Now that we’ve gotten over the traditional Yuletide frenzy of regifting and exchanging, we hurtle toward the new year as any glow from Christmas becomes a distant memory. After January, the pall of winter settles over the land. Even in the semitropical parts of our country, climate change has intensified the destructive force of nature. Meanwhile, shared human experience has hibernated.
If you think that’s a gloomy picture, it’s inspired by the national malaise triggered by our political situation. Let’s face it: We are no longer united in common purpose — we are either adamantly anti-Trump or fanatically pro-Trump. There’s little in between, and little chance to resolve our differences. Debate deteriorates into bitter argument in which insults are routine (the more outrageous and distasteful, the better) and amplified by high-tech anti-social media.
Donald Trump stands in the middle of the whirlwind he’s created. On the one side are those who are horrified by the man who has wrenched away leadership of the country. They believe he has manipulated the millions alienated by a world they feel is passing them by. His legions of supporters are mainly white, have less than a top-notch education, but feel that what they have and their values are being stolen by elitists who are their mortal enemies. Furthermore, they perceive threats from people of color who want their piece of the pie, and from those who challenge their conservative cultural values and, most of all, their economic security. They despise the self-serving, arrogant leaders of a system they believe is stacked against them, who look down on them as “deplorable.”


For them, it’s Donald Trump to the rescue. Even though he has not really lived their lives, he’s managed to convince them that he understands their experiences. He talks their language: the language of grievance. Never mind his lies, his hypocrisies — he can do no wrong.
Meanwhile, Trump’s opponents feel that he can do no right. Their problem is that they are all over the map. From the center leftward, they constantly squabble about policies; their blood feuds leave them tattered. The search for “purity” has stalled their march. The moderates in the Democratic Party are viewed with suspicion by the immoderates. In effect, about all they agree on is their intense desire to get rid of Trump. But in their disarray, their quest seems no match for the passion, the hatred of the millions who agree that the Trumpster has been “chosen by God” to lead them backward to an imaginary time when America was “great again.”
Here’s where they have a point: Our so-called elites are not elite. The ones in charge over the decades have led us into the reality that we are one step away from planetary disaster, either from annihilation in a war or a world burning up in a climate caused by irresponsible energy consumption. These same “elites” have also led us into an economic structure where financial inequality is entrenched and always getting worse. The rich control the government and the lawmaking process. They accomplish that by a campaign contribution system that is really legalized bribery. In those rare events that they get too greedy and run afoul of the laws they’ve created, their cadre of attorneys usually extricates them from trouble. Back and forth it goes.
Of all things, Donald Trump, who has made a career out of manipulating the legal system, has convinced his followers that he can resolve the unfair treatment that burdens them.
But that’s how a demagogue operates. Every con man needs a willing mark to work a scam, and collectively we are ripe for one. We keep looking for simple answers to exceedingly complicated problems. We are about to enter a new year, one that will feature a referendum on the direction of this nation. I don’t think it’s overstating it to suggest that it’s also about whether the country really has any future.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 28, 2019 7:18 AM.

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