Wag the Dog

Image result for photo dog wagging tail

Feeling pretty good about the defeat of Ryancare…or Trumpcare…or the Gut-Health-Care-Coverage-for-24-Million-People Act? Hoping this is the start of a long-term slide for the president?

Such hope is helpful and such a slide would be super. But there’s still a respect in which we should watch what we wish for.  As Andrew Sullivan speculates, a Trump slump could lead us into a wag the dog scenario:

A president hobbled domestically by his own party’s divisions and the opposition’s new energy may be tempted — Putin-like — to change the subject in a way that vaults him back to popularity. A foreign altercation from which he will not back down? A trade war? A smidge likelier, I’d say, is an over-the-top response to an inevitable jihadist terror attack in a major American city. A demagogue loses much of his power when he tries to wrestle complicated legislation through various political factions, in the way our gloriously inefficient Constitution requires. He regains it with rank fear, polarization, and a raw show of force. Heaven knows what the Constitution will look like once he’s finished.

Read more of this post

It’s a Wonderful Life

Pottersville

My wife and I recently returned from a vacation in India, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Israel. My first memorable step in our convoluted trip was actually a movie I watched on the flight out: Frank Capra’s 1946 fantasy drama, It’s a Wonderful Life, in which an angel shows a kind-hearted but suicidal George Bailey (James Stewart) how bad his friends’ and family’s lives would have been had he never been born.

Bailey also learns that in this alternative reality his wholesome home town of Bedford Falls would have been renamed Pottersville, to honor the venal banker who would have dominated life there but for Bailey’s beneficent influence and call for people to help each other through hard times. Pottersville is a debauched place with no sense of community, where it’s all for none and none for all. Not that I mind some debauchery, but the town resembles what the United States of Trump could become: a small-minded, mean-spirited land that lauds selfishness.

Read more of this post

March On

So I went to my first demonstration in I’m-afraid-to-say-how-many years this weekend. Though driven by plenty of passion and even anger, the Oakland Women’s March was a positive, pleasant, laid-back affair for its up to 100,000 participants (not bad for a city of 400,000). Lots of creative signs, just like its sister rallies across the globe. (My personal favorites were signs #5 and #45.)

All in all, this extraordinary event seemed liked an ordinary thing to do. And I mean that in a good way.

Read more of this post

The Trump Legitimacy Debate

The Great Debate

Is Donald Trump’s presidency legitimate? A week ago, Representative John Lewis became the first prominent Democrat to say “No.” In an NBC interview, he charged that “the Russians participated in helping this man get elected” and “helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.” This iconic civil rights leader’s stand has spurred an inauguration boycott by nearly 70 congressional colleagues and an important debate about what constitutes the greatest threat to our democracy.

Read more of this post

Krugman Underestimates Trumpistan

Paul Krugman is no friend of Donald Trump or the Republican Party, to put it mildly. Yet while his January 2 New York Times op-ed is extremely hard-hitting, his argument is incomplete in a way that understates the challenges they might constitute for our democracy.

One challenge he airs is whether America will turn into a Trumpistan, along the lines of the Central Asian states (the names of which all end in “stan”), formerly parts of the USSR, that are controlled by corrupt, crony-capitalism strongmen pushing personality cults. (Pardon my nit-picking, development professional digression, but Krugman gets this wrong when it comes to Kyrgyzstan, the only one of those five states that is a functioning though flawed democracy – not that we’re ones to judge these days. It should not be lumped in with its neighbors.)

Read more of this post

Grave New World, But…

WELCOME…

…to our Grave New World. Come January 20th, our president will be a misogynistic bigot, with the attention span of a  “a 9-year old with ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder].” He arguably owes his election to a media feeding frenzy over his opponent’s mishandled emails and to help from a foreign dictator to whom his ties remain as mysterious as his taxes, and whom he seems to trust more than he does U.S. intelligence agencies.

So much of this is so surreal. It’s like a bad, unbelievable movie. Or like a brilliant one: the Peter Sellers political satire, “Being There” – though that film featured a much more benign would-be president. Our own real-life drama is like something out of The Twilight Zone – or, worse yet, Black Mirror.

Read more of this post

Scroll Up