Monday, January 23, 2017

Inauguration Weekend

Donald Trump lost the first weekend of his presidency.  Big-time.  Or did he?

Headline items were his fixation (and misjudged response to) a smaller-than-hoped-for inauguration crowd on Friday; a tasteless stop at CIA Headquarters Saturday; and a huge national "women's march" against his misogyny, personal conduct, and public policies.

His crowd wasn't huge.  Some folks credited that to his remarkably low public approval, for a gentleman elected two months ago and just taking office.  Trump, upset, sent a minion out to deny reality.  His P.R. guy said the crowd was unusually large, despite clear photographic evidence to the contrary.

The incident was significant not because it was a lie, or even because it was a stupid lie, but because it was also such an unnecessary lie.  Obviously it was psychologically necessary to contest a perceived effort to de-legitimize Trump's victory; although to any perceptive person the fixation with legitimacy serves only to let us know that Trump is insecure on that score. (I'm surprised Trump didn't blame the low turnout on sabotage of public transportation by liberal residents of D.C.)  But in any practical sense, it was unnecessary.  First, there was no need to address the whole crowd issue.  Second, there were ready and reasonable explanations why Obama's 2009 crowd, and even Obama's 2013 crowd, dwarfed Trump's 2017 crowd.  Two such explanations stand out: Obama's 2008 win was historic, the first successful Presidential run by a person of color, and there were a whole lot of people who wanted to witness that piece of history, whether or not they liked Obama; and in particular people of color wanted to be there, and D.C. is conveniently full of those.  The second, and quite reasonable explanation, is that the bulk of Trump's voters were working-class folks who live in rural areas far from D.C.  For them, it wasn't a trivial matter to take a couple of days off to travel to D.C. and attend an inauguration.

Instead, Trump chose a fight with the media that he couldn't win.  Dumb.  Or maybe not?

He doubled-down on that by lying again at the CIA.  After tastelessly bragging instead of acknowledging with any real respect the names of CIA officials killed in the line of duty, instead of trying to bury the hatchet with the CIA (which was still investigating his and his cohorts' Russia connections), he ludicrously denied there was any hatchet.  The media made it all up.  Despite plenty of tapes of him saying what he said, he now claimed it was all media bullshit.

Seems a bad start to a Presidency, if you think a U.S. President should tell the truth or at least limit himself to vaguely plausible lies.  Trump loses, with anyone who studies evidence and reasons from it.  But there's a pattern here: what if sufficient attacks on the media convince his followers (who are already half way there) that everything they see on the media is liberal propaganda?

Peter and Nacho by Bernie

Saturday brought a very different event.  What started as a "women's march" to protest Trump's and the Republican Party's treatment of women, startled everyone by its size and passion, not only in major cities but all over the country, even the world.  My part of that world is a little city in New Mexico named Las Cruces.

 by Bernie Digman
We, frankly, had not really intended to participate, though we sympathized.  We did get down to the Farmers' Market, though.  It was technically closed because of cold temperatures, possible rain, and predicted strong winds, but three of our favorite vendors were there.  Since the march was to start from that area, we lingered to visit with friends.  There were speeches and signs in the new Plaza de Las Cruces, and we lingered longer, listening to speeches and gabbing with friends.
Ilana and Yosef by Bernie
The march route here was short: North on one street bounding the Downtown Mall, then a quick jog West to walk back along the south side of the Mall, then back east to where we'd started.  Quite to our surprise it turned out there were about 1,500 people marching.

A couple of things struck me, as a veteran of the 1960's.  First was that this was a march of people of all ages.  Some of the older ones I knew had experienced the 1960's and 1970's too.  The day bore similarities to those days, but was also quite different.  The energy was similar; some fellow old folks were concerned about security: one fellow old guy,
Earl and someone by Bernie D
protester then and later a lawyer and judge, said he'd used his old SDS training to advise his daughter, marching in D.C., to wear good boots, carry water, wear a bandanna in case it was needed as a bandage, etc.; and another friend, a Viet Nam vet I've known for 45 years, said he came over only because he wanted to make sure there was no problem with security.  I hadn't expected one; but I watched the cars that passed us.  Many honked; but I saw not a single middle-finger and heard not a single insult addressed to us.  People waved or put a thumb up, or just sat in their cars watching; but

Another by Bernie Digman
there wasn't a hint of hostility.   Having moved here in 1969, and witnessed the next few years of antiwar agitation in this conservative western town, I could testify to how different such a march would have been then.

I would have gone home earlier; but watching my wonderful wife, who's noticeably younger than I, made me recognize how different her day was from mine, in that she'd had few such moments.  For people under a certain age, Saturday had a special freshness to it, and they watched and listened with obvious wonder.

71? Yeah, this shit gets old.
In the 1960's, the government was way off base.  The rampant prejudice against blacks, not merely in the south, had lasted way too long; and the pointless and unwinnable war in Viet Nam was known even to those running it to be stupid and unwinnable, despite their public proclamations to the contrary; anyone could see it was not only dumb but way dumb; but it persisted.  We recognized that, initially with some surprise, and protested that, as a tiny minority, and got persecuted to some degree, and eventually saw our point of view spread among the populace and prevail.

Then we got spoiled.  Successive governments made plenty of mistakes over the years, but probably none was ever so
Same beyond 71.
completely out of tune with the majority (or with rationality) as this one promises to be.  Against such a government, there is tremendous power in average folks, standing shoulder to shoulder with each other, being there for each other.  Understanding that despite their personal concerns and preoccupations, something national needs their attention, their thoughts, their words, their feet.

I hope we will prevail.  This government is particularly out of step with its largest constituency: working-class white folks, not racist or "deplorable" but very tired of how both the wealthy Republicans and the managerial-class Democrats have given them
short shrift during recent years.  Trump instinctively channeled their very real and very reasonable anger into Republican votes, and in some ways Hillary helped him; but the dissonance between his Inauguration Day rhetoric (we stand for all Americans) and his actions (notably the appointment of universally wealthy cabinet-members sworn to fight most working-class interests) would seem to wide to hide.

But perhaps not.  That dissonance echoes the dissonance in Huxley's Brave New World or in 1984.  Lies don't usually work; but if they're big enough and consistent enough, maybe they do.  Since in the real world -- if people see what's going on with any clarity at all -- President Littlehands must lose over time, his tack must be to blind us to the real world by undermining what credibility the media has left and ignoring facts and evidence in saying whatever he chooses, loudly.  Will it work? I think not; I hope not; but no guarantees.

another by Bernie
We must also recognize that the buffoon-like president may be the head of the snake, but he ain't its brains.  We must recognize that the Republican Party, which has moved ever rightward over the years and wants to ignore such problems as healthcare, economic inequality, untrustworthy financial entities, climate change, and the need to strengthen public education, can and will easily slice Trump off it the moment he gives him an excuse.  They like Pence better.  They know Trump is dangerously unhinged and narcissistic.  They remember him insulting them or their friends all through 2015 and2016.  Some even feel they know he will commit an
Bernie Digman by Bob Diven
impeachable misstep, probably sooner rather than later, and are waiting to pounce.

Thus we must not, when that happens, let it lull us to sleep or sap our energy.

By the way, you should be able to access Bernie Digman's album of photos from the Las Cruces Women's March at: this Facebook site .

And here's the Las Cruces Sun-News's story.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Peter - glad for this account. I remember the sixties very well - Ann Arbor and Boston for me.

    On Saturday I was down sick with a nasty cold. It broke my heart not to be there, but my husband was there. We have a long road ahead - but with Saturday's marches it seemed that the cloud that had descended over me on November 8 had lifted, at least in part.

    Sue Redfern-Campbell