Commentary: The new order

Some Americans were happy with electing a flawed leader with a dubious relationship with the truth. After years of inattention, exaggerations or outright lies by segments of the media, and enabled by players eager for an advantage, many voters were ready to suspend belief and latch onto anyone who signaled change.

We were told that the president was going to take our guns, invade Texas, create death panels, prepare concentration camps, invoke Sharia law, that the 2008 economic collapse was a vast conspiracy to throw the election to Barack Obama. The president was said to be too weak, too strong, ineffective, a tyrant, a Muslim, a homosexual, and was compared to an ape. Verifiable truth simply did not matter. The economy was proclaimed a disaster, despite measurable evidence to its improvement. Climate change was somehow a conspiracy. How many consecutive 100- and 500-year storms, floods, heatwaves, extreme droughts and widespread forest fires must we suffer before we admit there is a problem?

So the foundation was in place before Donald Trump started his run, but he astutely read the signs and realized that America was ripe to be seduced by someone able to create an alternative reality for those disillusioned and feeling ignored by progress. Many felt their needs were not addressed. The feeling was supported by an acceptance of fake news and dubious facts.

From the beginning of his campaign, Trump sensed and said whatever provoked the greatest reaction from his intended audience. He desired strong, gut-level responses. Reporting his words brought denials, despite the existence of his public statements. Preying on the powerless, the weak, the disadvantaged, no target was too small and nothing sacred. He began with the outright lie about Obama’s birth certificate, trying to delegitimize a twice-elected president. Another volley was aimed at Mexicans and the Chinese, blamed for stealing jobs.

No mention was made of job attrition due to automation or lack of training. No caution about raising prices of goods as a result of trade wars. Trump’s  pattern has been to divide and demonize, producing outrageous statements that made sensational sound bites.

The media, dependent upon ratings, was only too happy to give him unlimited coverage, to the detriment of more worthy news and more capable candidates. Media star Trump knew exactly what he was doing – creating a market for continual and escalating outrage, feeding the insatiable TV eye.

During the course of his campaign, Trump was responsible for vulgarities, childish exchanges, for publicly degrading a disabled person, and denial of numerous sexual abuse charges, despite audio evidence about behavior that would get any hormonal high school male expelled. Trump powered through it all by bluster and threats of lawsuits. He provoked violence at rallies, encouraging anger instead of reason to build his base. He manipulated the media for his own use, while simultaneously degrading them. Afraid to miss the spectacle, they couldn’t look away.

The emboldened Republicans gauged the credulity exposed by the vote for Trump, and determined to mine that vein of ignorance. First was a secret meeting that floated the idea of weakening the Office of Congressional Ethics, an office created in response to previous excesses. After a strong public response, the idea was postponed, not for any ethical reasons, but because of the bad public relations and timing.

We have seen requests that would allow federal employees to be singled out for work that counters Republican orthodoxy, and a measure that would selectively allow Congress to reduce their pay. Health care for millions is in jeopardy with no clear plan forward. We can expect attacks on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which among other things, blew the whistle on Wells Fargo and its fraudulent accounts.

It would be easy to attack Trump as the source of all that is wrong with the new government, but this has been building for years. How much of this attempted Republican reworking emanates from their donors? We have no way, by design, to track the amount or influence of money, but if the results align with the wishes of big money, like reduced regulations, or more ability to manipulate the economy, what can we determine? They are determined to fix problems that don’t exist.

Progress made against the power of the corporations could be reversed. Protections for the poor against powerful forces bent on wringing the last dollar out of the lower classes, any chance of a fair deal for the powerless will be turned back.

Steve Foreman is a Warren County resident.