Friday, February 17, 2017

Trump as agent provocateur and how we might point him in the right direction

Day after day, I see meme after meme depicting Trump in some unflattering way. I totally get the catharsis of the exercise. Strong feelings lead to stronger expressions of antipathy towards Trump. Just today I saw a meme depicting Trump and Pence as Beavis and Butthead. I get it. Insulting memes reflect the national angst about Trump as president. Behind every insult is fear.

While derogatory memes can be entertaining and even humorous, I find them distracting from the issues at hand. Remember, Bernie Sanders always told us that politics is about the issues, not identities. The memes that I have seen since Trump won the election are clearly a reflection of identity politics. I won't deride the great artists who make them, but I wish to remind those same people that the issues are what matter.

Here is one place where the issues matter: when Congressmen and women go home to see their constituents. From time to time, I see videos from the The Jimmy Dore Show posted in my feeds on Google+ and Facebook. They're very popular in my circles on Google+, and here is one installment of that show below:

Did you watch the video? Just look at those angry mobs all over the country confronting Congress Critters at their town hall meetings. I must admit, it was delicious to see Jason Chaffetz from Utah get a pitcher of castor oil administered to him at his own town hall meeting. He decided to cut it short when he found himself overwhelmed by the din of the citizens he claims to represent, as they shouted him down. He used to represent my district until the statehouse drew a new one for him, you know, to make sure he's re-elected and to make room for a new member of the House of Representatives.

So what about all that ire? That's just the response to the effort to repeal Obamacare, an effort which will most certainly take health insurance away from tens of millions of people who have it now, should they prevail. Seems like Republicans have become their own death panel, haven't they?

In Tennessee we get a sample of what's going on at the local level. There, members of the statehouse held a meeting to present their latest bathroom bill, only to be met by an angry mob of protesters. Naturally, they cut their meeting short because, hey, they don't have to listen to ordinary working constituents, anyway. They only care about relevant funders, just like members of Congress.

Even Schwarzenegger is back in the news. The Arnold has apparently noticed the issue of gerrymandering on the part of the Republicans and says that they could not even beat herpes in the polls. Now that's cold. Schwarzenegger, you may recall, was once a Republican governor of California ("Vote for me if you want to live"). Perhaps he too, has noticed that Republicans have only 26% of registered voters nationwide, yet dominate American politics at the state level with nearly complete control of state government in 25 states. That does seem puzzling, doesn't it? I'd call it a gift.

I guess the GOP in Congress is feeling especially brazen this year, despite all the attention they've been getting lately. They've introduced a bill to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency and scheduled that termination for December 31, 2018. They must be fairly confident that they won't have to live near any SuperFund sites. Certain industrial business elites will find that Christmas comes early this year.

The Atlantic Magazine has taken note of American institutions that are fighting back, too. The press, the judiciary and an apparently independent federal bureaucracy have all joined the perfect storm. A combination of checks on federal power have come in the form court orders, noticeable improvements in reporting the news and leaks. Lots of leaks. Loose lips lose ships, Donald.

The final incident I'd like to bring to your attention is a national movement, #adaywithoutimmigrants (Twitter). It's in the news, too. California farmers who backed Trump are beginning to notice they haven't really thought this thing through.

This nation is literally in a froth over Trump, the GOP and the policies they hope to implement. Now that the GOP has the power, and they've noticed the discontent with the policies they are so eager to implement, they're going full steam on their disenfranchisement plans, to confuse themselves even more. They're very worried that "millions of illegal votes" could derail their midterms in less than two years, so they need to move fast.

Lest you think I'm here just to thump Republicans, remember that Democrats have about 30% of voter registration nationwide. They played a part in bumping millions of voters off the rolls last year during the primaries in order to sideline Bernie Sanders. More to the point, they have ingested the big money in politics Kool-Aid just like Republicans, and so, have become beholden to big money interests. The Democrats are just as much at fault for national discontent as Republicans, and they can thank their good friend, former Congressman Tony Coehlo, for directing them to that gravy train back in the 1980s.

Trump won mostly on name recognition and the idiocy of Clinton's campaign, first against Bernie Sanders and second against their own liberal base of voters. Had the Dingaling National Committee remained a fair and impartial forum (as their bylaws require) for the nomination process, they might have had a better view of which candidate the voters really wanted. I'd say that the man filling the stadiums last year was the better pick. But with the near certainty of electing one of Boss Tweed's greatest fans as chair, Tom Perez, I doubt the DNC has actually learned their lesson just yet.

Trump's name recognition and visibility has made him the perfect agent provocateur. During the primaries last year, I saw numerous articles demonstrating Trump as exposing the GOP elite as a racist, xenophobic group of white men hungry for power. Here is one from Salon and a sample to get a sense of what I'm talking about:
Paul Ryan is angry with Donald Trump, not so much for failing to espouse conservative values, as for exposing America’s dirty little secret — white rage: that deep-seated determination to block black progress in this country. For years, conservative politicians have relied upon the cover of high-minded principles and slogans – “protecting the integrity of the ballot box,” or waging a “war on drugs” — in order to cloak their determination to restrict African Americans’ citizenship rights. The racism fueling Trump’s campaign and his followers, however, is so overt, that it is undoing decades of hard covert work by the GOP.
Can you say, "Southern Strategy"? Mind you here, I'm not talking about the entire GOP base. I know good people, men and women who have voted for Trump. Not all Trump supporters are racist, xenophobic, misogynist, and the like. They wanted change. They wanted someone who was not an insider and they did not like Hillary Clinton. Some even expressed a desire for Bernie Sanders as president, yes even some Republicans wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders.

Walk with me now on a short path of complete speculation. I'll call it a once secret hope. I believe that Trump is an agent provocateur, not in favor of the GOP or the Democrats, but against the establishment. Trump is a product of decades of voter disenfranchisement ranging from closed primaries to closed presidential debates to Tweedism on steroids, Americans have endured an unending drama of watching the people they vote for refuse to listen to them on important public policy issues. That's how we got Trump.

So I have this faint hope that Trump is an agent provocateur working hard to destroy the cozy relationship between the elected men and women who wield power and the un-elected people who want to use their enormous hoards of money to buy favors from the former. Cloaked deep inside all of this, I see this one tiny little ray of hope in all of the Trump Administration as Steve Bannon. I know, it seems hard to believe, but hear me out. The New York Times has compiled a laundry list of quotes from Bannon in a variety of contexts and the sum of all of them is pretty much the same: Bannon is opposed to the apparently permanent political class we must vote for every few years.

Despite his position, Bannon has a problem. When voter disenfranchisement reigns supreme across our land, elected representatives and political analysts lose touch with the people they claim to represent and/or know about. Even Bannon cannot see the depths of voter discontent because not all of the votes are counted.

Bannon is, from what I can see now, the closest man to Trump outside of Trump's family. Does anyone else see the irony in having Bannon there, in the White House, working in an establishment and being anti-establishment?

Trump is now the national lightning rod, probably the largest political lightning rod in the entire country, no matter what people might think of his hands. He has elicited a response from the left that cannot be estimated, it can only be anticipated. Whether he wants to be or not, witting or unwitting, he is an agent provocateur like no other in this country. I don't think I've ever seen any time in history, short of Ronald Reagan, where so much political power was vested in one man.

I can't say that I like Trump or hate him. I still have an open mind about him. He's only signed one piece of legislation as of this date, so he's just getting started. I really don't know what to make of him yet, so the best I can do is just watch what he does. Yes, he's signed some executive orders and ruffled a lot of feathers, and the press is unable to comprehend a highly placed elected official who won't take their orders.

But remember that bright spot that I was telling you about earlier with Bannon, well, I think that's something we can all agree on, left and right. We are all tired of having to support a seemingly permanent political class that will listen to the money before the constituents. Now I'm far from being a Trump supporter or even an admirer of Steve Bannon. Yet, when I look at someone who is a potential adversary, I'm always looking for common ground. Steve Bannon is anti-establishment and he's got that in spades - and he's Trump's right hand man. I think we can find a good issue to work on with him, regardless of political orientation.

Sanders was anti-establishment and I voted for him. Jill Stein was anti-establishment and I voted for her, too. I'm done with a fat and happy political class that thinks they can take money from big business (a polite term for private monopoly), and use that power against me. Note to those private monopolies: I just want to buy your products, not your politics.

The Tea Party claimed to be anti-establishment, too, and look where that got them. They've been owned by the Koch Brothers for years.

So here's what I'm thinking. We need to find one issue to rally around. Conservatives and liberals alike want change, and we know we're not going to get what we want with the current crop of Congress critters and their 97% re-election rate. What if we set aside all other issues and just focused on the issue of unseating that permanent political class and worked to prevent them from being replaced with more of the same? Think That aligns well with campaign finance reform, gerrymandering prevention and anti-corruption laws that have teeth.

Instead of taunting and branding Trump as an idiot, a sexist, or a surprised Putin lover, which is only going to piss him off anyway (unless he's merely an entertainer and refuses to break character), we could just zero in on this one issue. If Steve Bannon is serious, and is taken seriously, we could have an honest and open dialogue with him and Trump, about dealing with the corruption that a permanent political class breeds. To paraphrase Sanders, lets hold Trump and Bannon to their promises and statements on this one topic alone. If they change their minds about draining the swamp, let them defend their actions and their words on the air and in print.

The rest of the news about Trump is just a distraction. I believe that the central issue we need to focus on is eliminating this permanent political class. To accomplish this objective, we just might have the right man in the White House to do that, and that would be Steve Bannon. It's entirely up to us to decide if we should make him an ally or adversary to this one cause. I suggest we go with the former.

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