A 12-Step Program

Nicholas Kristof offers us A 12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect Trump.  Social justice work consists of direct service, advocacy, education, outreach, and personal witness. Kristof has a number of interesting ideas on all of these modes of reacting to Trump. Some of his suggestions are interesting initiatives that you probably would not have thought of on your own.

As one act of personal witness, I have donned an American flag pin. As the occasion arises, I explain why I’m wearing it.

This morning it occurred to me that I need to get back on Facebook and reconnect with some of my very mixed bag of family members, former classmates, and other connections. Initially, I plan to do a lot of listening. For those who supported Trump, I want to find out more about what itch they thought they were scratching.

If someone wanted to restore white supremacy, then I am afraid we don’t have much to talk about. If someone wanted a skilled businessman to restore the American economy, then we have the basis for a discussion.

Will Trump Turn into an Establishment Republican—or will we get Kaiser Donald?

kaiser

I don’t have a reasoned expectation one way or the other, but I hope the establishment coopts him.

First, if the Republican establishment coopts Trump, and more or less fences him in,  then he will not blow up the international order.

Second, if they coopt him, then those desperately frustrated voters who are said to have formed a crucial part of his voters will not get what they thought they were voting for. (For a very chartable take on what the Trumpistas thought they wanted, see For Trump voters, there is no left or right.) Instead, they will get what they richly deserve, for exercising such poor judgment. That will be bupkus, zilch, nada in the way of anything that will solve their economic problems, coupled with a lot of stuff that will help Richy Rich and hurt them.

Then, at last, maybe they will wake up and smell the coffee.

But, as I said, I have no expectation one way or the other, only a hope. As of this writing, the known facts give reason to predict an erratic and unpredictable ride.

On that topic, I am in debt to my old friend Hans Jungfreud for sending along some insights on the similarity between Donald and Kaiser Wilhelm II. (Several decades ago, when Vasari and I were in high school at the Dixieland White Kids School, Hans was our German exchange student. We are happy to have reconnected, although we wish the reconnection could have been made in better circumstances.)

As I was saying, the Kaiser. The Kaiser did not start the Great War all by himself. He had a lot of help. But he certainly did his part. My friend Hans calls our attention to this article on the Kaiser’s temperament:

The kaiser wasn’t just indiscreet. He was also impulsive and unbalanced. He was prone to adopting a self-righteous and contemptuous tone. He showed an unhealthy interest in the sexual behaviour of his royal colleagues. He was self-absorbed and often had fits of anger.

He was not stupid, however. Contemporaries testify that he was quick to grasp complex subject matter or to pick up the thread of a conversation. The problem was not his intellect as such, but his lack of judgement. He would overshoot the mark, admixing facts with fantasies born of anger or paranoid speculations about the future.

So frequent were the kaiser’s verbal gaffes that historians have wondered whether he was in his right mind. The Freudian psycho­historian Thomas A Kohut argued that emotional deficiencies in the young Wilhelm’s relationship with his parents might have induced a narcissistic personality disorder. The kaiser’s most authoritative biographer, John Röhl, proposed that the roots of the problem were neurological and grew from an insufficiency of oxygen during birth. The resulting minor cerebral damage, Röhl argued, though asymptomatic when Wilhelm was born, laid the foundations for a “secondary neuroticisation” in his childhood and adolescence.

Neither of these hypotheses can be verified and both may be false, but they offer explanations for some of the most striking traits of the adult Wilhelm II: a tendency to respond to even measured criticism with vengeful rage, a compulsion to associate things and persons with himself and to view the world in excessively personal terms, irascibility and incoherence under stress, extreme vanity, an alarming lack of empathy and the inability to discern the boundary between fact and speculation.

World war, anyone?

What Congressional Democrats Should Do—And How to Get them to Do It

What Democratic Congresspeople Should Do

The debate about how far Democrats should go in imitating McConnell’s mindless obstruction strategy continues: Why Democrats need to fight Donald Trump from the moment he takes office. The article gets into the weeds about the merits and demerits of Trump’s inchoate infrastructure plan, and about the public perceptions that arise from cooperation versus fighting.

For what it’s worth, and that’s maybe not much, Aardvark’s simplistic view is that progressives should (1) see whether Trump’s proposal on infrastructure, or on anything else, actually has merit, or can be negotiated to a point that it is worth passing, and then (2) do the right thing, whatever that turns out to be.

The basis for this simplistic approach? (1) Doing the right thing for the people is better than doing the wrong thing. And (2) in a situation where cynicism about the political process is already ingrained in the populace, it is unwise to add to that cynicism by doing the wrong thing now in the name of a better right thing tomorrow.

How Progressives Should Get Democratic Congresspeople to do it

How to Make Your Congressman Listen to You

Thanks once again to Vasari, who advises that he follows Emily Ellsworth on Twitter. (As to Aardvark, he twerks not, neither does he tweet. He presses words on WordPress.)

 

The Difference between Donald Trump and George Wallace

Aardvark’s good friend Vasari reminds him that we have seen this movie before. In fact, the two of us saw it together in the 1960s.

But there is this difference: George Wallace knew that he needed forgiveness. From the Washington Post, March 17, 1995:

In the annals of religious and political conversions, few shiftings were as unlikely as George Wallace’s. In Montgomery, Ala., last week, the once irrepressible governor – now 75, infirm, pain-wracked and in a wheelchair since his 1972 shooting – held hands with black southerners and sang “We Shall Overcome.”

What Wallace overcame is his past hatred that made him both the symbol and enforcer of anti-black racism in the 1960s. On March 10, Wallace went to St. Jude’s church to be with some 200 others marking the 30th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march.

It was a reaching-out moment of reconciliation, of Wallace’s asking for – and receiving – forgiveness. In a statement read for him – he was too ill to speak – Wallace told those in the crowd who had marched 30 years ago: “Much has transpired since those days. A great deal has been lost and a great deal gained, and here we are. My message to you today is, welcome to Montgomery. May your message be heard. May your lessons never be forgotten.”

In gracious and spiritual words, Jo\seph Lowery, a leader in the original march and now the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, thanked the former separatist “for coming out of your sickness to meet us. You are a different George Wallace today. We both serve a God who can make the desert bloom. We ask God’s blessing on you.”

As the Rough Beast Slouches toward Bethlehem, Take His Statements both Seriously AND Literally

Marcus Borg, the liberal Christian scholar, says that you can take the Bible seriously or you can take it literally, but you can’t do both. He advises adoption of the former approach.

Recently, speaking of Trump, Salena Zito has written in the Atlantic that “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally”—meaning that his supporters have come to believe that he will do great things for them, but understand the hyperbole as hyperbole, and forgive it.

I suppose that may be an accurate statement about the thinking process of many Trump voters, maybe the majority of them. But there is a high risk that, in so thinking, they have made a catastrophic misjudgment.

We will know more as the transition process unfolds. As I write, grossly unqualified people are apparently being considered seriously for high positions in diplomacy and the military. Right now, along with Charles Lane, I am sorry to say that I take Trump’s desire to smash the international order both very literally and very seriously.

This is not a happy conclusion. But progressives gain nothing when they forget that denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming