opinions masquerade as truth.

While fake news and other disinformation channels may play a part in the rise of an ignorant citizenry, we must also consider the role of the Trump / GOP immoral policy. Such strategy is never supported by facts and always functions illogically. Therefore, in order to justify its immoral policy, immoral social forces must first denigrate the fact, science, truth, and logic that stand in opposition to it. Thus, the stubborn adherence to policy immorality is a major driver behind the entire change in national ethos. Trump / GOP policy immorality engenders cultural denigration. Otherwise, as a nation, we may become aware of our immorality.

Paul Krugman writes about the ever-increasing problem of dishonesty in our political discourse: “But all indications are that the age of spin is over. It has been replaced by an era of raw, shameless dishonesty…No president, or for that matter major U.S. political figure of any kind, has ever lied as freely and frequently as Donald Trump.”56 Larry Summers adds, “Past a certain point, exaggeration and hype become dishonesty and deception. In economic policy, as in almost everything else, the Trump Administration is way past that point.”57

As well, there are dangerous, second-order consequences for a society that becomes untethered to fact. The second Iraq War is a powerful example. The invasion of that nation was rationalized on three lies–that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction,had  ties to Al-Qaeda, and was linked to 9/11; and it was promoted with fantastic predictions–that the U.S. would be greeted as liberators and that this liberation would provoke the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East. Untethered to fact, science, truth, and logic, the U.S. embarked on an irrational war that has resulted in a series of enduring and devastating consequences for the entire region.

Similarly, Trump’s recent budget represents a departure from the intellectual standards adhered to in prior eras. Krugman discusses Trump’s, “phony budget math… a budget that promises to ‘abolish the death tax,’ then counts $330 billion in estate tax receipts in its rosy forecast.”58 Larry Summers, who refers to the economic growth assumptions in Trump’s budget as a “fantasy,” writes, “I do not see how any examination of US history could possibly support the Trump forecast as a reasonable expectation. The Trump economic team has not engaged in serious analysis or been in dialogue with those who are capable of it so they have had nothing to say in defense of their forecast except extravagant claims for their policies.”59 Summers continues,

Trump’s budget is simply ludicrous…My observation is that there appears to be a logical error [associated with the double counting of the impact of tax cuts] of the kind that would justify failing a student in an elementary economics class…This is a mistake no serious business person would make. It appears to be the most egregious accounting error in a Presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them.60

In order to obfuscate and rationalize our policy immorality, the U.S. is being sold a culture of anti-intellectualism that is poisoning our political culture, one which produces devastating second-order effects.

  1. Summary

In short, then, the current regime has everything backwards. Far from making America great again, Trump and the GOP are eviscerating the nation. The true sources of America’s greatness–its pursuit of moral public policy, its demographic pluralism, its leadership in the liberal international order; its focus on long term economic strength; its once powerful societal ethos–are all being destroyed by this group, led by Donald Trump, who is the shame of the nation, a disgrace to its history, and a threat to the country and the world.

IMPLICATIONS

The global anti-Trump movement is inspiring, and I fully support its efforts. However, in my view, by not fully appreciating the “logic” behind Trump, the movement runs two risks–focusing at times on the wrong objectives; and being utilized by Trump for his own purposes.61 This section discusses the implications of the preceding discussion for “The Resistance.”

  1. The Fundamental Issue is GOP Policy Immorality–not Trump

While I would rejoice at Trump’s political demise and/or impeachment as much as anyone else, I am keenly aware of the reality that the end of Trump would not be the end of the underlying problem. The ultimate problem is GOP policy immorality across the major issues of our day.

Numerous commentators have railed against this immorality. For example, Noam Chomsky, referring to the GOP stance on climate change, proclaims, “Has there ever been an organization in human history that is dedicated, with such commitment, to the destruction of organized human life on earth? Not that I am aware of. Is the Republican organization–I hesitate to call it a party–committed to that? Overwhelmingly. There isn’t even any question about it.”62

Thus, the situation that created the possibility for Trump’s ascendency has guaranteed that the United States, in its present state, cannot be made Trump proof.

Therefore, any resistance to Trump must also be conceptualized in terms of much more sweeping efforts—opposed to Trump, the GOP, and the effects of its immoral policy.

 

  1. The Only Way Forward is Full Capitulation of the GOP on Immoral Policy

The U.S. is stuck in a deadly political cycle of the recurring interplay of GOP policy immorality, national ethos denigration, and emergence of absurd GOP political candidates. Only one solution to this diabolical merry-go-round presents itself: a GOP capitulation of its present policies. No single change will address the situation, only a structural reinvention.

The suggestion that the GOP will capitulate on its policy immorality may seem naïve and fanciful. Indeed, all indications are that the party will double, triple, and quadruple down on its depraved philosophy, irrespective of science, fact, truth, logic, data, evidence, public dismay, global disillusionment or consequences to humanity. The contemporary GOP is committed to its immoral policy, largely driven by the enormous financial benefits and continuing political prominence it brings to the nation’s elite. As with the Democrats prior to the Civil War, Trump and the GOP are devoted to a short-term gain at the expense of a long-term loss. The moral course of action for any citizen is to oppose the immorality of Trump and the party he leads at every turn.

Some citizens claim we should “Give Trump a Chance.” But why? Why should citizens who care about their country give a leader the chance to pursue pure immorality and, in the process, denigrate and destroy this nation?

Others assert we must return to a more civil political environment. For example, Senator Ben Sasse (R, Neb), who to his immense credit does not support Trump, has written a book called The Vanishing American Adult. Sasse argues that to deal with our broken political system, the U.S. should temporarily suspend policy discussions and first restore the quality of its civic institutions and discourse. This civil resuscitation would allow citizens to return to meaningful and constructive conversations about our policy differences.63 Unfortunately, Sasse has it backwards. The problems of incivility and gridlock are driven by policy immorality. Policy immorality depends upon incivility, and we would need to address the immorality first to allow the civility to return.,Presently, the nation is better off with a far less civil discourse and far more gridlock. What we need now more than ever is complete oppositional intransigence to the stubborn immorality of the modern GOP.

Another group of citizens decries the extreme partisanship in play. For example, columnist Dick Meyer asserts, “There is not much argument against the view that America’s fundamental political challenge is polarization and extreme partisanship.”64 I would argue that Meyer does not recognize the fundamental problem with our political system.

Finally, many argue we would be better off if we got to know each other better, built more connections between our neighbors, and enlarged our world views to better understand one another. As powerful and enticing as such a humanist world-view may be, it is an astonishing recommendation given the contemporary situation. How would concerned citizens benefit from better understanding the immoral policy being enacted in their names? How would any explanation validate such policies?

All of these supposed “remedies” to our political dysfunction amount to nothing more than pure pablum nonsense. They presuppose a false equivalence between contemporary Democrats and Republicans, implying both parties have equally well-intended individuals, equally valid policies, equally scientific and logical support, and, therefore, suggest our political challenges involve nothing more than the need for protocol and discourse adjustments. Unfortunately, interparty reconciliation will not solve our problems with Trump and the GOP.

The moment the GOP capitulates on immoral policy, fact, science, truth, and logic will reemerge as central forces in American governance. The procession of unqualified and often absurd national GOP political candidates will end. Highly intelligent, serious-minded conservative candidates will reemerge. This will be a good moment for the GOP and the nation, and it will mark a return to political civility, constructive discourse, and productive politics for all.

Efforts to oppose the current administration should be more focused on the most salient areas of GOP immorality, which I argue are climate change, income inequality, and health care. I believe The Resistance is at times overly fragmented and often too focused on Trump sideshows, such as tax returns, Comey testimony, emoluments, and social media communications. It is time we focs on  the glaring moral issues of our times.

  1. Historical Parallels–The Civil War

This article has invoked the Civil War repeatedly to emphasize a historical precedent for the contemporary situation. During the Antebellum period, America was plagued by a rash of ineffectual presidents–Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan. They all lacked the political courage to address the startling immorality of the era–slavery. Today, we face a similar crisis of leadership.

While one contemporary president, Barack Obama, made partial headway against the moral decay of our day, each of his achievements is now under attack. Our era, like the period of the Civil War and Reconstruction, has suffered a tremendous loss of faith in its institutions. As Stanford Professor Doug McAdam observes, “There is really only one period that was analogous, and that is the Civil War and its immediate aftermath…I’m not suggesting we are there, but we are straining our institutions more than we really ever have before.65 In mid-19th century America, there was no substitute for abolition. The First Missouri Compromise, Second Missouri Compromise, Compromise of 1850, Kansas-Nebraska Act, and Crittenden Compromise were all destined to be ineffectual band-aids in anticipation of the only moral solution–abolition. The immorality had to be eradicated.

In my view, the contemporary U.S. political system, as in the 1850’s, has reached an intractable endgame. There will be no uptick in civility or decrease in partisanship or neighborly discourse that will save the day; nor will there be any compromise that will solve the problem. Our policy immorality must be addressed directly. As columnist Leonard Pitts puts it, “I worry about the future of this country in a way I never have before. With the possible exception of the 1850’s–the decade preceding the Civil War–we have simply never been this divided. Frankly, I don’t know if reconciliation is possible. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even desirable.”66 In response to Pitts’ comments, I offer these: reconciliation with immorality is neither possible nor desirable.

The United States’ espousal of the evil institution of slavery did not come to an end over a change in political protocol, improved decorum, or polite conversation. It ended via the courageous combined efforts of abolitionists, the Underground Railroad, Nat Turner’s Rebellion (and others), John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, the oratory of Frederick Douglass (and others), the ultimate sacrifice of roughly 400,000 Union soldiers, and a resolute Republican president. (It is both encouraging and ironic in current times to see the vestiges of the immorality once championed by the Confederacy finally being removed from its Southern perches. As New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu says, “To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past, it is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future.”67, 68

Although the manifestations of the blatant immorality have changed (from slavery to climate change, income inequality, health care, and other areas) and the parties that championed the immorality have reversed; there are a number of structural parallels between eras. In both cases, a corrupt political party serves an entrenched elite, and, in the process, the country’s political system rushes toward disaster. And, in both cases, only fully addressing the immorality will prevent such a calamity.

I am aware, of course, that many will object to my discussion of the evil of slavery alongside the

  1. Glimmers of Hope?

The efforts of The Resistance may give us hope. So too may scathing analyses of GOP policy immorality and international opprobrium directed at the United States. We may even become optimistic about a few enlightened corners of the GOP itself, where small coalitions are increasingly expressing disillusionment with GOP policy or prominent individuals are renouncing the very tactics that benefit them.

For example, the Climate Leadership Council comprised of previously prominent Republicans including James Baker, George Schultz, Henry Paulson, and leading conservative economists) are working for a $40/ton (escalating over time) national carbon tax (the ultimate no-brainer) to address climate change. A local conservative coalition (including Starbucks’ former president, Howard Behar) is also advocating for a carbon tax. In an editorial he co-authored, Behar proclaims, “Addressing climate change is the critical issue of our generation…. Taxing the sources of carbon pollution is a pragmatic, bipartisan, common-sense solution.”70 It is worth noting that, diabolically, Trump’s own golf course development company filed a permit application in Ireland to build a wall (yes, a wall) to protect his golf course from the risks of climate change. Politico reports: “A permit application for the wall, filed by Trump International Golf Links Ireland and reviewed by Politico, explicitly cites global warming and its consequences–increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century–as a chief justification for building the structure.”71 (The irony of our era is often astonishing.)

To address income inequality, a number of affluent individuals, including Bill Gates Sr., Bill Gates Jr., and Warren Buffet, have argued for higher taxes on the wealthy. Likewise, Seattle’s Nic Hanauer, an affluent local business owner, has advocated for the $15 minimum wage and other measurs to combat income inequality.

Finally, many GOP leaders, such as John Kasich, Susan Collins, and Dean Heller, have opposed the party’s efforts to remove insurance from over 20 million Americans. In fact, according to The New York Times, “Kasich denounced his own party’s legislation in biting terms, saying it would victimize the poor and mentally ill, and redirect tax money ‘to people who are already very wealthy. This bill,’ Kasich said, ‘is unacceptable.’”72

And other longstanding, serious-minded Republicans, like Pulitzer Prize winning columnist George Will, admirably renounced their affiliation with the GOP after the election of Trump. Will stated, “This is not my party.”73 The implication for The Resistance is that some of the meaningful pressure for GOP abdication of policy immorality may come from the inside.

Against such positive developments, though, we must weigh several countervailing trends. As the GOP pursues ever increasing immorality, it wins more elections. In the U.S., the number of states with a Republican governor and majorities in both legislative chambers (25) has reached all-time highs, and the number of states with this Democratic trifecta is at a low (5) going back to the Civil War, when there were 13 fewer states. This GOP success is partly attributable to the enormous campaign contributions that flow to Republican candidates willing to espouse the party’s immoral policy and the laws (most notably Citizens United and McCutcheon vs. FEC) that deregulated the source and size of these contributions.

Perhap more frighteningly, however, it appears that in far too many quarters, we have become blithely supportive of our own immorality. Partisan immorality reflects itself in U.S. voting patterns, which have become increasingly driven by emotional attachment rather than an unflinching intellectual assessment of the appropriateness of policy. University of Washington political science professor Chris Parker claims, “It’s almost all tribal now.” And Danny Westneat explains, “Other polls have shown that we’re now so tribal we can’t even agree on facts. Has the jobless rate gone up or down during Obama’s presidency? Democrats say down, which is true, while Republicans say it’s gone up.”74 Paul Krugman adds,

One basic principle I’ve learned in my years at The Times is that almost nobody ever admits being wrong about anything–and the wronger they were, the less willing they are to concede error…Trump’s sheer awfulness offers him some political protection: His supporters aren’t ready, at least so far, to admit that they made that big a mistake.75

  1. Trump “Works” Everybody and Trump Will “Work” Progressives

It is important to realize that Trump “works” (that is, manipulates and takes advantage of) everybody–business associates (e.g., co-investors during the financial demise of Trump’s casinos), customers (e.g., students of Trump University), political colleagues (e.g., Steve Bannon, Paul Ryan). During the election, he tethered himself to the “unheard voice” of the disenfranchised middle class, posing as a populist. Once in office, he selected a cabinet and senior advisors worth $12 billion–the highest net worth in history. The editorial board of The St. Louis Dispatch notes: “Trump is no populist. He’s the plutocrat in chief.”76 In one article, Paul Krugman, who calls Trump a “phony populist,” writes, “All indications are that we’re looking at huge windfalls for billionaires combined with savage cuts in programs that serve not just the poor but also the middle class. And the white working class, which provided much of the 46 percent Trump vote share, is shaping up as the biggest loser.”77 In another, he continues, “So many of the people for Donald Trump were the victims of an epic scam by a man who has built his life around scamming.”78

The problem is that Trump also “works” progressives. On select issues–perhaps most notably the travel ban–Trump’s true objectives are not what they seem. I posit that Trump understands that even if enacted, the travel ban will not improve national security. Rather, the travel ban is a cosmetic issue he is utilizing for two purposes: to divert liberals’ attention from his real objectives (increasing fossil fuel expansion, transferring wealth to the rich, repealing Obamacare) and to wryly enlist the inadvertent support of progressives in these broader causes. By provoking progressives to protest against the travel ban, Trump is regenerating the support from his base.

I am not suggesting that the travel ban is not racist and appalling. It is. Nor am I saying that it should not be opposed and repealed. It should be. Instead, I am arguing that Trump’s true, more nefarious agenda lies elsewhere, and that while liberals rejoice over travel ban repeals, Trump rejoices in the upsurge of enthusiasm from his supporters emboldened in opposition to progressive protests.

In a somewhat similar spirit, liberals become enthused over Comey testimony and attendant dreams of impeachment while Trump holds $35,000/plate fundraisers for his 2020 reelection campaign. When it comes to the understanding of history and policy, Trump is as stupid as they come, but when it comes to understanding the nature of the political landscape and how to “work” its inhabitants, Trump is as shrewd as a snake.

In this light, The Resistance must focus on the bigger picture–the highly consequential gross immorality pursued by Trump and the GOP and guard against Trump’s efforts to conjure sideshows and regressive distractions.

  1. The Democratic Party has Work to do

As I have noted above, an underappreciated phenomenon in the age of Trump is the poor electoral performance of the Democratic Party nationwide. As Thomas Frank asks, Why in an era of all-time highs in income inequality (which in the 1930’s played a role in propelling FDR to power), can’t Democrats win elections? His thesis is that the Democratic Party has gravitated away from its historic mission of serving the middle class and has drifted toward the representation of a more affluent, educated, and corporate-tied elite. He points out that even when Democrats have held national office in recent times, income inequality has continued to increase.79 Trump, predictably, has exploited the opportunity created by the Democratic Party partially abandoning its historic role in serving the middle class, even appropriating parts of FDR’s quotes about the lost voice of the abandoned.

I believe it is essential that the Democratic Party adopt a more bold, aggressive policy platform that unabashedly advocates for: a nationwide transition to a clean energy economy; a significant increase in tax rates for the affluent and a large increase in the minimum wage; and the adoption of single payer health care proposal (amongst other planks). The party will not benefit from uninspiring campaigns focused on timid incrementalism and the search for the median voter. Democrats need to establish the starkest of contrasts between a morally appropriate policy profile for the nation’s future and the devastating policy immorality of the modern GOP. Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have emerged as liberal luminaries in articulating this new vision, and I hope they, as well as other leaders of this persuasion, become leading figures in 2020.

The implication of this discussion for The Resistance is to keep in mind that there are two essential challenges: opposing Trump and the GOP and constructing a bold, compelling, visionary platform for the Democratic Party.

CONCLUSION

Politically, it is a bleak time in America. Watching an immoral idiot lead a morally bankrupt party as they perpetuate a nonstop flood of evil is depressing and dehumanizing.

Modern GOP political leadership (Bush II, Trump) is literally shocking. I once said that George W. Bush was so stupid, he did not know he was stupid. I did not realize at the time that there is a scientific term for a variation of this condition. David Brooks explains: “He [Trump] is thus the all-time record holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence.”80, 81 And yet while I fully supported efforts to oppose Bush II and his agenda, and now fully support efforts to oppose Trump and his agenda, I believe it is essential to deal with the fundamental, underlying problem: the appalling GOP immorality on the major issues of our day.

The GOP intransigence around its policy immorality has led to our current political moment–a structurally self-perpetuating dead end. The only way forward is to fully address the policy immorality. This will be no easy task. There are, in my view, very dark days ahead for the United States.


John Stafford is an educator. He recently taught social studies at Mercer Island High School, and before that was a substitute teacher for Seattle Public Schools. In a prior career, he was a management consultant in corporate strategy for Strategic Planning Associates in Washington, D.C. He is active with the Democratic Party in South Seattle and writes periodic articles on public policy for the South Seattle Emerald.

Featured image is a cc licensed photo attributed to Gage Skidmore

NOTES

  1. Andrea Thompson (citing NASA and NOAA data). 2016 Was the Hottest Year on Record. Scientific American online, January 18, 2017.
  2. Stewart M. Patrick, Trump and World Order. Foreign Affairs, March/April, 2017, p. 56.
  3. China is launching a national cap-and-trade carbon pricing plan and investing heavily in clean energy technology, which would certainly suggest that it doesn’t consider climate change to be a hoax.
  4. Tom Kertshcer, Michael Moore says 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. Politifact Wisconsin online, March 10, 2011. (Note: Politifact Wisconsin rated Moore’s comment as “true.”)
  5. Steven Clifford, The CEO Pay Machine, pp. 14, 41. The U.S. ratio is considerably higher (in the 500’s) when options are included. More sophisticated measurement schemes place the ratio at over 700.
  6. Jeffrey Sachs, cited in Froma Harrop, Can Americans be happy again? The Seattle Times, June 4, 2017, p. A21.
  7. Cited in Steven Clifford, The CEO Pay Machine, p. 44.
  8. Larry Summers, The Age of Secular Stagnation. Foreign Affairs, February 15, 2016.
  9. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (with forward by Robert B. Reich), The Spirit Level. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009.
  10. Jared Diamond, Collapse. New York: Viking Press, 2005.
  11. Jon Talton, Concern Over Income Gap Isn’t On Trump Agenda. The Seattle Times, January 22, 2017, p. D1.
  12. Jackie Calmes, Analysts question viability of GOP candidates’ tax-cut plans. The New York Times, re-published in The Seattle Times, February 24, 2016.
  13. David Leonhardt, Untitled Op-Ed Column. The New York Times, May 24, 2017.
  14. Jon Talton, GOP Solution on “Repeal, Replace Obamacare.” The Seattle Times, March 19, 2017.
  15. Jon Talton, No Wonder Senate Kept Health Bill Under Wraps. The Seattle Times, June 25, 2017, p. D1.
  16. Reed Abelson and Margot Sanger-Katz. CBO report doesn’t show Obamacare is in ‘death spiral,’ as GOP claims.
  17. Cited in, GOP Senate Bill Would Slash Medicaid, Shower Tax Cuts on Wealthy. Democracy Now online, June 23, 2017.
  18. Stephen Ohlemacher, Health bill adds up to big tax cut for rich. The Seattle Times, March 8, 2017, p. A5.
  19. Judith Solomon. Cited in, Trump’s budget plan puts Medicaid, children’s health funding in crosshairs. The Seattle Times, May 23, 2017.
  20. Bernie Sanders, I am going back on the road. E-mail correspondence to followers, June 23, 2017.
  21. Paul Krugman, Trumpcare is nothing short of a monstrosity. The Seattle Times, March 13, 2017, p. A11.
  22. Danny Westneat, Doctor Calls GOP’s Bluff on Health Bill. The Seattle Times, June 25, 2017, p. D1.
  23. David Leonhardt, Opinion Today Column. The New York Times, June 13, 2017.
  24. See Steven Shepard, Polls show GOP health bill bleeding out. Politico online, June 28, 2017.
  25. There are, of course, many other areas of concern–from Immigration to the War on Drugs to Public Education. My point is not to provide an exhaustive list, but rather to discuss three salient areas of policy immorality to represent the nature of the problem.
  26. Phillip Cushman, The Qualities it takes to govern vs. to win. The Seattle Times, April 1, 2017, p. A7.
  27. Publius Decius Mus, The Flight 93 Election. Claremont Review of Books Website, September, 2016. Cited by Kelefa Sanneh, Secret Admirers: The conservative intellectuals smitten with Trump. The New Yorker, January 9, 2017, p. 24.
  28. Paul Krugman, Trumpcare is nothing short of a monstrosity. The Seattle Times, March 13, 2017, p. A11.
  29. Paul Krugman, The Donald and the Decider. The New York Times News Service, published in The Seattle Times, 12/21/15.
  30. Cited by Danny Westneat, Few Know UW Prof Got It Right on Trump. The Seattle Times, June 14, 2017, p. B1.
  31. Cited by Danny Westneat, UW professor got it right on Trump. So why is he being ignored? The Seattle Times online, June 14, 2017.
  32. The author appreciates the efforts of Seattle author Glenn Young in informing this description.
  33. Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s unfinished revolution, 1863–1877 (1988), p. 604. Reprinted in Francis G. Couvares, ed., (2000). Interpretations of American History Vol. I Through Reconstruction (7th ed.). 409.
  34. Glenn Young, The Return of The American Redeemers. Unpublished paper, April 19, 2017.
  35. This dynamic of opposition to minority social progress continues today, with the racist war on drugs, the racially-biased policing and criminal justice system, the new Jim Crow laws, etc.
  36. Russell Riley, cited by Peter Baker, Can Trump Destroy Obama’s Legacy? Sunday Review, The New York Times, June 23, 2017.
  37. Paul Krugman, Snatching health from millions. The Seattle Times, p. A11.
  38. During his speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Trump said that, “… it was time to serve Pittsburgh, not Paris.” Later, Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto responded by saying that Pittsburgh will continue to strive to follow the spirit of the Paris guidelines.
  39. Paul Krugman, Wrecking the Ship of State. The New York Times, Opinion Section, June 9, 2017.
  40. Doug G. Ware, Census: White children to become minority by 2020. United Press International online, March 5, 2015.
  41. Leonard Pitts, It’s mourning in America. The Seattle Times, November 13, 2016.
  42. Walter Russel Mead, The Jacksonian Revolt. Foreign Affairs, March/April, 2017.
  43. Stewart Patrick, Trump and World Order. Foreign Affairs, March/April 2017, pp. 52-57.
  44. R. McMaster and Gary D. Cohn, America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone. Op-Ed Submission, The Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2017.
  45. David Brooks, The axis of selfishness. The Seattle Times, June 5, 2017, p. A13.
  46. David Frum, The Death Knell for America’s Global Leadership. The Atlantic, May 31, 2017.
  47. John M. Koenig, As a retired diplomat, I cringe for those serving now. The Seattle Times, February 4, 2017, p. A9.
  48. David Brooks, The axis of selfishness. The Seattle Times, June 5, 2017, p. A13.
  49. Cited in Trudy Rubin, China struggles to understand a Trump-led United States. The Seattle Times, December 20, 2017, p. A11.
  50. Thomas L. Friedman, Trump is China’s chump. The Seattle Times, June 29, 2017, p. A13.
  51. The Associated Press and The New York Times, Experts see little profit in exiting Paris pact. The Seattle Times, June 1, 2017, p. A1.
  52. Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail. New York: Crown Business Press, 2012.
  53. Indeed, Acemoglu and Robinson assert that one of the primary reasons that North America has produced much larger GDP/capita growth rates than South America has been the fact that colonists in North America (unlike those in South America) were unable to systematically enslave their indigenous population. They would have done so had they been able to, but their inability to do so led them to develop the more inclusive institutions that are conducive to longer term economic growth.
  54. Paul Krugman, Who broke politics? The Seattle Times, November 5, 2016, p. A9.
  55. Tom Nichols, How America Lost Faith in Expertise. Foreign Affairs. March/April, 2017, pp. 60-73.
  56. Paul Krugman, Goodbye spin, hello raw dishonestly. The Seattle Times, p. A13.
  57. Larry Summers, Trump’s ‘China deal’ is only a good deal for China. Larry Summers Blog Post, May 25, 2017.
  58. Paul Krugman, Clearly, Trump hates his voters. The Seattle Times, Tuesday, May 30, 2017, p. A9.
  59. Larry Summers, What history tells us about Trump’s budget fantasy. Larry Summers Blog Post, May 30, 2017.
  60. Larry Summers, Trump’s budget is simply ludicrous. Larry Summers blog post, May 23, 2017.
  61. It is interesting note that Trump cannot even invoke a compelling mantra with a sound historical foundation. “America First” has its roots in a movement of isolationists who were opposed to U.S. involvement in World War II.
  62. Noam Chomsky, Interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, April 27, 2017. Reported by The Independent Online.
  63. Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
  64. Dick Meyers. Seattle Times, May 14, 2017.
  65. Doug McAdam. Cited in, Sabrina Tavernise, Are Liberals Helping Trump? The New York Times, February 19, 2017, Opinion, p. 4.
  66. Leonard Pitts, Dear reader: Here’s why I can’t write soothing words. The Seattle Times, April 26, 2017, p. A15.
  67. Kevin Ferris, The Confederacy loses–again. Published in The Seattle Times, May 29, 2017, p. A13.
  68. In addition to the removal of Confederacy statues in the South, there is also a movement to rename roads named after prominent members of the Confederacy in the North.
  69. Frederick Douglass, cited from GoodReads online.
  70. Phillip Jones and Howard Behar, A carbon tax is right for environment and economy. The Seattle Times, April 26, 2017, p. A13.
  71. Dana Nucittelli, Donald Trump wants to build a wall–to save his golf course from global warming. May 26, 2016. Citing research by Politico.
  72. Alexander Burns, Why Senate health-care bill ran into trouble. The New York Times, published in The Seattle Times, June 28, 2017, p. A1.
  73. George Will. Cited by Andrew Blake, George Will renounces GOP, declares ‘this is not my party.’ Washington Times online, June 25, 2016.
  74. Danny Westneat, Voting Has Gone Tribal, Prof Finds. The Seattle Times, October 30, 2016.
  75. Paul Krugman, Denial and Trump Supporters. The Seattle Times, May 2, 2017, p. A15.
  76. Louis Post Dispatch, Trump administration wealthiest in history. Published in The Olympian, April 13, 2017, p. 5A.
  77. Paul Krugman, Populism, real and phony. The Seattle Times, December 27, 2016.
  78. Paul Krugman, Cleary, Trump hates his voters. The Seattle Times, Tuesday, May 30, 2017, p. A9.
  79. Thomas Frank, Listen Liberal: What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? New York: Metropolitan Books, 2016.
  80. David Brooks, Dangerous man-baby on the loose. Published in The Seattle Times, May, 17, 2017, p. A17.
  81. I will also note my view regarding the historical symbiosis between Bush II and Trump. Bush II’s absurdity conditioned the nation for further absurdity, which arrived in full force with Trump. Trump, in turn, makes Bush II seem less incompetent (if such a thing were possible).

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One thought on “THE “LOGIC OF TRUMP”: IMPLICATIONS FOR “THE RESISTANCE” (Part Two of Two)”

  1. While I agree with much of what you say, John, I feel that you are missing the boat by focusing on Trump, not on why so many people voted for him. I see voting for Trump as an act of desperation by people who see that no one in the political establishment has been representing them, Democrat or Republican. Even Obama and Clinton ended up siding with Wall Street and the big corporations, while allowing inequality to continue to escalate (read Thomas Frank).

    For example, I just read that truck drivers, on average, lost 30% in real income over the last 30 to 40 years, typical of a significant portion of our working class, while even much of the middle class is now subject to student debt slavery. White women without a high school education, but not black women, have been experiencing a catastrophic decline in life expectancy, even as minority elites like Obama prosper. In other words, our economic and political system has lost credibility for a good portion of our population, especially for those for whom white privilege no longer counts for much. In fact, our white and black populations have been converging economically, largely due to the economic decline of our white working class, while their black counterparts have inched forward.

    This situation is an open invitation to the kind of unscrupulous scapegoating that Trump has pursued so effectively, but he was preceded by the Tea Party. Of course it is the right wing billionaires like the Koch brothers are driving this behind the scenes, but much of our corporate establishment has gone along for the same reason: greed. GOP immorality is simply the result of elite greed exploiting popular discontent. I expect this to continue until that discontent is undermined by a Bernie – type political revolution, or the US experiences a major loss of some sort, economic or military.

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