“There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear.” (The Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth”)
We are more than nine months into the Trump presidency. It seems like a hundred years.
The United States of America has, in 2017, been handling public issues and public controversy like someone drinking water out of a fire hose. That can be very dangerous.
Public issues of all sorts have been thrown about in Washington in a rather helter-skelter fashion. There is not anything particularly unusual about that. What is unusual is the complete failure of a one-party controlled administration and Congress to enact any serious legislation.
There have been a lot of regulatory activities in a variety of areas including civil rights, the environment, immigration and health care. From a Democratic perspective these changes have been devastating. The regulations have been destructive of matters that many Democrats find central to what makes the United States the land of opportunity.
The saving grace, if there is one, is that regulations, as we have seen in the Trump administration, are a lot easier to produce/change/repeal than federal laws. The next administration can undo most of what this one has brought on if it chooses.
Legislation on anything significant has been non-existent, highlighted by the failure of the Republican Party to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, something they promised to do, over and over again, during the past seven years. There has been no immigration legislation, no environmental legislation, and no public works legislation – no anything.
There is now an opportunity for Republicans to approve something on taxes. Some call it “tax reform,” others call it “tax cuts.” Trump reportedly wanted to name the legislation “cuts, cuts, cuts.” Boy, he is clever.
These sorts of things, in years gone by, would be the subject of administration proposals, extended congressional hearings, across-the-aisle haggling, and oftentimes bi-partisan compromises. Compromise is not in the vocabulary of the Republican Party. Everything, including particularly the failed health proposals and the current tax legislation, has been done in secret, without public disclosure or hearing. The big issues have focused on the use of the budget reconciliation process to exclude Democrats from the process. So whatever, if anything, comes of the current legislating will be owned lock, stock and barrel by the Republicans.
The sniping and fighting, which are sound and fury signifying nothing, have at times been sad (!), at times depressing, and at times very entertaining. When your opponent is self-destructing, stand back and watch.
What is most disconcerting, however, is what is happening to the tenor of the discussion, the collapse of civility, the total secrecy, the lack of respect for people and institutions, and the lying. Regulations and even laws can get changed, but how does this country put the genie back in the bottle when it comes to the deteriorating political and government process?
Too much is being made of the attempts of Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, George Bush and John McCain to take Trump to the woodshed. Words of admonition are fine, but they don’t mean much if they are not backed up by action. McCain’s speech and his “no” vote of the health care legislation is the exception to this observation, but most of this stuff is just words.
Flake, in his recent speech in the Senate, noted that “reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.” The BS about Trump and his fellow travelers being “politically incorrect” is silly, because of course he is being politically correct to the 30 to 35 percent of the population who love hearing him mouth off.
I guess it is old-fashioned, but I believe in civil discourse. I believe in respect for other people and their points of view, no matter how much I disagree with what they are saying. I don’t, as is Trump’s perspective, think that “it is disgusting that the media can write whatever they want.” That is, after all, one of the founding principles of this republic. You can look it up.
A recent Washington Post poll reported on the gloomy situation:
Seven in 10 Americans say the nation’s political divisions are at least as big as during the Vietnam War, according to a new poll, which also finds nearly 6 in 10 saying Donald Trump’s presidency is making the U.S. political system more dysfunctional…
Seven in 10 Americans say the nation’s politics have reached a dangerous low point, and a majority of those believe the situation is a “new normal” rather than temporary, according to the poll…
By and large, Americans are feeling frustrated not only with the country’s politics but their ability to talk about politics in a civil way.
It concerns me, much more than the fighting over one piece of legislation or another, that we have a leader who encourages disrespect, who encourages violence, who accepts no responsibility for his actions or words, who is incapable of admitting to a mistake and is not willing to apologize for his words and actions when he is wrong. The latest series of attacks on another Gold Star family are incredibly disturbing.
I know that the Democratic Party is not pure. There have been many blotches in our history, particularly with the racist element in the party in years gone by. Thoughtful Dems are very conscious of the need to present good and rational policy alternatives to the Reps.
The recent over-the-top vicious materials being distributed on behalf of Republican candidates in Erie County are intended to Trumpify their campaigns. Is that something that the candidates are really happy being a part of? Is that a 2017 thing, or is it the new normal?
“There’s battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. Young people speaking their minds are getting so much resistance from behind. It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look – what’s going down?”