Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Yes the political is personal...but in THAT way?

Last year, not too long after the election, someone told me that politics didn't matter. The suggestion was that in matters of relationships--to one's family and one's religion--politics were immaterial, ephemeral. Because I didn't want to exacerbate an already tense encounter, I didn't bounce back with a rejoinder. Of course, politics matter, I wanted to say and then list extemporaneously all the ways in which it does. Our country having just elected a man whose authoritarian tendencies and fascist-comparable rallies reminded me and many others of the election of a man who was responsible for the deaths of millions of people came immediately to mind. But I didn't want to equate Trump to Hitler, just demonstrate the suggestive authoritarian comparisons...and that would take a longer and more nuanced conversation.  I wanted to point out that Hitler was elected by democratic--though manipulated--process and that he used similar themes in his campaign as did Trump: fear of the other (Jews and communists, in Hitler's case; Muslims, Mexicans, undocumented immigrants, terrorists, in Trump's); resentment (against those who diminished Germany's global aspirations in WWI, Hitler; against "elites," minorities, and the decreasing power of white privilege, Trump); nationalism (Hitler promised to make Germany great again; Trump's campaign slogan was to make America great again).

Political decisions have personal consequences; personal decisions have political consequences. The recent presidential election so clearly illustrates the political consequences of personal decisions. Think of all the people who couldn't bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton, not because they didn't agree with most of the political platform on which she campaigned but because they didn't like her. Several weeks before the election, I volunteered to canvass Democrats in the small town in which I live and in the cheek-to-jowl neighboring town. As I solicited their votes, several said that they could not vote for Hillary Clinton; personal animus directed their decision, not a thoughtful analysis of the party's platform or of Clinton's expertise. So these people voted third party or for a party that didn't truly represent their personal politics. Their votes, collectively with others such as they, helped cost Democrats the election.

What are the personal consequences to that political decision? Lack of health care access for women, the poor and the rural (Republicans hate Planned Parenthood even when local Planned Parenthood centers don't offer abortion); lack of health insurance (Since Republicans couldn't get rid of Obamacare altogether, Donald Trump is trying to sabotage it illegally); increasing power of the oligarchs in our society, further declining power of middle and lower classes; the overt rise of white nationalism and increase in racial hostility, with its associated consequences--just to name a few.

I, also, take annihilation pretty seriously, and the president flirts with nuclear destruction in a way no president before him has done. But I conclude that my possible annihilation is not the result of a direct threat to me, Anita Dugat-Greene, as if a nuclear warhead had my name only emblazoned on it. Others will suffer the same consequence as I.

There is, however, a level of the personal few of us expected in politics and that is a president who as chief of state represents mainly himself rather than the unity of a sovereign nation or even the leading member of a political party. Every morning--and sometimes evening-- our commander in chief vomits his personal animus on Twitter. He can't let go of Hillary Clinton; he attacks her frequently on Twitter as if he were still campaigning against her. He calls out by name journalists who criticize him or his administration. He even attacks private individuals. Of course, there were clues to this behavior during his campaign--his public attacks on journalist Katy Tur, his mockery of disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski, his criticism of the Gold Star family, the Khans, among others. But perhaps some people thought that being president would make Donald Trump more presidential.

Unfortunately, no. Donald Trump takes everything personally, as in, a personal affront or a personal attribute to himself. He sees previous presidents and their accomplishments as affronts to himself and lies about those accomplishments or actions in order to aggrandize himself. Stung by criticism that he hadn't publicly or privately responded to the deaths of four American soldiers in an ambush in Niger, Trump claimed that previous presidents--including Bush and Obama--hadn't called families of fallen soldiers to offer support and condolences and that he called every family. He walked back the claims a little when a reporter directly challenged his statement by asking for clarification. And, of course, Trump's claims were lies

As Paul Waldman writes:
For this president, everything is personal. The purpose of the State Department isn't to represent the United States to the world but to tend to Trump's personal image. Anyone who criticizes him becomes an enemy. There is no substantive agenda beyond what will lead to the greater aggrandizement of Donald Trump. 
 Trump must, then, be truly rankled by recent findings of the Pew Research Center, that trust in the United States presidency has plummeted on his watch compared to that of the Obama presidency:
According to a new Pew Research Center survey spanning 37 nations, a median of just 22% has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64% expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world.
I just hope that Trump doesn't take those percentages so personally that he chooses to destroy the world that despises him. So far, my fears aren't allayed.


I've linked below to an interesting article on why Trump's narcissism maintains a hold on his followers. Its conclusion is very troubling to me:
Many of his supporters don’t care that his relationship with truth is shaky and opportunistic. They don’t care that he trades in anger and hate, and that he invites violence against his enemies. They don’t care that he as much as admitted to sexual assault. The difficulty in explaining Trump and his appeal lies in the fact that he has prevailed not despite but because of all of his lies, anger, contempt toward losers, intolerance of dissent, and bombastic grandiosity. His flouting of just about every political, social, and sexual norm has only enhanced his appeal to his devotees. In short: His narcissism is a resource for — not an impediment to — his electoral and political success.
Elizabeth Lunbeck, " The Allure of Trump's Narcissism," Los Angeles Review of Books, 1 August 2017.! 

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