Wednesday, June 8, 2016

An Even More Dangerous Turn in Political Events

In the wake of Trump’s demagogic displays, I thought it would be instructive, ironic, and as I discovered, somewhat disheartening, to read Barack Obama’s inaugural speech when he first took office.  Such idealism, only to be ambushed by a political party which, as evidenced by their new standard bearer, Donald Trump, would prefer that America be frozen in a snow globe or a Norman Rockwell painting. 

From the onset of Obama’s presidency he was challenged by the Republican base and this morphed into a stone wall of opposition, no matter what the consequences were to this nation.  It was an invitation to disrespect the mere office of the Presidency, perhaps even because it was now occupied by a man of color who said in his inaugural speech: “This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed --why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”

Is it any wonder that an ego-maniacal mass-media caricature of a presidential candidate should rise like a Phoenix from the ashes his own party created?

“Let’s make America Great Again?”  By alienating, or, worse, eliminating by deportation or excluding with walls -- physical as well as immigration blockades -- minorities he declares unsuitable?  I thought that was appalling enough until his now well-publicized comments about District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whose parents are from Mexico, accusing the Judge of having a conflict of interest as he considers lawsuits against Trump “University.”  Instead of recognizing that this is a serious transgression of the separation of powers, and an act of racism, Trump turned the table on the press, suggesting that reporters who ask about the matter are the racists by merely asking the question – yet another attack on the fourth estate.

Trump’s world view is there are only winners (him) and losers (anyone he chooses to call as such).  He doesn’t want to appear to be weak, and therefore be “kicked off the island.”  No, to show his “strength” he even suggested that if he becomes President he’ll pursue a civil case against the judge, the argument being that his Mexican heritage is an "inherent conflict of interest." Ironic, how many presidents have been schooled in law and now we have a candidate who uses his wealth to routinely litigate or threaten to litigate to bully things his way. We all know how preposterous his litigation threat is and he may think as President he might be able to manipulate the separation of constitutional powers.  He’s already said “I consult myself on foreign policy, because I have a very good brain.”  So who needs advisers, and for that matter Congress, the Judiciary, and the Press?

It is a severely flawed personality trait, one that does not belong in the Office of the President.  It is a form of blame shifting, even paranoia.  Weakness is a trait of a “loser;” thus he must appear powerful by blaming others or circumstance. “All I’m trying to do is figure out why I’m being treated so unfairly by a judge,” he said on Fox News.  About his refusal to release his tax returns: "I have friends that are very rich….They've never been audited." He’s a victim!

This is seriously scary stuff.  During my publishing career I reprinted Gustav Gilbert’s Psychology of Dictatorship in which he said “throughout history social movements of far-reaching consequences have been decisively influenced by leaders, and that the behavior of such leaders is necessarily motivated to some extent by psychological tensions rooted in their individual character development.  We must further recognize the fact that the personalities of political leaders, like all human beings, are largely the products of their cultural mores and social tensions, and that they become leaders only if they effectively express the aspirations (or frustrations) of significant segments of their contemporary society.” Although these words apply to all kinds of societies, they were particularly aimed at those that gave rise to dictators, narcissists who tap into a discordant societal vein. 

Contrast Trump’s call for denying any Muslim immigration to what Obama said when inaugurated: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West --know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”  Perhaps overly idealized, but some of these words could be directed to Trump himself: know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history.