Tag Archives: Trumpism

In Praise of George W. Bush (No Kidding)

Where was this guy while Dick Cheney was running the country?

Granted, George W. Bush has been looking a lot better during the disaster that is Donald Trump…but I’m still dumbfounded (and awed) by his speech last week at the Bush Institute’s Spirit of Liberty event in New York.

A few quotations:

“Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

 “Bigotry in any form is blasphemy against the American creed and it means the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation. We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools.”
“And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.”

“The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”

“We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization.”

“Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions, forgetting the image of God we should see in each other. We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, [and] forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.”

In a further reproach to Trump–whose name he never uttered and who has dismissed the evidence–Bush also underscored the conclusion of all the American intelligence agencies about Russian interference in last year’s elections, calling it real and labelling it “subversion.”

Credit where credit is due: during his presidency, Bush never came across as a bigot, although he often failed to push back against his party’s use of bigotry and especially homophobia to win elections.

It is obviously easier for politicians who are not facing another election to call out Trumpism, as we’ve seen with John McCain and Bob Corker. But it is also easier to refrain from publicly defying a sitting President of one’s own party, easier to avoid setting an example that cannot help but shame the current leadership of that party. Easier to keep your head down and enjoy the accolades that come from being an “elder statesman.”

Bush’s broadside is so important because it is his party (or more accurately, what his party has become). Trump ran as a Republican. The House and Senate are controlled by Republicans. Admonitions from Democrats–even previous Presidents–will be dismissed by the party’s base as partisan carping.

As welcome as this speech was, the fact that Bush delivered it is an ominous sign of how worried responsible people are. Those who understand government, who recognize the challenges facing the country and the incredible damage being done to America’s democracy at home and our stature abroad, are speaking up, and we need to recognize how  unprecedented that is.

Differences of opinion on policies would never prompt this behavior. Only a deep foreboding–a sense of existential crisis–can explain this departure from Presidential behavioral norms.

When George W. Bush feels it necessary to warn the country against Trump and Trumpism, we’re in trouble. Bigly.

Accurate, Not Funny

A friend recently sent me the following “joke:”

The Republican Congress is preparing to pass a resolution adding an “S” to WASP.  The S will stand for STRAIGHT, and “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant will henceforth be “Straight White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.”

The Democrats in Congress will respond by creating  a new acronym of their own. MAGPIE will stand for “Minority Americans, Gays, Poor, Immigrants, Educated, Seculars.”

Clever word-play, but much too accurate to be amusing.

Count me among the many Americans who heard Donald Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again” as a very thinly-veiled promise to “make America White Again.” Trump’s appeal was grounded in a notion of “true” Americanism that equated being a real American with being a straight white Protestant male. He appealed to nostalgia for a time when those white Protestant males dominated– and women and minorities “knew their place.”

That nostalgia, needless to say, is not shared by those encompassed by the MAGPIE acronym.

There are, as readers of this blog know all too well, many kinds of inequality. We tend to concentrate on economic disparities, and there is good reason for that—if you are a member of the working poor, unable to make ends meet even though you may be working two jobs, unable to afford adequate food and transportation, let alone health insurance—that lack of self-sufficiency hobbles you in virtually every other way.

People struggling just to survive don’t go to public meetings, rarely vote, and usually are in no position to assert their legal or constitutional rights. They lack the time (and too often the self-confidence) to complain about inadequate city services or substandard schools.

Economic equity is thus incredibly important. But as we all understand, in a society that privileges certain identities over others, the people most likely to be poor, the people most likely to be economically marginalized, are the people consigned to the “Other” categories. The MAGPIES.

One of the most depressing realities about Trump’s America is the increasing division of the population into tribes contending for advantage in what most see as a zero-sum game.

Rather than a liberal democracy in which elected officials work for their vision of a common good, America is rapidly devolving into a corporatist system where elected officials decide who they will favor with tax cuts, subsidies and other governmental prizes. (Those decisions, needless to say, are not made on the basis of what is good for all Americans—they are made in exchange for campaign donations and/or partisan estimates of what is good for the official’s “tribe.”)

From time to time, someone will repeat the old story about the Chairman of General Motors who reportedly said “What’s good for General Motors is good for the United States.” What he actually said was “What’s good for the United States will be good for General Motors.”

That recognition—that we are all in this together, that prosperity must be shared to be sustainable, and that sound management of any business requires a concern for the national welfare—is all but gone, replaced by Trumpism’s far more constricted and un-self-aware concern with the immediate prospects of ones own tribe.

The SWASPs.