18 Months of Chaos

This past week, like virtually every week since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, we’ve been hit with daily news items involving the disturbing activities of someone connected to the Trump Administration — either in it, hoping to be in it, or abruptly leaving it. We’ve seen stories about extravagant spenders, reckless drinkers, cold-hearted hypocrites. In fact, the variety of flaws Trump appointees have displayed over the past year and a half is quite impressive — but not in a good way.

In my lifetime, which covers a lot of U.S. presidents, I’ve never seen anything like the instability of this administration’s staffing. One unfortunate result of this endless White House chaos is that it distracts the American public from dozens of daily developments and discussions that deserve much more attention.

I think President Trump likes things this way. And not just when it comes to diverting the public’s attention. I think he just likes to always keep things a bit uncertain. He surely adds to such distraction regularly with his own personal actions. His childish tweets, his unexpected (even by his own staff) pronouncement of major public policy, his continued use of heated and divisive campaign rhetoric all keep things unsettled.

To his fans, his unpredictable behavior is the shrewd approach of a skilled wheeler-dealer. An approach that keeps his adversaries off-balance as he steers them into taking the action he desires. However, I suspect the truth is that in Trump’s eyes, every human being he’s ever met has been viewed as an adversary. (As Donald would say, “That’s so sad.”) It’s just the way he’s learned to operate from a very young age.

This approach worked for him as a businessman – some of the time. But it also led to plenty of bankruptcy declarations and a lot of people whose lives were permanently damaged. The truth is, it’s not the smartest way to run a business. And trying to translate this “from-the-gut” business style into a way to run a government, is a very shaky concept. It should scare all of us. 

After a year and a half of America under Trump, his most ardent fans still hold their leader in high regard. They still respond to his in-your-face speaking style with glee. But when I see clips of Trump speaking to an audience of his MAGA supporters, he clearly strikes me as a boorish, insecure braggart.

At this point in his life, Donald Trump isn’t going to change. In his job as President, I imagine he will continue to appoint flawed, poorly vetted people to positions of authority. And I expect we’ll see more people placed in policy-making offices who hold views at odds with the mission of their office. It’s all part of Trump’s version of constructive chaos.

Sometimes it works. Oftentimes it doesn’t. But one thing is certain: we have virtually no control over Donald Trump’s use of it.

However, we do still have the means to shift the momentum of this craziness in the near future. As long as our democracy remains intact (a phrase I wouldn’t have even thought to use a few years ago), we can work to put a majority of men and women in legislative positions who will put a lid on President Trump’s destabilizing antics. — And I mean legislative positions at every level of government.

We must pay attention to elections at the village and township level to ensure that the alt-right philosophies that energized Trump’s election victory don’t creep into our local policies. And we should support maintaining a strong Democratic majority in Springfield, led by a new Democratic governor to join other states in pushing back against Trump’s reign.

And of course, we need to help Democratic candidates regain majorities in both houses of congress. – It’s up to each of us to keep an eye out for opportunities to do these things in the coming months.

With so many White House missteps appearing in the news, it’s easy to imagine here in May that we will see a landslide of victories for Democratic candidates next November. But taking victory for granted would be a big mistake. For instance, developments of peace talks on the Korean peninsula this summer could bolster the messages of Republican candidates. Events in the Middle East and international trade agreements are two other wild cards that could impact the fall elections.

Bottom line: We are living through a very strange and unpleasant segment of American history. But we can try to do something to affect its future direction. Just sitting back and watching is not a smart option.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973 

P.S. Last month the New Trier Dems lost a friend of the NTDO who was a supporter of our organization from its earliest days. Over those decades, Julian Berman and his wife, Joan, played a serious role in helping turn New Trier Township and the North Shore “blue.” Our Democratic Committeeman, Dean Maragos, shares his thoughts on Julian’s passing in comments below.

A message from New Trier Township Democratic Committeeman, Dean Maragos:

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of our fellow NTDO member and friend Julian Berman. I’ve known Julian for fifteen years and can say without equivocation he was one of the most intelligent, caring and sincere persons that I have had the opportunity to know. Julian was always asking me about important issues facing our nation, our city and our township. His analysis never ceased to amaze me with its profound perspective. He could discuss an issue both as an advocate and very aptly as an objective observer.

Words cannot describe our indebtedness to our NTDO officer, mentor, and friend Joan Berman, Julian’s wife. Joan is one of the pillars of the New Trier Democratic Organization. Her sage advice and wise counsel have been one of the reasons why the New Trier Democratic Organization is such a powerful organization today.

I also know that Julian was very proud of his son, Cook County Circuit Court Judge, Andrew Berman. I’ve had cases in front of Andrew and I know why he was held in such high esteem by his father since Andrew has many of the same traits of sincerity, empathy and intelligence as his father.

I extend my sincerest condolences to Joan, Andrew and their entire family on the passing of Julian. May God rest his soul.


Dean T. Maragos
New Trier Democratic Organization