Sunday, October 9, 2016

Frankenstein's Monster Redux - Wrecking Havoc from Day One.

Nearly eight years ago, on the evening of Inauguration Day 2009, a group of leading Republicans gathered for dinner and vowed to make the president inaugurated that same day a one term president. President Obama had nominated to the Cabinet two Republicans (including the Secretary of Defense) and reached across the aisle in his Inauguration Speech to champion a government for all Americans. But his presidency was to be undermined from day one by the dogged pursuit of the political goal of restoring a Republican to the White House above all. This in spite of the U.S. being involved in two ground wars and in the depth of an economic recession the likes of which had not been seen since the Great Depression. A situation that would seem to clamor for bipartisanship.

The conspiracy begat that evening eventually led to, among other things, the scuttling of the budget deal and the demonization of immigration reform, as well as to a few government shutdowns. The Republican opposition to President Obama relished, encouraged, grew and supported factions and groups that distorted his origins, mocked his race in the most disturbing ways and generally were visceral and toxic to government institutions in general and the president in particular.

The environment emanating from such confrontational partisanship is at the root of destructive interactions between and within our political parties. It is an environment that, fueled by the contrived hyperbole of fringe media (radio and on-line), desensitizes a basic sense of civility that allows social co-existence. Incendiary talk radio and web sites that are just a notch below in their rhetoric of the ones used by Hutus in Rwanda or Serbs in Bosnia to inspire genocidal rampages have become increasingly pervasive in the partisan dialogue and in social media. And with no doubt within this environment we can find the origin of that political Frankenstein monster: Mr. Donald Trump. A creature nurtured by an unfettered sense of entitlement, a sublimated inferiority complex and a craving for attention at any price. A creature pieced together and supported by a coalition of people exactly like him showcasing in social media and any other vehicle they may find their blinder constrained narcissism. These are not Bush or Romney Republicans, not Reagan or Clinton Democrats, confrontational and antagonistic, but they are politically alienated, for lack of a better word, anarchists.  Après nous, le déluge!

Trump’s claim to fame and biggest selling point is that he is a successful businessman, that he knows how to run a business, knows about money and that it is time someone with his credentials ran the country.  Setting aside the fact that he has not demonstrated that he has had the acumen to use his inherited fortune to grow it over market returns (without bilking thousands of customers, contractors and even state and federal government), the notion that a nation can be run like a business is spurious. The last time that was attempted here was by Calvin Coolidge and it led to the Great Depression.

A successful business is a closed system with a clear goal: survive market competition and the innovation forces of creative destruction to maximize the profits to its limited number of shareholders.  A successful nation is an open system that by regulating market failures, externalities and common goods seeks to maximize the well-being of all its citizens. The set of skills and knowledge that lead to success in one endeavor are not the same for the other.

If it were granted that Trump has been a successful CEO, to transfer his skill set to running the government could lead to the worst cases of influence peddling and conflicts of interest since Spiro Agnew (when America was great?). In a perfectly logical pursuit of benefitting his present and future investments, decisions impacting markets and regulations would be taken in “best for the business” mode, disregarding the overarching economic and political reasons for national government.

Of course, that is what some in the Republican leadership are counting on. Not that Trump will use the government to benefit himself personally (like any businessman would naturally tend to do), but that his lack of skills for governing will force Trump to call on them for assistance in running the country--at which point they will just tell him what to do. This party leadership tries to convince itself and a diminishing group of their followers that Trump is “politically manageable.” However that, a risky proposition at best, does not account for the obvious personality traits embodied in Trump.

Because power limits through checks and balances do exist, a temperament recognizing such limits and acquiescing to this most basic tenet of our government is one of the fundamental reasons to choose a candidate over another. Trump has made clear he does not believe in limits to his use and manipulation of power. The latest evidence of his sense of entitled power and his willingness to abuse it is the “Access Hollywood” video where he says: “And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.” 

President Trump as a risky proposition does not even begin to describe the possible scenarios of uncontrolled abuse of power that could occur with a White House occupied by an unapologetic reckless bully. A bully directly descended and nurtured by the blind partisan interest wrought upon the nation that cold January evening in 2009. This is a risk that America should not allow itself to take. It has a lot to lose.

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