Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Every President Leaves a Legacy, So What Will Donald Trump’s Legacy Be?

    As our country struggles to recover from the Trump presidency, it’s hard not to think about what Pres. Donald Trump’s legacy will be. We’re living it every day.

If you Google “Donald Trump’s legacy” (with the quote marks so you only get hits with those words in that order), you get 57,000+ hits, and it’s interesting to see the various takes on his legacy. The #1 hit is, appropriately, from the BBC, which has the useful perspective of being British but with a nightly news program on public television, which I record and occasionally watch. (There is an entire BBC America channel on both Dish Network and DirecTV.)

That article makes the observation that “If Donald Trump had followed the example of his predecessors and conceded power graciously and peacefully, he would have been remembered as a disruptive but consequential populist leader…. a president who, before the pandemic, presided over an economic boom, re-oriented America's opinion of China, removed terrorist leaders from the battlefield, revamped the space program, secured an originalist (conservative) majority on the US Supreme Court, and authorized Operation Warp Speed to produce a Covid-19 vaccine in record time.”

Indeed, the legacy of Donald Trump turned on his Jan. 6th incitement of violence because he could not accept defeat, an aspect of his personality so well laid out in his niece Mary Trump’s book, “Too Much and Never Enough.”

But that was not his first incitement of violence. At least one clip from his many rallies comes to mind where he encouraged his followers to assault a protestor, declaring that he would pay the legal expenses if they were prosecuted.

The BBC article describes his Alt-right followers as “Trump’s shock troops,” and indeed they were just that, appropriately reminiscent of the Nazi Brownshirts, aka Storm Troopers.  A big element of Trump’s legacy will be his emboldening of violent right wing extremists, including white supremacists, epitomized by his response to the Charlotteville “Unite the Right” rally.

Trump’s “Big Lie” about losing the 2020 election due to fraud and his emboldening of right-wing extremists is his most enduring legacy (in that we are living with it well beyond his term in office), but there are other important elements of his legacy worthy of highlighting.

We lost four years of leadership in addressing climate change, which poses an existential threat to our planet. He cut funding for renewable energy and boosted support for coal and other fossil fuels. He emboldened climate deniers, but that was just one element of a larger denial of science. We’re living with that legacy not only in the forest fires and drought plaguing our country but in lives lost due to vaccine hesitancy and misinformation, which he fostered despite taking credit for Operation Warp Speed.

Trump’s damage to the Republican Party may or may not be long lasting, depending on how successful the party, propelled by his rhetoric, is in the 2022 and 2024 elections. Losses in those elections would be a second repudiation of Donald Trump and could, hopefully, lead to a return to the GOP of old which did, for the most part, put country above party — at least until the election of Barack Obama, when it truly assumed the role of being the “Party of No” under the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Trump’s reshaping of the judiciary, not just the Supreme Court, will be an enduring legacy, too. With the help of Sen. McConnell, he appointed over 250 judges, most of them recommended by the conservative Federalist Society. The American Bar Association rated 10 of Trump’s appointees “unqualified,” but the Senate confirmed them anyway.

Donald Trump succeeded as no previous president has in demonizing the free press, or what he called the “lamestream media.”  (The use of insult name-calling is also part of his legacy.) If a news item didn’t flatter him, it was deemed “fake news” and his followers believed him. He called the free press “the enemy of the people,” but saying so identifies Trump as the true enemy of the people.



Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Supporters of Donald Trump Say They Love America, But That’s an Oxymoron

    I had an “aha moment” last week when a reader who'll I'll call Bradley O. asked if I remembered him. I said, “Yes, you support Donald Trump.”  He responded, “That's right, I love my country,” which frankly pissed me off because it suggested that I didn’t love my country because I don’t support Donald Trump.

 Although he denied that implication, it got me thinking. Is it really possible that a supporter of Donald Trump loves America? In a twisted way, I suppose that’s possible, but let’s analyze what supporting Donald Trump really means.

To support Donald Trump is to support a man who incited insurrection against America because he didn’t accept his electoral defeat. At least his supporters are consistent, because many of them think it’s fine to display the confederate battle flag and to preserve statues of men who mounted actual armed conflict against our country in support of the continued enslavement of African American men, women and children.

Those same people applaud the appointment of “originalists” to the U.S. Supreme Court. An originalist is someone who supports the original intent of the founding fathers, which included the disenfranchisement not only of enslaved people but of women and, it should be noted, of men who didn’t own property.

What version of America do these supporters of Donald Trump love?  It’s not the America I love, which is a land of opportunity for all, not just for a select few. I love the America which welcomed immigrants and no longer imprisons and kills native Americans.

America has always been a work in progress, always striving toward a “more perfect union.”  Trump supporters talk about “making America great again,” but they are really talking about turning back the clock on the social progress that enfranchised women and persons of color (albeit 100 years after passage of the 13th Amendment), that allowed women to control their own bodies, and that recognized the rights of LGBTQ citizens to exist, to express their love for each other, and to be safe.

To support Donald Trump is to support a man whose rhetoric has emboldened white supremacists and racists (including anti-Semites), who he called “very fine people.” To “live and let live” is not part of their lexicon.

True Americans recognize and accept that we are not perfect now and never have been and choose to learn from history instead of ignore or bury it. Yes, our ancestors committed the Sand Creek massacre, the Tulsa massacre, the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps, the Tuskegee experiment which involved leaving syphilis untreated in African Americans to see how it damages the human body, and more. Supporters of Donald Trump don’t want our children to know the dark side of our history because it will make them “uncomfortable.”

To support Donald Trump is to support a man who evaded the draft by getting a doctor’s note about bone spurs and derided Sen. John McCain, a war hero, in life and even upon his death solely because Sen. McCain, unlike Vladimir Putin, didn’t like him.

To support Donald Trump, above all, is to honor a man who always puts his interests above those of his country. His decision to downplay Covid-19 because it might hurt his re-election is an example, and it cost countless American lives. He has yet to urge vaccination, despite secretly getting his own family vaccinated. 

 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

A History Lesson on Voting Rights

I appreciate the perspective that Prof. Heather Cox Richardson brings to our political dilemma with her nightly email newsletter, Letters From an American.

Her Aug. 6th email will take you to school on the subject of voting rights in America. Here's a link for it at www.TalkingTurkey.online.

 

Is America Strong Enough to Withstand the Authoritarian Direction of the GOP?

The most influential person on the right is no longer Donald Trump, it is Tucker Carlson, who last week took his viewers to Hungary, where he portrayed the authoritarian rule of Viktor Orban as his picture of what the United States should be like in the future.

Really? Are his followers, who were groomed by Donald Trump to despise the free press and immigrants, going to fall in line behind a platform based on authoritarian rule?  It’s a frightening prospect.

Lovers of democracy in America should be alarmed at the breadth of the Republican attack on our system. Here are the major components, which should hearten the enemies of America:

1) Treat voting as a privilege, not as a right, just like under Jim Crow. Make it as hard as possible for the poor and powerless to vote, since they can be expected to vote for Democrats.

2) Destroy faith in the electoral process by claiming, despite lack of evidence, that any victory by a Democrat must be due to election fraud.

3) Through gerrymandering, enable Republicans to control legislatures (and congressional  seats) even when the majority of votes statewide were Democratic.

4) Use that control of state legislatures to pass laws restricting ballot access and, best of all, a law allowing that Republican legislature to take the administration of elections away from counties, the most populous of which lean Democratic.

5) Pass laws in those states allowing the legislature to rule a presidential election fraudulent, without evidence, and send its own slate of electors to the Electoral College. (With such a law, Donald Trump could have won in 2020.)

6) Destroy confidence in the mainstream media by labeling anything contrary to the conservative agenda or about Republican corruption “fake news.”  Do this primarily by creating your own news media and channels that allow followers to believe they are fully informed when they’re not.

7) Subtly, or not so subtly, embolden white supremacists to mobilize against minorities and progressives. They can be counted on to use death threats and actual violence to intimidate non-believers. It helps to have free access to mass casualty assault rifles, so oppose all gun control laws.

These and other strategies, amplified by social media, can do immense damage to our democratic system. The question is can we survive the assault?

We can take some comfort from the fact that the majority of Americans have not been infected by the GOP virus. However, given the above strategies, it is going to take more than a simple majority opposing those strategies to prevail.  If we can keep the “Trumpers” to about 40% of the population, we might squeak through.

Our system does have its own checks and balances, the biggest of which is the U.S. Supreme Court. One would hope that despite its rightward movement with three Trump-appointed justices creating a 6-3 conservative majority that the justices would not return us to the days of old when the court came down on the side of white supremacy and voter suppression — although it did show signs of going in that direction with a July 1 decision upholding two Arizona voter suppression laws. As the New York Times put it, the Court ruled that “states don’t have to wait for fraud to occur before enacting laws to prevent it.”

Our last and strongest protection is freedom of the press. Authoritarian regimes like Orban’s, so admired by Tucker Carlson, benefit from shutting down media with which they disagree. We hear it around the world, including in Hong Kong, that opposition to the regime is considered traitorous and can be silenced.

If we see that line crossed by our Supreme Court (which would have to adjudicate it), then we are truly facing the ending of the American experiment.

Let’s not allow that to happen. As I said, it will take a super majority, not a simple majority to prevail and begin the process of reversing democracy’s decline.

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    These columns are archived at TalkingTurkey.online. This week’s column is made possible by reader Ray Leon who donated $1,000 to my GoFundMe campaign. Find that campaign at FundTalkingTurkey.com.

 


Saturday, August 7, 2021

This is America today: Neighbors call 911 on Black Realtor showing home to Black father and son

 

Racial Profiling Has ‘No Place in Our Country’

Real estate pro Eric Brown, who is Black, was showing a home in Wyoming, Mich., last Sunday to client Roy Thorne and Thorne’s 15-year-old son, also both Black, when they noticed police surrounding the house. All three were ordered by police to exit the home with their hands up. They were placed in handcuffs. “[The police] keep their guns drawn on us until all of us were in cuffs," Thorne said.

Brown told police he was a real estate agent, produced his credentials, and explained he was showing the home to potential buyers. The Wyoming Police Department said officers immediately removed the handcuffs and told the men that neighbors had reported a break-in.

On Friday, in a prepared statement, NAR President Charlie Oppler responded to the incident:

“The detainment of Eric Brown, a REALTOR® from Michigan, and his clients during a recent home showing was deeply disturbing. Brown, his client, and his client’s 15-year-old son, all of whom are Black, had guns drawn upon them by local police and were detained after neighbors reported a break-in at the property. While, thankfully, neither Brown nor his clients were physically harmed in the incident, racial profilingand the humiliation, indignity, and trauma that comes with ithas no place in our country. NAR’s top priority is the safety and well-being of all our members as we work tirelessly each and every day to make the American Dream of owning a home a reality for all.”

Brown told local media that he believes race was a factor in the police officers’ response, which the police have publicly denied. A week earlier, police said there had been a burglary at the same address that resulted in an arrest. A neighbor had contacted police to report that the same suspect had returned.

“The level of response and aggressiveness of the response . . . really threw me back,” Brown told the WOOD TV station. “Am I just automatically the criminal? Because that’s pretty much how we were treated in that situation.”

The Greater Regional Alliance of REALTORS®, Brown’s local board, said in a statement to members that the vast majority of comments it has fielded about the incident have expressed “support and pride in how Eric handled himself as the whole thing unfolded.

“The GRAR Board of Directors will be discussing Eric's experience at its upcoming meeting to determine what GRAR can or should be doing both in response to this event and in how we can contribute to the healing of the unrest in our communities that these types of situations incite,” the statement reads. “In the meantime, GRAR leadership will be doing its homework to attempt to ascertain the facts so that it does not contribute to the polarizing impact that can potentially result from this type of incident.”

https://www.woodtv.com/news/kent-county/it-threw-me-back-realtor-client-handcuffed-at-wyoming-home-after-911-call/


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Will Trump Followers Ever Realize How Insecure and Dangerous Their Idol Is?

   I read many business-oriented email newsletters, including one from Fast Company which had the following attention-grabbing headline this week: “How to spot the warning signs of an insecure leader.”

The subhead went further: We humans aren’t very good at assessing true leadership qualities and gravitate towards arrogant confidence in those in charge. Unfortunately, that is often a sign of weakness, and the fallout can be tough on teams.”

The article -- click here to read it in full -- was written about business (hence the reference to teams) by a professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School and a professor of business psychology at Columbia, but it encapsulates the tragedy of the Trump era. It’s bad enough when a business is dragged down by a leader who has deceived both himself and others that he is competent, but it’s tragic when a whole country is victimized by him.

Here are some key excerpts from that article, which will resonate for those of us who recognized Donald Trump as an arrogant, narcissistic incompetent from day one. Try to remember that this was written about business leadership:

We are so seduced by confidence that we habitually end up with overconfident, arrogant leaders.... 

   According to the authors of one study: “Those with limited knowledge…suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it”... 

    What drives educated, rational people...to select people who seem unaware of their limitations and unjustifiably pleased with themselves, as if being your own greatest fan was indicative of talent or...a useful skill in leading others?….

Imagine you aspire to leadership or power and you have managed to delude yourself into thinking that you are amazing when in fact you lack critical skills. Although this delusion makes you a liability, a risk for others..., it can make you more popular. People will gravitate towards you, thinking your certainty is indicative of skill and talent rather than delusion….

We get distracted by irrelevant information provided in the form of confidence, bravado and aggression, which pertain to style rather than substance. Sadly, we live in a world where style without substance will get you farther than substance without style….

Arrogant leaders are more likely to be insecure than competent. Recent academic research conceptualizes narcissism not as self-love but as self-loathing in disguise. The reason is unsurprising. Arrogance is defined as exaggerating one’s own worth or importance. This takes effort and can be seen as a cover for something that one wishes not to be discovered. It’s a deliberate attempt to compensate for self-perceived deficits or flaws….

Research on narcissism further finds that arrogance and entitlement are often a desperate call for validation and affirmation from others. Bragging about talents that are actually lacking is a strategy for fooling oneself by fooling others and suggests insecurity. This is why narcissists get defensive and aggressive when challenged or belittled. 


This is exactly what Donald Trump’s niece, psychologist Mary Trump, described in her analysis of Trump based on her personal knowledge of his upbringing. The title says it all: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. I can picture this book becoming a textbook in future classes about the Trump era.


Regarding those who continue to resonate with Trump’s rhetoric, I can’t urge you enough to read White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, by historian Carol Anderson. While the events of Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 got people talking about “black rage,” she wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that this was instead “white rage at work. With so much attention on the flames, everyone had ignored the kindling.”

The legacy of Donald Trump will be that by emboldening white supremacists with his rhetoric, he lit the kindling, bringing to the surface what had always been there: continued systemic racism.

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On a personal note, I want to express my humble appreciation for the support my writing has garnered. Not only have readers donated over $15,000 to my GoFundMe campaign (which you can find at www.FundTalkingTurkey.com), and sent me over $3,000 in checks, they continue to give my broker associates and me their real estate business.  Thank you so much!