Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Big Serve

I read this piece yesterday in The New Yorker with regards to Trump's Presidential style or lack thereof. 

There is little I can add to this but when you read the almost histrionic level of support by Trumpsters I get it and this piece from Bill Moyers explains it in ways that explain it all.  The love of money. And that song led The Apprentice, an irony not lost on anyone.  Well Trumpsters as irony and humor are qualities lacking, among others.

And on that note I want to make an aside about John McCain.  I lost all respect for him in 2008 and how that process evolved into this angry white man who could have led his party but chose to isolate himself and he and his work wife, Lindsay Graham, did little to broaden coalitions or build alliances. Everyone who has ever watched another reality show, Survivor, knows that alliances make money.

Isn't all Politics about money? It has long since seceded the responsibility of serving the Country and the Citizens that reside within.   So when I see long standing elderly white men who stay in their positions long after the sell by date, a date decided when they no longer live, meet and connect to their communities in which they were elected to serve, and stay as they end up wearing Depends, and being escorted in wheelchairs, with mental acuity depleted and frankly without any real individual willing to stand up to them and say no.  Anyone in the private sector that addled, ill or obstinate would be quietly shown the door, given a large golden parachute and watch to match and be sent to their million dollar home in the Hamptons.

But we have come to learn that don't stop, don't quit even when they have enough wealth and security to insulate them and their progeny for decades to come. And with the supposed work ethic, education and opportunity at one point why would anyone care if Donald Jr. has enough to live off as shouldn't he be pulling up his Hermes leather bootstraps on his own at  some point?

But that is the point.  The wealthy and the powerful (not always the same as we know by their taxes, their Net Worth, well not everyone) will go to great lengths to preserve their dynasty.  This is like the Ancient Romans or Chinese and the idea that legacy and family name are worth going to war for.  Today the Silicon Valley crazy Libertarians have chosen to live forever sort of like the crazy Patriarchical figure in Orphan Black as a way of defying LIFE.  Yes defying LIFE. Okay then.

Senator McCain has served his Country in ways that many of us will never experience or even know. As he is seriously mortally ill would it be nice to be with family, friends and live out the days in peace and quiet?  Well no he is coming back. Right. Sure.  Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

I am not against older people and disabled people serving their country.   There are in  fact Congresspersons who are and are highly active and intelligent and they have the right to choose when they step out and on to another stage.  Steve Scalise is another who should be willing to say that he has his life and serving Congress is now something he nearly died for and should not need to prove anything to anyone by stepping away.  I applaud Gabrielle Giffords for her role in the private sector and even former President Carter who by far made a way better EX-President than he was President.

But what is ironic or is that an oxymoron that almost all of them that preach the whole bullshit of getting off the Government teat have been sucking off it for decades. They have benefited from Social Security, Health Care, free travel, Student Loans, Tax Breaks, Education, Police protection and many have never worked in the private sector.  All while collecting a check, for decades, from the very Government they criticize.  Go figure.  At least Trump has and that is what his election is about the belief that he would be "different."  Well on that we can agree. 

The Trump Dynasty is just that.  It is not about serving or offering the Country a new alternative it is about preservation and isolation.  And as I wrote about that issue it brings dementia.  I thought that during the hearings of James Comey that something was wrong with McCain when he rambled incoherently and I am sure of that with Trump.  His speech patterns, his obesity and his own isolation demonstrates a man on the cusp of a serious illness.  But we will never know much like Reagan, the White House is a prison of another kind and it keeps all its secrets inside.

Trump is a con man.  He is in this for the long con.  I want him to finish his term, to fiddle while Rome burns as the last thing I want is Pence as President.  And I want people to vote, to become active and ask every single Politician who serves - who are they serving?    And if you are being served ask yourself if that is worth the tip - a vote. 

Voting, a right or a privilege?  I am not sure anymore.

Trump Bet Americans Would Like His Un-Presidential Antics. He May Be Right.

Is America one big con game?

By Neal Gabler | July 13, 2017

Political pundits have been intoxicated lately by explanations as to why Democrats always seem to be behind the eight ball — never mind that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote; that liberal positions on issues like health care, climate change and income inequality are held by a majority of Americans; or that Republicans are more unpopular.

The idea, promoted in The New York Times with three different op-eds in the past month alone, is that Democrats don’t plug into traditional American values the way Republicans do, and it’s those values that swayed the last presidential election, especially in the Rust Belt, and in the recent special congressional elections, Trump’s general unpopularity notwithstanding.

Daniel K. Williams, a religious historian, attributed the Democrats’ recent loss in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District to the fact that the party had become too secular to appeal to religious minorities and baby boomers, too removed from America’s religious traditions.
There has never been a president whose values are so antithetical to traditional American ones — never one less self-reliant, loyal, tough, disciplined, religious or virtuous.

Democratic pollster Mark Penn and former Manhattan borough president Andrew Stein penned an op-ed in which they called for the Democrats to reject the “siren calls of the left” and move to the center to attract working-class voters “who feel abandoned by the party’s shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore manufacturing jobs.” In short, Republicanism lite.

And then there is the analysis of Times columnist David Brooks, inaptly titled “What’s the Matter With Republicans?” because it really was aimed at what’s wrong with Democrats, since in his view nothing really seems to be wrong with the GOP. Republicans subscribe to traditional American values forged on the frontier, things like self-reliance and self-sufficiency, independence, loyalty, toughness and virtue; Democrats seemingly do not.

None of these criticisms is new. In fact, they are pretty hoary. But they actually seem a lot less persuasive now that Donald Trump is in the White House. There has never been a president whose values are so antithetical to traditional American ones — never one less self-reliant, loyal, tough, disciplined, religious or virtuous — so the argument doesn’t hold much water to me.

I want to suggest something else entirely that helps explain the love for Republicans and Trump in the supposedly old-fashioned precincts of the South, Midwest and West. I want to suggest that beneath or beside these so-called “traditional” frontier values — which we ourselves promote so self-aggrandizingly — there’s another set of values, no less American, and probably much more so. According to some historians, they, too, were forged on the frontier as a form of survival.

They have nothing to do with the Protestant ethic — quite the contrary. They are not values of virtue but of success, promoting deception and the fast con, easy cash, hustling and the love of money. If the first set of values might be called “Algeresque,” after Horatio Alger, the popular 19th-century American author who wrote stories about poor ragamuffins rising to great wealth through hard work, this second set might be called “Barnumesque,” after P. T. Barnum, the 19th-century promoter, hoaxster and circus impresario, who played on his countrymen’s gullibility.

As Michael Winship wrote on this site recently in astutely pointing to Trump’s hucksterism, Trump is a chip off of P.T. Barnum’s block. I’d like to focus here on something else: Unfortunately, he isn’t the only one. For all our pieties about the benefits of hard work and decency, this is far more Barnum’s country than Alger’s, which may be the Democrats’ real problem. If anything, they are too virtuous for their own good, too beholden to moral values.

Of course, no one wants to come right out and say that America is a land of hustlers, least of all politicians and pundits. It is a kind of sacrilege. Everyone prefers the Alger scenario of social mobility, which historian Henry Steele Commager described as one in which “opportunities lie all about you; success is material and is the reward of virtue and work.” This is one of the bulwarks of America. To say otherwise is to engage in class warfare, and class warfare, we are often told by conservatives, is a betrayal of American exceptionalism.

But as much a bulwark as this is, just about everyone also knows it isn’t exactly true — even, it turns out, Horatio Alger himself. “He constantly preached that success was to be won through virtue and hard work,” writes his most perspicacious biographer, John Tebbel, “but his stories tell us just as constantly that success is actually the result of fortuitous circumstance.” Or luck, so long as you aren’t lucky enough to be born rich. Those idlers — the Trumps of the world — are Alger’s villains.
This is America the Deceitful. And many Americans like it, I presume because it seems to let them thumb their noses at their supposed social betters, just as Trump has done.

Perhaps it was because the American dream was so riddled with inconsistencies, contradictions and outright lies that Americans constructed (and lived) an alternative in which success goes not to the industrious but to the insolent. This is the thesis of historian Walter McDougall’s provocative story of the early republic, Freedom Just Around the Corner. As he writes, it is the unexceptionalism of so many Americans that really makes America exceptional.

“To suggest that Americans are, among other things, prone to be hustlers,” McDougall notes, “is simply to acknowledge Americans have enjoyed more opportunity to pursue their ambitions by foul means or fair, than any other people in history.” And: “Americans take it for granted that ‘everyone’s got an angle,’ except maybe themselves.” This idea, that you succeed through grift and guile, has made many Americans more cynical than idealistic, more Barnum than Alger, and, yes, more Trump than Obama.

Barnum understood the financial implications of the swindle. He was a brilliant self-promoter and ballyhoo artist who sold an unsuspecting public on things like seeing George Washington’s 160-year-old nurse, or an “authentic” stuffed mermaid, and then made additional money by exposing his own frauds, realizing that people actually liked being fooled and being debriefed on the foolery. In this, he was merely a progenitor of what would be a long string of knaves, cheats, con artists and rascals who became an American type and who later turned the heist movie into an American staple. Virtuous heroes were dull. These rapscallions weren’t, and it wasn’t lost on most Americans that these con men were subverting those hallowed values David Brooks celebrates.

But as evident as the financial rewards were, it has taken a long time for anyone to see the political implications of the hustle, and now Trump has. He prides himself on not having earned his wealth, on his serial bankruptcies, on stiffing contractors and on gaming the tax system, the last three of which he regards as just clever business. Even his hint of having taped his conversations with former FBI director James Comey was a form of deceit.

Many of us, myself included, wondered why this didn’t bring him public scorn and create not just a credibility gap but a credibility canyon, but that’s because, as political observers, we were working from the traditional values manual and not the subversive one. I suspect, for all that platitudinous op-ed nonsense about the attraction of traditional values, this is a very real source of Trump’s appeal, as it is of the Republicans’.

Working within this other tradition, Trump makes no bones about being a hustler. He is shameless. Some people admire that. The Republicans, for their part, give lip service to virtue and are as self-righteous as they come, but everyone knows they are really about gaming the system, too. This is America the Deceitful. And many Americans like it, I presume because it seems to let them thumb their noses at their supposed social betters, just as Trump has done.

So, while people bemoan the end of moral certitude and a lost halcyon past, Trump the trickster and his Republican henchmen are creating a new America adrift in moral chaos. This, too, has a Barnum antecedent. As Barnum biographer and cultural historian Neil Harris wrote of Barnum’s destruction of traditional forms of evidence and authority, “When credentials, coats of arms and university degrees no longer guaranteed what passed for truth, it was difficult to know what to believe. Everything was up for grabs.”

Not a bad description of contemporary America. The pundits may say that what ails Democrats is insufficient religiosity or moderation or self-reliance or whatever the cliché happens to be, but in a time of moral turpitude, it may be insufficient rascality that really hurts them.

Trump has gambled that many Americans would enjoy his unpresidential, con-man antics. He hasn’t entirely won that gamble. Most Americans don’t. But there are enough who do, especially among Republicans, to let him wreak havoc. After all those years of our hearing Algeresque bromides, President Barnum is now in charge, and he is working hard to reveal America as one great big con game.

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