Alan Zendell, October 2, 2017
The longer this country suffers with Donald Trump as president, the more urgent it feels to counter the negative impact he’s having on it. But as urgent as it seems, it’s also befuddling. It feels like our relatively sane world has somehow descended into a surreal madness.
It’s clear that Trump could only have been elected when frustration with the established order reached a breaking point. We’ve seen this before countless times in history. I think that when the realization that things aren’t working sinks in, it becomes too much for average people who are dealing with their own problems. People who are barely scraping by, who feel they’ll never get ahead. People who can’t afford health insurance for their families or see their kids failing in awful schools. People who see their employers shipping jobs overseas and wonder if they’ll be next.
And those are the ones who still have something to cling to, some reason for hope. What about the ones who feel themselves slipping through the cracks of society and noticing that no one seems to give a damn? What happens when the total number of people living that way reaches a critical mass?
When that happens we become ripe for the kind of unscrupulous, nihilistic populism on which Trump has built his success, though it’s hard to characterize reversing years of excruciating progress toward a better, fairer nation as success. It’s basic human nature that people in desperate straits are susceptible to any charismatic savior who can convince them that their problems are someone else’s fault, and those someones are usually of a different color or gender, or are here through circumstances that are less than legal, though all they want is a chance to live and provide for their families. It makes no sense at all, but somehow it’s easy to convince angry, scared people that they’re victims of some great conspiracy and only their new hero can save them.
It doesn’t matter if he lies or if he has no facts to support anything he says, as long as he’s able to tap into the dormant basic instinctual human need to find someone to blame. And once that ball gets rolling, there’s no stopping it. So when someone like Donald Trump whose lust for power and completely amoral, narcissistic need for followers also has a unique ability to tap into the darkest aspects of what makes us human, and his message is “just blow it all up and let me show you a better way” people react like those mesmerized cults that drink Kool Aid. It’s a lynch mob mentality that can’t be stopped until it’s too late.
It’s too late to keep the scabs from being ripped off decades of gradually healing racial hatred and gender inequality. It’s too late to prevent the wave of xenophobia that created the wall mentality we live with. It’s too late to prevent our Department of Education from being run by someone who wants to destroy our public school systems. It’s too late to prevent someone who has spent his entire career trying to destroy the health care safety net of “entitlements” from heading the Department of Health and Human Services, though his own elitist sense of entitlement seems to have undone him. It’s also too late to reverse the setbacks we’ve suffered from the denial of scientific fact in favor of short term profiteering.
But it’s not too late to open our eyes and look within ourselves. Our worst acts of terror and violence, like today’s heinous events in Las Vegas, have not been committed by outsiders, and could never have occurred in a society that had a sane attitude toward firearms. It’s not too late to realize we’ve been hoodwinked. It’s not too late to recognize the difference between honest journalism and the babbling of sycophants and surrogates. It’s not hard to distinguish the noise that comes out of Trump’s mouth from truth if we simply listen.
Unless Robert Mueller can prove that Trump committed a crime worthy of indictment or impeachment, we’re stuck with him for another forty months. But we don’t have to sit and watch our country come to ruin. It won’t be easy, but if we persist and we make our voices heard, we can turn this around.
And it may not be as difficult as it seems. The truth is that Trump is venal, with no ideology of his own and no moral compass. All he cares about is winning and being adored by the masses. Maybe when the masses wake up and make it clear that they want something different, Trump will suddenly realize that he can win the victory he craves by simply changing his mind. Why not? He’s done it before, repeatedly. He has no belief system guiding him, only the need to come out on top. Maybe all we have to do is promise to love him and if enough of us speak up loudly and clearly, he may hear us.