Trump: The Wrong Kind Of Outsider

Trump: The Wrong Kind Of Outsider

Donald Trump barked his way through a mire of intangible promises on the campaign trail. His appeal however resonated with the public’s general perception of him as an agent of change; a man, who in his own words, would ‘drain the swamp.’ As we have seen in the past few weeks however, he is doing anything but this. The nominations of Wall Street fat cats┬áSteven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross to Secretary of Treasury and Commerce, Rick Perry to Secretary of Energy, and Jeff Sessions to Attorney General, among other malevolent choices, have made it clear that the billionaire will be anything but a champion of the blue-collar Americans he courted. In this respect, he is therefore already a ‘failed’ president.

Last week, Bernie Sanders entered what might have seemed to many, the lion’s den, participating in a town-hall discussion with Trump supporters. What became abundantly clear from this Kenosha, Wisconsin talk was that the people there, who had suffered grave unemployment levels, were not in the least bit willing to be coalesced by the Clinton/establishment machine. Many would have chosen Bernie if he had been on the ticket. Politics, for the most part, did not influence their decision. What did was the deep and troubling realization that Washington, in its current state, would never cater for them. One of the gravest mistakes the mainstream media has made this year (and there have been many) is to conflate these peoples’ ideals with those of Trump’s. His supporters were for the most part never proponents of such ridiculous schemes as the Mexican Wall. They did believe however that this election could break the cycle of the past. After all, what would it be like to have an outsider in the White House? Hmmm…

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Forty years ago, America did exactly that, with perhaps its most honest and earnest president ever, Jimmy Carter. The 39th President’s tenure was hardly a smooth road (to put it lightly) but it was undoubtedly a diversion from what came before and what would follow. For example, he conducted himself with an air of modesty, you wouldn’t even expect of state politicians, by carrying his own suitcase, enrolling his daughter Amy in a public school, and refusing the playing of the ‘Star Sprangled Banner’ for his arrival at functions. He led by example, when conducting policy, turning the air conditioning off to promote energy conservation whilst opting for a sweater when things got cold. He spoke candidly and took the blame when he felt it was deserved, addressing the nation on a ‘Crisis of Confidence’ in July of 1979. He also refused to bow to the whims of the Democratic Party, whose power was consolidated in Congress, but whose aspirations did not always meet in tandem with his idea of a fiscally responsible nation. In the end, he was punished with defeat, largely for his inability to solve the Iranian Hostage Crisis but also for his refusal, in many respects, to play the establishment game. Outsiders are necessary, every once in awhile, for the sake of shaking Washington up but as President Clinton, came to understand in 1994, compromise is essential too. So what happens then, when the so-called ‘outsider’ decides to compromise on this vision before his inauguration has even taken place?

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Populism drove the course of this election. Sometimes it can be a good thing. It gives way to new ideas or revitalizes issues lost within the course of a specified agenda. This happened with New Labor in Britain in 1997 during the era of ‘Cool Britannia,’ when Tony Blair helped recapture a country bogged down by over 17 years of Thatcherite policies. Sometimes, if unchecked, it can go terribly wrong however. For example, to step outside the election process, let’s take a look at the explosion of patriotism that blossomed in the wake of 9/11 (something we addressed briefly in our last piece). Whilst America’s critics remained, their voices were largely subdued. This gave way for Bush to instill his ineptly named ‘War on Terror’ on the world, pass the Patriot Act, and launch two wars. Before Congress, when he declared that nations must decide ‘whether they [were] with’ America or against them, applause rang across Washington. It was pretty disgraceful but populism drove the rational mind to cowardice amidst an atmosphere built on hate and American pride. Bush was an insider but he and his team knew how to capitalize on this bulwark of emotion. Carter did too, within a different context and Trump does now, within his.

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‘Populism’ is not necessarily a bad thing, if you take it to mean ‘pleasing all the people all of the time’ as Tony Blair so ambitiously hoped to do nearly twenty years ago. Its specific intent must always be checked however. Carter sought to break with the past and restore a moral sense of authority to America. In my opinion, with no lies put forward and no shots fired in four years, he did that. Bush used it, at an opportune time, to drive forward a domestic and foreign policy. Trump, it seems, has taken the people of America’s most desperate hopes and fears, and twisted them to project an image of authenticity in his own name. He is, within one sense, an ‘outsider’ because he lacks the political know-how to do his job. (He also doesn’t look like most humans.) His administration will however not be revolutionary in this vein. It will more likely resemble a Bush II presidency, pumped up with right-wing steroids and of course, gaffes galore.

 

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We Need More Critical Thinking

We Need More Critical Thinking

With the assessment of many analysts and key figures, including Obama, that fake news’ stories shared on social media played a role in the outcome of this election, it must be recognized that there has been a significant lapse in critical thinking in America. Think about it- when you scan your Facebook feed, do you stop to read each and every article shared or do you just scoop the headlines into the back of your mind. I’m guessing, like me, you do the latter because there’s only so much time in the day and most of these stories seem trite and annoying. What you don’t realize however, read or not, is that a general impression is formed in your subconscious, resulting in a predisposition that can’t often be accounted for personally. For example, in the election cycle, we heard from a lot of people that Hillary was “crooked,” but we rarely heard from most of them exactly why (at least, in detail.) This resulted in the mass insemination of a wild notion that while Trump was none too desirable, Hillary was “just as bad.” If only, we had questioned these people as well as ourselves…

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The media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. Whereas Fox was always an anomaly in rationale prognosis, the other major networks such as CNN and MSNBC could be relied on, for the most part, to provide us with important news (if a bit left-leaning). Now, with the social media age, there’s so much flotsam out there that it’s become difficult to distinguish the bullshit from the professional and even then, the professionals get it wrong. (Thanks for those national polls, guys!) ┬áMany people are quick to out the amateurs in the comments’ section but even there, the gulf between credibility and crazy is wide. Is Obama the hero so many have painted him to be or is he an Islamic fundamentalist determined to take America’s guns away and flush them down the toilet? At this point, the level 1 critical thinker might surmise that the answer always lies somewhere in the middle. It’s all about balance, right? Sadly, it’s not that easy either. Critical thinking does not mean delving a line in the center of a Republican and Democratic thought; it means examining the very fabrics and grounds on which arguments are created.

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Let’s take a case in point to illustrate the importance of this evaluative method: the Iraq War. In 2003, America launched one of its most dodgy exploits to date with the invasion of the Kuwaitan neighbor. Most people will tell you it was a disastrous campaign that has brewed trouble for the world since and only a few less will further that the grounds on which it was built were dismally unfounded. To sharply dispel any immediate backlash, I am going to formally state first that I do not think this war was a good idea. What I am going to attempt to do however is add a wrinkle to the clear picture many people have of it.

It all started in 1991 when George Bush Sr. declared war on Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait, believing such acts of aggression could not be tolerated. The mission was simple; to restore Kuwait’s territory and drive Saddam’s forces out. After an extensive air campaign, the battle was short and sweet for America. The casualties were relatively low for them, victory was swift, and the president’s approval rating rose to 89%. For many however, Bush Sr. made a critical blunder in failing to follow on through to Baghdad and dispose the despot. He felt, in this scenario, there were no grounds for this course of action. And so order was restored seemingly though Saddam remained in power, violating UN sanctions placed over the course of the 1990s, with repeated reports of chemical weapons being used against his own citizens.

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In 2001, the World Trade Centers fell and the Age of Terror took hold of America. Many argued at this point that Bush II set his sights on Saddam before Afghanistan (the Bin Laden problem) was even on the books. This is a leap for others. Here, I believe, the truth may actually lie in the middle as the Bush administration’s policy was clearly set after a ridiculously named “war on terror.” Iraq, W. argued, had to be seen in a different light in this new world context. Did it? Or had it merely become convenient for the Republicans to enact the invasion they had been plotting for years? It became very difficult for moderate thinkers to thread the line between a revived and fervent patriotism in the wake of 9/11 and the dissent of liberal caretakers, who opposed the idea of an American New World Order. Finally, of course, the date was set when W’s intel (a gut-wrenching use of the word) declared their belief that Saddam held weapons of mass destruction (or later, the “capacity” for such weapons). The rest of the story played out then quite clearly. The war began. The statue fell. Saddam was taken. The casualties mounted. They didn’t get out. A surge took place. An economy fell. Another man took office. They began to withdraw. Insurgencies rose. A new terror formed.

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Iraq was no prime example of interventionist success but its significance was different to many people. Some believed it was the most unnecessary and immoral act America had committed its sights to since Vietnam. Some believed it was a necessary precaution to take in an era of heightened international tensions. It wasn’t right to let a man like Saddam lead a nation, in many people’s opinions. His absence created a void from which organisations such as ISIS would arise however. Hindsight is 20/20 as well. Great critical thinkers such as the late Christopher Hitchens, who often rejected well-revered establishment figures such as Henry Kissinger and their philosophies, felt that America’s commitment to the sanctions placed in the 1990s meant they should have taken action much earlier. Others then, will always contend, that it is not America’s right to dictate the rights of another nation.

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I chose Iraq as an example, not because I believe, it will mystify many who had blankly accepted it as a falsely premised war, but because it exemplifies the simplicity with which so many people view these matters. It’s important to question those who you have agreed with 99% of the time. It’s important to think on the other side once in awhile because while I reject the notion that sanity lies squarely in the center of the political aisle, I do believe that neither side has proven itself to always be on the right side of history. So with the dawn of a new dark era in America, let’s hope that people will begin to base their opinions on facts again and not just conjecture. 2016 marked a great lapse in logical and critical thinking for America, among other nations, because fear and anger fueled the fire. In 2017, let’s restore the approach (Nixon once noted) Eisenhower took to solving problems; through cold eyes.