How Did We Get Trump?

In another, more calm time in our United States, I might have observed today’s gray October skies and falling temperatures and found myself writing about the arrival of autumn – looking ahead to the blazing fall colors, cozy wool pullovers and warm holiday gatherings. Somewhere in my musings I probably would have woven in some sort of liberal political spin. However, I would have enjoyed my pleasant break from the complicated and combative world of today’s politics. 

But it’s not gonna happen this week. And that pleasant break we’d all love to take may not come for a long time. As long as Donald J. Trump remains in the White House, the possibility for America (and the world) to experience any weeks that aren’t chaotic is quite unlikely.  

Could impeachment remove him from office? Right now, the odds are better than fifty-fifty that Donald Trump will not be impeached by the Republican controlled Senate and will complete his first term as president. If that is the case, the prospect that Trump could be reelected is not out of the question. Some unexpected twist of fate, a disastrous screw-up by the Democratic nominee or his/her campaign, or worst of all, nefarious activities by unknown players, could hand Trump a second term. 

I’m sure that none of us enjoy thinking about Donald Trump virtually every day of the week. But when you have a narcissistic sociopath holding the most powerful office in the world, it is difficult for that situation to not remain top-of-mind. 

The man demands daily attention. That has been his modus operandi throughout his adult life. (Probably earlier than that.) In his younger years he depended on self-generated public relations for his self-promotion. Then along came Twitter, a communications vehicle ideal for a person driven by whim, untethered by facts, unbothered by lies, and obsessed with staying in the spotlight. 

How in the world, did we end up with such a bizarre character as our nation’s “leader?” In my opinion, Donald Trump’s path to the Oval Office began decades ago. Here are just some of the events that have provided him with a highly receptive voter base:  

– Nation-changing civil rights legislation leading to the Republican Party’s polarizing “Southern Strategy” 

– The lost war in Vietnam and a feeling of lost national pride

– The view presented by President Ronald Reagan that government cannot be trusted

– President Reagan’s anti-union stance and subsequent worker wage stagnation

– The widening wealth gap

 – President Clinton’s loosening of financial industry rules 

– The reckless financial practices continuing during the Bush Administration, bringing us the Great Recession of 2008

– Millions of average Americans losing jobs, life savings and homes as a result of the 2008 crash

– Economic globalization with manufacturing and jobs moving overseas

– The growth of automation and robotics reducing the need for physical “manpower”

– A growing awareness of the dangers of carbon fuels and the resulting erosion of jobs

– The 9/11 attack and resulting fear of “outsiders”

– The election of an African-American president (an “outsider”)

– The growth of women’s, LGBTQ and transgender rights, disrupting “the way things have always been”

– The rise of angry conservatives with their view that any political compromise is a sign of weakness

Everything in my list (and it could have been longer) helped build the platform for Trump’s successful demagoguery. 

Of course, during the years represented above, our democracy had a legislative structure in place to address many of those situations. The rebuilding of our national infrastructure could have been initiated with bi-partisan support, creating new job opportunities for millions. The growth of good paying jobs in the frontiers of technology could have been encouraged. Education and skills training in those fields could have been given a much higher priority. — Congressional gridlock stood in the way. 

The Democrats competing for their party’s nomination in 2020 have a promising perspective on the direction our next president must take (some more than others). They’ve all witnessed the avoidable mistakes made by the Democratic Party and candidate in 2016.  

One year from today when I look out my window, the presidential election will be only weeks away. I imagine my thoughts will all be about that event. But I deeply hope that my musings on the Wednesday after Election Day will be positive expectations for the years ahead under a Democratic President — with occasional calm breaks away from the natural competition that is essential for our two party system.

Nels Howard, NTD Member since 1973