Monday, January 28, 2019

Week of 01/28/2019

Has Trump Finally Reached “That Point”?
There comes a point in every villain story where the villain makes a serious mistake that marks the end of their reign.  It’s that point where their hubris has exceeded them.  This can involve not only villains, but also heroes that become villains.
This actually happened several times in the BBC series “Doctor Who”.  In the “Tenth Doctor” run of David Tennant, the title character believed in “Water on Mars” that he could do anything because he was the last of the Time Lords.  He declared himself the “Time Lord Victorious”, the sole arbiter of how events should play out.  His arrogance and piety was so overwhelming that it drove a woman that he just saved to commit suicide just so the timeline can be corrected and to prove him wrong.  And, by the next adventure, he was dead and regenerated.  In the “Twelfth Doctor” run of Peter Capaldi, the title character returned to his home planet in “Hell Bent”, told the legendary ruler Rassilon to “get off my planet”, assumed control of the planet, then broke every law of time, including outright murdering another Time Lord, just so he could “save” his companion who was already dead.  He had to be reminded that, once again, he had gone too far.  He had to finally let go of his companion, and he knew it would also soon spell the end of him.
Historically, there were two different points in World War II where the villain leadership went too far.  Italy’s fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, actually reached “that point” early in the war when he basically sided with Germany.  They weren’t ready for another global conflict, but the arrogance of both Mussolini and the Fascist Party itself would not allow themselves to say no.  Mussolini himself firmly believed that nations are defined by their wars.  Fascism loves conflict.  So, of course, they needed to be in a conflict all of the time, even if they weren’t ready for one.  And, clearly, they weren’t ready for war when England and the United States came marching up their nation.
Then there’s Germany.  Nazi Germany.  As in Adolf Hitler.  Hitler was on an aggressive winning streak at the start of World War II.  He had conquered almost all of Europe, he had Great Britain on the ropes, and he managed to indoctrinate his way of thinking into every aspect of society.  He seemed to be unstoppable... until he made the mistake of invading the Soviet Union.  He thought that it would be a cakewalk, like all the other countries he beat.  He thought it would be so easy that his forces could do it in a few weeks.  He was wrong.  That was his “point” when people began to realize that he wasn’t “unstoppable”. 
That brings us to the man that made Godwin’s Law about referencing Hitler irrelevant: President Donald Trump.
Trump started 2019 with a self-inflicted partial shutdown of the federal government.  This was an act that he took deliberately, that he proudly boasted of, and even claimed that he would “own” it and that it would be the “Trump Shutdown”.  Of course, as with all things Trump does, he then tried to deflect the blame on the Democrats... you know, the party that had no power whatsoever at the time.  But too many people called him on that tactic for it to stick.
Trump orchestrated the partial shutdown to try to force the Congress into giving him $5.7 Billion (with a “B”) to pay for his ego-wall.  You know, the same ego-wall that he proudly boasted continually since 2016 that Mexico would pay for.  He wants American taxpayers to now pay for that ego-wall; that huge monument to his narcissism.  He tried last year to get that money from the GOP in exchange for the children he’s detaining, and just now he tried again to get that money for his ego-wall that was supposed to be paid for by Mexico by shutting down part of the government.  You know, the important part.  The part that deals with homeland security and safety inspections.  The stuff that actually keeps Americans safe.
The push for the ego-wall funding was an arrogant power-play by Trump and his red-hat supporters.  Trump had two years of unquestionable and unchallengeable GOP control in the Congress, and with members of Congress that could and did void any prior rules of restraint in order to give Trump what he wanted.  He could have gotten the funding for his ego-wall at any time during those first two years.  But he didn’t.
Trump wanted the Democrats to cave and give him the ego-wall money because it would demonstarte Trump’s dominance.  Just like his ego-wall, Trump’s shutdown was supposed to be a sign of his unstoppable might.  The Democrats have just regained control of the House of Representatives this January, and Trump wanted to prove to the world that he was still more powerful than them.
It was a thug move by a typical New York thug; a narcissistic con-man who thinks that he’s an “alpha-male”.  Show the Dems “who’s in charge”.  “Own the libs!”  That sort of crap.
Except that it didn’t work.
This past week, as of this column’s posting, Narcissist Trump agreed to a three-week continuing resolution that would end the Trump Shutdown, pay the 800,000 federal employees that were held hostage by Trump for his thug move, reopen the essential parts of the government that were stopped by the Trump Shutdown, and it would do so without any money for Trump’s ego-wall.  Not one penny for his ego-wall.  Not even a down-payment.
So the question being raised is... is this “that point”?
No, I’m not wondering if this is “that point” when Narcissist Trump’s own base will turn on him.  They are a lost cause.  Sure, his propagandists and water-carriers are pissed at him over this cave.  But his mind-numbed base will defend him to their deaths and to our deaths because they live in that fantasy world of divine entitlement that says that Trump is their champion given to them by God.  And, really, we see that same delusion with all of the Italians that still remember that Mussolini made the trains run on time, and the Germans that still want to bring back all the those evil policies without saying that other dreaded “N-word”.
No, I’m wondering if this is “that point” in the story where Trump has overplayed his hand and his own downfall begins.  Is this his “invade the Soviet Union” moment?  Is this his “Time Lord Victorious” and “Get off my planet” moment?  Is this his “gone too far” moment?
This commentator really hopes so.
Let’s get brutally honest here… we have been subjected to the antics of a narcissist and his gang of toadies, lackeys, ass-kissers, and enablers, carrying out activities that would make George Orwell re-write his classical stories of abusive societies if he were still alive today.  In many ways, they gave Nancy Pelosi the reason to be Speaker of the House again.  The Democrats could have backed someone else if not for the idea that Pelosi would supposedly put an out-of-control Trump and his gang of cronies in check.
And you know what?  Right now that appears to be working.  Trump’s thug move blew up in his face.  He counted on Pelosi and the Democrats to fold under the misery he was causing, and they didn’t.  He blinked first.  And, even worse, the reason why Trump blinked was for something petty.  It was because Pelosi denied him the House chamber for his precious State of the Union address as long as the government was shut down.
Think about that.  President Donald Trump did not care about the suffering of Americans under his tantrum.  He did not care about the possible threat to the economy because of his tantrum.  He did not care about the threat to America’s security because of his tantrum.  The only thing that caused him to relent, even temporarily, was because he was being denied his limelight. 
That is the person you elected, people.  Not some political savior delivered by God, but some vain and petty narcissist who only cares about himself and his own glory.
In case you are still wondering about which side you and Trump are on, here’s a little hint from someone who writes and publishes hero stories.  The true good guys recognize when they are going too far, and they pull back.  They realize that where they are headed is wrong and they try to make amends.  The villain will always think they will still prevail and that the ends always justifies the means.
I know where I stand in our real-world story.  And I know where Trump stands.  How about you?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Week of 01/21/2019

Understanding Trump’s Base
The great mystery over the past three years (as of this column’s posting) has been why Donald Trump’s “base” have been so loyal to him.  From a wannabe contender to being President of the United States, Trump has had a steady group of followers that support and defend him no matter what he says or does.  Trump himself once boasted proudly that he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue in New York and not lose a single voter, and, ever since then, he and his “base” have been proving him right.
They know that Trump lies.  They don’t care.  He lies to their faces.  They don’t care.  He says the most outrageous, exaggerated, self-aggrandizing things in the world.  They don’t care.  He is a hypocrite.  They don’t care.  He behaves like a pampered, impetuous child in the company of world leaders.  They don’t care.  He screws them over, he screws the nation over, he even jeopardizes the country’s security and stability.  They do not care!  They love him and worship him and defend him to the absurd extreme just the same.
And that blind loyalty has been driving the rest of the world crazy!  They see what Trump is doing and they wonder how the hell the people aren’t just rising up and getting rid of him.
Well, it’s easy to point to history and make the parallels between Trump and his American “base” to a certain Austrian painter and his German supporters in the 1930’s, but it still does not explain Trump’s base and what makes them different from their German predecessors.  That failed Austrian painter had to win over his fanatical base, and it took several failed elections – not to mention the onslaught of the Great Depression – for that to happen. 
And it is equally easy to say that Trump’s base is a “cult”, given their fanatic devotion to him and whatever it is he says or does at the moment.  Except that a cult forms around a charismatic leader.  The leader has to be there first.  With Trump and his base, it’s the other way around.
Plenty of people, including myself, have pointed out that Trump is not the real problem.  It is his base that is the real problem.  The people that support him and defend him no matter what he says or does are the true problem in America.  They are the real danger.
So... who are they?  What are they?
First of all, what I’m going to say about them comes from decades of observation.  Yes, decades.  Because I’ve seen these people over the years.  They are my neighbors, my relatives, and some of them are even friends.  They’re your neighbors, relatives, and friends as well.  They’re the ones that you talk to just as long as the talk is not about politics.
Second, not everything that I say about them will reflect the whole base.  Not everyone that supports Trump does so for the same reasons.  Some people are just plain unrepentant jackasses, to put it mildly.  Others will contradict what I say because they are either in denial about themselves or because they’re afraid that I’ve exposed the truth about them.  Just remember that knowledge is power, and knowing your enemy gives you the edge over them.
Third, while I refer to them as “Trump’s base”, they’re not really Trump’s.  They actually pre-date any kind of political aspirations that Trump may have had.  They’re just easier to identify now simply because they’ve latched onto Trump.
The best way to describe Trump’s base can be summed up in two words: divine entitlement.
This can be traced back to the wave of evangelical thinking in the 19th century that went hand-in-hand with the rise of the Industrial Age.  It is the personal conviction that they are “God’s chosen people”; that America was personally given to them by God; and that all the freedoms they claim to cherish were given to them by God to use as they see fit.
This the same thinking that led to the delusional doctrine of “American Exceptionalism”, that America is somehow “special” and that we have an obligation to spread that “exceptionalism” everywhere.  It was the justification that led to us forcing out the indigenous tribes off their lands so we can turn them into homes and cities and states.  It also led to the notion set by President Teddy Roosevelt that America should be the world’s policeman.
But it is that personal notion of divine entitlement that exists in Trump’s base today.  That delusion that they are “chosen” and “special” and “exceptional” – by God – is what defines not only their political view but also their worldview.  They blindly support Israel because of its biblical connection, but otherwise, it’s “U.S. versus them” and “With U.S. or against U.S.”.  And, yes, that includes our longtime allies.
And by “they” seeing America as given to them by God, I do not mean all Americans.  Only them.  Only the people that are currently Trump’s base.  They believe that *they* are God’s chosen people.  Not you and me.  Them.  That America was given to *them* by God – and only to *them* - to use as they see fit.  That the freedoms that *they* enjoy are only given to *them* by God but *they* decide whether the rest of us would be *allowed* to use them, and under which circumstances.
Oh, and if you or I don’t like that, then *they* insist that we leave, because they firmly believe that we are the intruders in *their* country.  There is no inclusion in their delusional notion of divine entitlement.  There is no tolerance.  There is only *their* will and *our* submission or removal.
No, they won’t tell you that right to your face.  At least, not unless they are in an argument.  But they sure as hell will say as much in social media.  Or they’ll gladly share it and re-tweet it.
Much like a cult, the base believe that their supposedly God-given nation and God-given freedoms are always under attack.  There is *always* an enemy to fear in their minds.  For all their talk about God and his “grace” and his “blessings” and his “protection”, they are the most insecure lot around. 
The threat that they believe exists, though, is supposedly *their* country not being led by and reflecting *their* views.  Much like that certain German group in the 1930’s, Trump’s base believe that the only way America would be “great” is if they are the ones in charge of things.  So they latch onto anyone and anything that will give them that.  Political parties don’t really matter to them.  Only whomever would give them that power.  They thought they had that with President Ronald Reagan.  They didn’t.  They thought they had that with Speaker Newt Gingrich and the GOP Congress.  They didn’t.  They thought they had it with President George W. Bush.  They didn’t.  They thought they had it with the so-called “Tea Party” faction of the GOP.  Again, they didn’t.  And that frustration has been building over the decades.  I have seen it grow and fester like an infected wound.  I’ve heard it in talk radio calls and letters to the editor and social media posts.  I’ve even been warning people about it all.
Now this is where Trump actually comes in. 
As anyone who ever saw enough episodes of the CNBC series “American Greed” will tell you, one of the ways that a con-artist will get your money is that they tell you a story that plays on your wants and your dreams.  Because the people that the con-artist will sucker in are those that believe that there is an easy way to make money that somehow eludes them.  They “know” that it exists.  All the con-artist has to do is to convince them is that he or she knows that secret, and they will gladly turn their money over and pledge their support.  And they will blindly support that con-artist, even if the truth comes out about that con-artist, up until the moment when they realize that their money is gone.
Likewise, Trump was able to see these people who would become his base and he told them what they wanted to hear.  They wanted a political savior.  They believed that God would give them someone who would deliver unto them exactly what they believe that they are entitled to.  Power and control over America, as they believe that they were entitled by God to have.  All Trump had to do was to tell them that he’s their guy.  That he – and only he – will give them everything they want.  All he needs from them is their blind and loyal support.  And he got it.
Oh, and by the way, this same faction is extremely politically active.  They vote in every election.  And they know that if the rest of us don’t, that they end up winning.
Now here’s the disturbing part about Trump’s base... a lot of them are sadists.  They love hearing about people in misery because of Trump’s policies or actions.  They love it because, in their minds, they’ve been in “misery” because they haven’t had their way in politics up until now.  So if their “savior” causes some misery and pain and torment and even some deaths, so be it.  That’s payback in their minds.
They love hearing about Trump saying out-and-out lies and exaggerations and make dog-whistle statements, because they know that, right now, there is no consequence for any of it.  Trump lies.  So what?  Trump is a hypocrite.  So what?  Trump boasts about being a nationalist.  Yup.  So what?  Trump throws out treaties and voids past agreements.  Boo-hoo.  Cry the base a river.  That’s all part of that “owning the libs” thing that Trump’s base so love to see.  Trump has managed to weaponize his double-standards and use them to feed the sadism in his base, which, in turn, feeds their love and devotion to him.
Let’s get brutally honest here... the real threat to America is not President Trump, but, rather, that mass of self-entitled sadists that he has managed to sway to his side.  They are the true bulls in the country’s glass shop.  He exists in a symbiotic relationship with them.  He feeds his base and they feed him adoration.  These are not “great” people.  They are everything that America’s founding fathers and even our ancestors used to oppose.
And getting rid of Trump – either through the ballot box or impeachment or even with the 25th Amendment – would not be the end of his base.  They’d still be around, only now pissed and wanting payback.  We actually saw this in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was removed.  His “Revolutionary Guard” simply took off their uniforms and began sabotaging the reformation.  Even when Saddam was convicted in court and executed for his crimes against humanity, his base continued to enact payback on the nation.  Could Trump’s base be like that?  We can only hope that they won’t.
Trump’s base would like to think that future history would be in their favor.  That we are in the middle of some gilded age, where America is strong, their enemies are defeated, and, soon enough, everything would be in their favor and it would be beautiful.  Except, as a student of history, I know from the past that it is yet another delusion from those whose reign is about to turn to ruin.  Our challenge is to ensure that it won’t take the rest of us with it.