As I look back at 2017, not surprisingly, I’m dismayed by … Donald Trump. That’s probably not a surprise. Trump is a salesman in every sense of the word — and a great one at that — promising a lot of stuff to a lot of people. They buy the car and drive off the lot, satisfied in the deal they received. Only a few months after buying the car they discover it was held together by spit and duct tape, and that the promises weren’t quite what they seemed. This tax bill will be a great example of that. A large number of people — primarily those in areas that didn’t support Trump — get hurt immediately. Others benefit, but only for a few short years because their benefits expire after Trump leaves office. Why do they expire? Because without the expiration, they will balloon the deficit to unacceptable levels (this being done by the party that supposedly was against deficit spending). Other benefits — significant cuts for businesses, and especially for businesses where Trump is doing business — will be permanent.
Trump’s approach on what to do in office appears to boil down to the following:
- Do anything he can do to undo Obama’s legacy. If Obama did it, he wants to undo it, whatever “it” is.
- Do anything he can to please his most rabid and strongest base, the people that adore him unquestionably. That means acting in ways that reinforce what they do and what they believe, and constantly dog-whistling messages to them.
- Do anything he can to please his Republican-party donors and benefit himself personally, as his biggest donor.
- Do anything he can — in the short term — to make it appear as if promises were fulfilled. If those go away later, that’s someone else’s problem — someone else to blame.
Although he touts “Make America Great Again” (a slogan he trademarked), his actions do not fulfill those words except in the eyes of “America First” Americans. In the eyes of the rest of the world, he is a laughingstock, and he is reducing America’s stature. He is permitting non-democratic countries to become the world leaders, especially China. He is playing to the hands of thugs and dictators, and arguably increasing the risk of war. But within America, America is great if you say it is and act like it is, and downplay any attempts to tell a different story. That’s a propaganda win.
It has also been a win for selfishness. Our society has become increasingly selfish. From the growth of the selfie and the focus on MEEEE in the picture (and away from the others in the world we love), to a tax plan that people only look at from how it benefits or hurts them personally, we no longer think of the others in the world. We no longer seem to care how others are affected. We no longer think long term and think about hidden implications and impacts. If it benefits me personally now, it’s good, and that’s good enough. That’s a dangerous, self-serving attitude.
I do think this is a great country, and I hope we can survive Trump’s administration — however long it is — and we can recover afterwards. We’ve had populist demagogues before — witness Andrew Jackson. We’ve had idiots in the office. We’ve had corrupt Presidents. Somehow, we’ve survived. But during their terms, was the ride ever bumpy; further, the office was less international and there was less risk of instigating global catastrophe.
If I had a wish for 2018, it would be for sanity to return to politics. Legislation should not be passed on strict party lines. That’s what doomed the ACA because of the seeming single-sidedness. That’s what increases the hatred of the 2017 tax reform. Politicians must work to find a middle ground that can create broader acceptance. Give on some areas, gain on others, for the sake of the Nation as a whole.
In other words, America can only regain its greatness when what is put first is not Trump’s personal interests, not the personal interests of the Republican (or Democratic) leadership, and not what benefits the political party and its donors. Even putting the “notion” of America first — that is, the flag, the symbols — isn’t the answer. It is not putting first the ideas of the 1700s and 1800s of Christianity first, of White Men first, of women and people of color as chattel, of those different from us as bad and the source of all evil.
What will help America regain its greatness is to put the American people first — and that’s ALL the American people and all future Americans — the full range of skin colors, genders, orientations, and religion. It is the full ranges of birth places: those born here and those born abroad who want to work hard and tie their destiny to this nation.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t how our leaders of 2017 acted, and come 2018, they are going to be so fired.