You’ve Just Crossed Over into the Trump Zone
I’m watching a horde of militant Berkeley students and professional protesters rioting live on CNN, and it’s getting ugly. Alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos had been scheduled to speak on campus, but the crowd would have none of it. Flames erupted, rioters smashed windows, and Milo disappeared into the anonymity of night. He’d live to share his white supremacist fantasies another day, but apparently not at Berkeley.
The Berkeley riot is superficially about the impudent young neo-Nazi who had the temerity to set foot on a hard-core progressive campus. But we know who the rioters are really protesting. One hand-printed sign said it all: THIS IS WAR! You don’t start a war over a campus speaker.
We’re two weeks into the Age of Trump now, and it still seems like a dystopian fantasy: a rogue president, his sinister inner circle and the legions of irate Middle American Trumpophiles, pitted against the pain-stricken coastal elites who utterly despise the new president and half their fellow Americans to boot.
The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling should be standing off to the side, grimly amused, submitting his terse commentary for our approval. Since Mr. Serling has been terminally inconvenienced for the past 42 years, I’ll submit mine.
As one of the last moderates standing, I’ve kept a reasonably cool head through the Trumpquake. I’m not frantic just yet. My eyes haven’t turned into burning coals of hatred. I’ll tell it to you straight: the good, the bad, and the orange.
Consider, if you will, a once-dashing figure of a New York billionaire, now grown paunchy around the belly and puffy about the chin, artificially bronzed and grotesquely coiffed — a man of boundless ego and grandiose ambition, blunt yet devious, smarter than he sounds, more gaudy than graceful, proudly uncouth and possibly unhinged, intellectually lazy but bursting with rude energy, ready to leap tall buildings and establishment politicians in a single bound.
That’s our new president, love him or loathe him. (And with Trump, there’s virtually no middle ground.) According to most of my friends, he’s already displaced George W. Bush as the worst chief executive in American history. I’d say he could be edging perilously close to the lowly ranks of Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Warren G. Harding and the immortal Millard Fillmore.
The difference is that the aforementioned gentlemen were simply passively bad; they lacked the skill and backbone to take command of their high office and make a difference for the better. Trump, on the other hand, is actively bad, and that’s exactly what he seems to want. The man delights in sowing discord, making enemies, taunting the opposition and compromising our national virtue to serve his ambitious ends.
From the left, and even the center, the accusations against Trump read almost like the lengthy list of grievances against King George III in the Declaration of Independence:
- He has lied repeatedly and foolishly about voter fraud and the size of his inaugural crowd
- He has stuffed his cabinet with billionaires intent on destroying their own departments
- He has espoused an “America First” policy, deliberately echoing an infamous historic movement with anti-Semitic undertones
- He has brazenly deleted all the liberal and humane topics on the WhiteHouse.gov website
- He has failed to detach himself sufficiently from his multiple business interests
- He has undermined relations with Mexico by insisting on building his ridiculous border wall and threatening to cripple Mexican trade
- He has insulted the prime minister of Australia, our longtime ally, during a crackpot phone call
- He has salivated over the prospect of repealing Obamacare without a replacement plan
- He has initiated a blatantly anti-environment agenda that will undo half a century of progress in preserving our natural resources and wildlife
- He has compromised what remains of his dignity by habitually tweeting rebuttals to Hollywood celebrities who insult him
- He has hired a notorious, disheveled alt-right revolutionary as his most trusted strategic adviser
- He has placed said disheveled alt-right revolutionary on the National Security Council while dispensing with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- He has carried out a dictatorial purge of senior-level officials in the State Department
- He has described the press as “the opposition”and waged war against CNN
- He has maintained a suspiciously cordial relationship with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, raising questions of collusion and/or potential blackmail
- He has hastily imposed a travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim nations, including desperate Syrian refugees, while conveniently overlooking several other Muslim nations that actually harbor terrorists (and where, by coincidence, he maintains business interests)
- He has fired the acting attorney general for attempting to block his travel ban
- He has obstinately refused to release his taxes after months of prodding
- He has consolidated excessive power around himself in an attempt to establish autocratic rule
The list of Trumpian offenses grows daily, with no end in sight. And Trump is nothing if not offensive. He’s our third consecutive polarizing president, doubtless the most polarizing of them all. But his opponents are polarizing us, too. Based on the furious anti-Trump memes and comments that choke my Facebook feed every day, you’d think Orangeman was the second coming of Hitler. I understand the sense of alarm and even disgust among Americans who value our liberal heritage, but the steady drizzle of demonization and dire warnings is like Obama Derangement Syndrome on steroids: a hysterical mass movement that has split America into two snarling sub-nations.
At least Trump is no ideologue; he’s a gonzo pragmatist. He might even be a closet centrist. But he could be the most flagrantly immoderate centrist in history. His administration promises a massive upheaval of the status quo, for better or worse — mostly worse, if you value things like social progress, a free press, world peace and Mother Nature.
I see the 45th president not as a second Hitler but as Trumpolini: a strutting, posturing authoritarian potentate with a narcissistic need for power, admiration and ego gratification. Like his Italian predecessor, he’s hellbent on making the trains run on time (figuratively speaking). The guy might look ridiculous, but he doesn’t dither. He might actually restore a few million industrial jobs to these states if he’s good on his word. He might also roll back numerous environmental and civil rights advances that were gained through decades of struggle against stiff opposition. He could even join hands with his beloved Russia to form a latter-day Axis.
But here’s the difference. Unlike Il Duce, Trump is subject to re-election in less than four years. His sinister inner circle can’t suspend the vote. Even with Congress and the Supreme Court in his pocket, our aspiring dictator needs to submit himself to the approval of an increasingly Millennial, left-leaning, racially diverse electorate.
Just over a quarter of eligible Americans voted for Trump last November. If we don’t like what we see over the next few years — if we’re disheartened and exhausted by life in the Trump Zone — we’re free to voice our opinion at the voting booth in 2020 and tell the man, “YOU’RE FIRED!” At the rate he’s alienating members of his own party in Congress and elsewhere, we might not even have to wait that long.
Be sure to keep this point in mind, though: the inevitable rebellion against Trump could be so extreme, and its leaders so inflamed by self-righteous rage, that we could be looking at a future far-left revolt comparable to the French and Russian Revolutions. My advice for concerned Americans: stay alert, stay informed, stay objective, stay sane. We all need to keep our heads, now more than ever.
Rick Bayan is founder-editor of The New Moderate and the author of Lifestyles of the Doomed, available wherever e-books are sold.