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June 25, 2018

Why We Should Be Afraid, But Why We Should Be Hopeful

Let me be clear here. That was no mere transfer of power that took place Friday afternoon. Mitt Romney wasn’t taking the oath of office up there. Nor was John McCain, or George W. Bush, or George H.W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan or even Richard Nixon. What we witnessed Friday was not only dark in its tone but ominous in its repercussions. Donald Trump stood in front of the nation and delivered what can only be described as the most dystopian inaugural address ever given by a head of state.

If you weren’t afraid before that speech, you no doubt are now, or at least you should be. I, for my part, am terrified. This is not an emotionally stable man; indeed, he may well be the most unhinged president ever to occupy the Oval Office, and that’s saying a lot given that we endured six years of Nixon. In fact, the parallels between Nixon and Trump are staggering. Both men were thin-skinned, and both were consumed with power and contemptuous of anyone or anything that challenged their authority.

Witness the scene in the White House briefing room in which press secretary Sean Spicer attacked the “dishonest” media for reporting on the size of the crowd at Trump’s inaugural compared to Barack Obama’s in 2009. Forget for a moment that Spicer pulled his “alternative facts” literally out of his ass, or that there were millions of people around the world that very same day who were protesting against this president, your first press conference and you turn it into a Spanish Inquisition? Two days in and you come out guns blazing? At least Nixon waited a few months before he began his assault on the media, which if I’m not mistaken was one of the things that helped bring him down; that and, oh yes, his own party. But back then Republicans had a spine.

This president is already in violation of the very Constitution he swore to uphold during his oath of office, and he has served notice to the nation and the world that he is clearly in charge and that things will be run his way. There was no hope anywhere in the speech, no outreach, no come together moment, no “shining city upon a hill.” Just carnage and destruction. He painted himself as the deliver of the country the way all despots do; the way Hitler did in Germany.

Yes, I’m going there; you bet your ass I’m going there. Why? Because we should go there,before it’s too damn late. To quote Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” In this context, I would add “and be complacent.” Because sometimes complacency is worse than doing nothing. The person who does nothing may still have given the matter some thought. A complacent person is one who is too smug to give a shit about a pending danger or threat to them. One wonders how many complacent voters decided to stay home on November 8.

His nominees look more like a retreat for wayward billionaires than a cabinet. And despite their reassurances that they will stand up to him, the fact is that, like his reality TV show Celebrity Apprentice, Trump will simply fire anyone who doesn’t toe the line. In other words, we are in unchartered waters. We have a president who doesn’t care what his advisers say, suffers from a Napoleonic complex and thinks he has a mandate to do whatever the hell he feels like.

This maniac has the nuclear codes. Let me say that again: THIS MANIAC HAS THE NUCLEAR CODES! How dangerous is that? If a Saturday Night Live skit can set him off, imagine what could happen if a real crisis were to arise. If you think I’m being hyperbolic, consider this: during the Cuban missile crisis, what saved the planet from a nuclear holocaust was the cool and clear-headedness of JFK, who rejected the advice of his generals and worked out a deal with Khrushchev that allowed the Soviet Union to save face while still protecting American security. Tell me with a straight face you can see Trump pulling that off. The sad truth is that if history were to repeat itself – and it very well might given the situation in North Korea – we’re fucking toast.

But while things may seem bleak, all is not lost. There are a couple of hopeful signs that we can hang our hats on, and both occurred on Saturday. The first was the incredible turnout of countless demonstrations that took place throughout the world. Millions of people in city after city came out to voice their disapproval of Trump and his policies. The irony was that more people turned out in Washington D.C. to protest Trump on Saturday than showed up for his inaugural a day earlier. I wonder how Spicer will spin that, assuming Trump even lets him.

The second happened immediately after Spicer’s dress down in the White House briefing room. The press and the media finally woke up and pushed back on the lies. On the Sunday morning talk shows, the moderators on Meet the Press, Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday called out the White House on their bullshit. Chuck Todd, usually a lackey for GOP propaganda, actually went after Kellyanne Conway when she tried to justify Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts.” “Alternative facts are not facts,” he said, “they’re falsehoods.” It was refreshing seeing journalists practice actual journalism.

Only time will tell if the media’s new-found resolve will hold or if this will just be a passing fancy. If it’s the former, all I can say is it’s about fucking time. They gave this con artist over a trillion dollars worth of free advertising throughout the campaign and, with a few notable exceptions, gave him a pass while dragging Hillary Clinton through the gutter. True, Clinton was a flawed candidate, but next to Trump she was Mother Teresa.

Let’s be optimistic and say that the media is finally done being spineless; that they’re now prepared to hold this president accountable for his lies. Couple that with the growing groundswell of countless people in this country and abroad, and what you have is the beginning of a resistance movement that might not remove this president from office but will most definitely hobble him and his party.

If his poll numbers continue to plummet – he entered office with a 32 percent approval rating, the lowest of any new president in memory – you can bet Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are going to start sweating.  If they lose the House and Senate in the midterms, both of them know the Democrats are going to go after Trump big time.

I know I’m getting a head of myself. Expecting the media to do its job is asking a lot given their track record. And while Saturday’s protests were inspiring, it was after all just one day. We still have 1457 days left in Trump’s first term, more than enough time for him to shred the U.S. Constitution or destroy the planet, whichever comes first.

Look, I’ve never been much of an optimist.  In fact, I’ve often been called jaded. It’s just that in this precarious time for our country, I’m looking for any reason to be hopeful and this is as good as it’s likely to get.

Ironically, progressives have been looking for a cause to rally around for years. Donald Trump appears to have given it to them.

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Peter Fegan

Peter Fegan

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