Category Archives: Politics

Essays on politics and current events.

The Arc of The Deal

The Trump years have taught us to be shocked but not surprised

✎  WAYNE K. SPEAR | JUNE 18, 2019 • Politics

Trump on the escalator

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S I WRITE THESE WORDS Donald Trump takes to the sky to begin his re-election campaign, fittingly at the Amway Center, a company associated with multi-level marketing and evangelical Christianity. Four years ago his ascension began with a descent (by escalator) and so as the President climbs tonight one hopes for the historical symmetry of an eventual fall. Up he goes today; may he go down tomorrow. There are encouraging signs. When Trump lands, this headline will be waiting: “Our Orlando Sentinel endorsement for president in 2020: Not Donald Trump.”

Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies. So many lies — from white lies to whoppers — told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity. Trump’s capacity for lying isn’t the surprise here, though the frequency is. It’s the tolerance so many Americans have for it.

An exhaustive inventory of the President’s deficiencies would be exhausting but also unnecessary, there being already many such compilations. In 2016 anyone who cared to know what Trump was knew what Trump was. For decades he had committed to drawing attention to himself. The tolerance of “so many Americans”—62,984,828 to be precise—was in many cases enthusiasm. Sixty-three million voters saw the qualities that the Orlando Sentinel editors see and cast their vote approvingly. The editorial evades the logical conclusion that Trump is no good for democracy and America but American voters (on a diet of reality television) aren’t much good for these either.

Tomorrow’s Sentinel will likely carry stories of white-power nationalists and of rowdy Orlando streets. For the garden-variety racists and the neo-Nazis and the theocrats and the admirers of dictatorship past and present, there has never been a better time to be alive in America. Whatever else one may say of them, the years 2016 to 2020 will be looked back upon by these elements as an American Golden Age, a time when views long driven to the margins could once again emerge into the daylight. Many impracticable objects, such as the mass-deportation of immigrants and state rule by Christian doctrine, became conceivable under Trump. Obama had often quoted Martin Luther King Jr on the “arc of the moral universe.” Maybe that arc could be turned back.

In a thousand ways big and small this has been the work of the current administration. In Donald Trump’s America a class of people who had learned to regard themselves as persona non grata were suddenly in demand and for positions in the highest of public offices. One after another grifters and cheaters and thieves and wife abusers ascended to Cabinet Secretary and Justice and Senior Advisor. And down they came, to be replenished by a fresh influx of third-rate crooks and malcontents. The Best People, according to the President. How surprised they must have been at their good fortune, just as the President himself must have been surprised by the outcome of his campaign.

The Trump years however have taught us that surprise has an arc as well and that it bends not toward justice but uncertainty. In 2015 a reality TV character pursued the Oval Office, and although he was mocked and dismissed, and for good reasons, he prevailed on the votes of 63 million Americans. In 2019 however he will be taken seriously. We are still capable of being shocked, but no longer of being surprised. ⌾

The Old Familiar Madness

Everywhere you look there’s a strongman rising on the bitter tide of angry men

✎  Wayne K. Spear | March 22, 2018 • Politics

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HINA is returning to Mao and Russia is returning to Stalin and the President of the United States is jealous. Where is his Stalin, his Mao, the Father Figure he’ll restore to his glory, his Kim il-Don? Where is the Dear Great Leader, the Father to Keep America Great, Again. Everywhere you look there’s a strongman rising on the bitter tide of angry men. Yes, I mean men. You can walk a mile from here into the filth and chaos, the raw animal stench, of Chinatown, and buy virility enhancers made of the balls of endangered species. We men, with our fragile masculinity and our narcissism, had no problem killing off the last rhinoceros to drink and fuck with a little more stamina. Bodies are for buying and selling, life is cheap, we’ll blow up the world if it makes our dicks a little longer, and that’s all the truth you need to know.

There’s a mass-murderer in Syria, Bashar al-Assad, grinding a generation of children into dust, and he has the help of Putin and Erdogan and the Ayatollahs and all the others. The others, the men who dream of ultimate power. There isn’t a chance in hell Trump will stop them. He admires the murderers, wants to be a murderer, knows he’s the anointed, the man who can kill on Fifth Avenue and not lose voters. Evil has been set loose on the world, and for the foreseeable future we are all doomed, there isn’t a thing you can do about it now. The monster is loose, and we want it to be loose, and we want to see some goddamn explosions!

There is a great wave of violence coming, a real blood-letting, a gratification of our primal war-lust, the irrepressible desire of our species to kill with impunity, and to go on killing until the human will collapses. Don’t be fooled by the editorial pages and the other scoundrels, the other liars and cowards—we’re not doing politics anymore, we’re preparing for tribal warfare. We, the human species, every last one of us will be drawn into it, in the end. The old order won’t surrender, and the new won’t prevail without a fight. No one knows what the world will look like in one hundred years, but whatever it is, it’s going to require war.

It’s the old familiar madness, the deeply repressed barbarism that takes over, from time to time. Sure, we seem civilized, our orderly streets filled with shoppers, the calm commerce of a modern city. I’m sitting in a coffee shop, and no one, absolutely no one, is screaming for blood. The Filipino nannies go by, pushing strollers that bear the children of educated upper-middle white women. The children who will inherit the world, the children on whose behalf others will kill and die, the children who for now are innocent, not that it makes a goddamn difference.