It’s been two months since President Trump took office. A lot has happened in that time, some of it almost entertaining in it’s absurdity and some of it decidedly not. Keeping up with the impact of all that change can be difficult. Below, I’ve outlined several areas of impact and I then examine changes Trump and his administration have made or proposed that affect those areas.
This is largely presented without opinion (though I have identified my own opinions in some places as well), but more as an informed study. I’ve tried to keep bias out of things but a lot of this may sound rather alarmist. The truth is there are a lot of worrying aspects to this administration. Like my past two political posts, I’ve likely missed some information here and will need to update as things develop.
Additionally, this is going to be a two part post with more to follow as the sheer amount of information to dig through is incredible. I plan to address healthcare, education, military, foreign relations and immigration impacts in my next piece. Feel free to leave a comment with any other information I’ve not addressed below or anything you’d like to see addressed.
1. Trump & Truth
2. Character Analysis
3. Mental Health Concerns
4. Is Trump Personally Profiting From his Presidency?
5. Financial & Economic Impact
6. Trump on Church & State
7. Trump & Constitutional Freedoms
8. Trump & Media Misdirection, a Theory
Trump & Truth
Possibly the largest and most concerning impact the Trump administration has had thus far: they’ve started a war on truth. Trump isn’t the only one who does this, but it’s not a good look internationally and it has a destabilizing effect in America.
There are an alarming number of instances in which Trump says one thing and then does another or directly contradicts what he’s said in the past. Trump has outright made false statements and then doubled down on those statements when it’s pointed out that they’re false, usually by claiming that the reports he doesn’t like are fake news. It’s to the point that Trump has labeled most major media outlets as fake news and “the enemy of the American people”. Think about that for a second. The American president has labeled media outlets a public enemy because they call him out when he lies to the American people.
That’s not to say our media outlets shouldn’t be criticized. We as informed individuals are responsible for making sure we do our due diligence in finding out what the facts are and then making sure that those facts are being properly represented. As always, John Oliver has an excellent piece on his show ‘Last Week Tonight’ on this very issue. It’s well worth the watch. Additionally, Politifact is an excellent source of fact checking and has an ongoing tracker of claims Trump has made and their truth. As it stands currently, they rate 40% of Trumps statements as absolutely false and a further 20% as mostly false or misleading. Here are a few examples:
Trump said he wouldn’t leave the White House because he’d be too busy. Now we have what Trump calls the Southern White House, one of Trumps own businesses that he is using as a meeting place. This seems an unusual move but more importantly it flies in the face of his previous statement. In that same statement above, Trump says “I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off.”. The fact is that Trump has spent the majority of his weekends as president (as of this writing) at his vacation resort. Additionally, Trump has already taken 9 golf trips in his 7 weeks as president.
Then there was the inauguration crowd issue in which Trump and his administration repeatedly claimed they had a larger inauguration turnout than Obama. Later that claim turned into having the “Largest Audience Ever to Witness an Inauguration, Period”. Both claims are demonstrably false. This also led to Kellyanne Conway’s infamous “Alternative Facts” statement. Trump lied about an incredibly easy fact to check and then doubled down on that lie while his administration made excuses for him. We have also seen the “Bowling Green Massacre“, an event that never happened but which Kellyanne Conway tried to use as an argument in favor of Trumps first travel ban.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that millions of fraudulent votes were cast during the 2016 election, despite there being no proof of that happening. More tellingly, the investigation seems to be aimed at states that opposed him during the election and Trump ran voter suppression campaigns during his presidential campaign. That’s not to say voter fraud doesn’t happen, it most certainly does, just not on the scale Trump is claiming. Does it seem, given those facts, that this is actually a good faith effort to uncover massive voter fraud?
Another troubling aspect of this is that Trump isn’t a stranger to lying. It seems he may have been lying to the public as far back as the 1980’s. That specific lie is that Trump graduated top of his class at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School. That’s a false claim, the Daily Pennsylvanian has records that show he wasn’t on the Deans List as well as a copy of the commencement that does not show Trump as graduating with any honors.
This isn’t something that rarely happens either, Trump recently tweeted that Obama had wiretapped his phone in October. Such a claim is destructive in nature but the real problem here is that Trump stated it as a fact. There is no evidence that this happened and even the director of the FBI wants this claim refuted.
Examples of Trump lying are nearly endless. Seriously, each of these is a link to something that Trump has lied or is lying about. Trump recently did an interview with Time on whether he understands truth or not. It was predictably unsettling and shortly after Jezebel ran a piece where they redacted everything Trump said that isn’t veritably true. Is that what we want from our president? Is this what America has lowered itself to, expecting to be blatantly lied to by our president?
Why is Trump lying so much? Possibly because he knows he can get away with it, possibly because he’s been doing it so long that he just can’t stop. It’s possible he does it because he knows that many people are already suspect of the media and will therefore take his word at face value. He says “believe me” and people fall right in line to do so. In demonizing the media, he’s scared some of them into softening their tone but now more than ever the media needs to stand up and call him out on his lying. An excellent example of this is Trumps recent address to Congress, after which he garnered praise and was perceived as more presidential. Others criticized the speech suggesting we should not give praise just because Trump spoke in complete sentences and capitalized on a widows suffering. Others took it even further by suggesting that reinforcing this speech could put lives at risk.
This section is an attempt to analyze the presidents behavior and get to the root of how he became president in the first place. This is valuable as it can help us try to understand how he thinks and why he acts as he does as well as what we can possibly expect from him in the future or under certain circumstances. Apparently I’m not the only one that’s had this thought, NBCNews reports that Putin is having a psychological dossier compiled about Trump so that he is ready for their first meeting. So, what do the experts think?
Gregg Henriques wrote an article on the subject in late 2015. His article covers the psychosocial angle of possible reasons why Trump went from a has-been reality star to a serious contender for president. Gregg suggests that Traditional Christian White Males (TCWM) have been steadily losing power over the last 50 years, fostering a growing resentment. During that same time, Gregg posits, the progressive left has been pushing white guilt and trying to justify minority resentment to an increasing degree. According to Gregg this has resulted in a greater number of disaffected TWCM. So the question then becomes, why Trump? Gregg has an answer:
What, exactly, is it about his personality that is so appealing to some (while being so abhorrent to others)? His unabashed egoism and narcissism, coupled with his success. Trump unapologetically views the world through a performance hierarchy. In the real world (or at least what Trump says is the real world), you either get the job done or you don’t. His wealth and influence is evidence that he gets things done. Why is he a winner? Because he is better than everyone else. And his intellect, charm and grit are the reasons; others (i.e., the bimbos and losers out there) fail because they are weak and stupid. In short, Trump is completely and unapologetically defined by egotistical rankism.
Gregg goes on to further suggest that Trump appeals to these TWCM because he represents what they want to be.
But if Trump is so clearly in the top 1% of the economic stratosphere, why would he be appealing to disaffected TCWM? Because when we rally around a candidate, we connect to them, we live vicariously through them, and they represent what we desire. In 2008, I rallied around Obama because he represented intellect, diversity, globalization, and a complete rejection of the anti-intellectual, cowboy diplomacy of “W.”
When it comes right down to it, Gregg thinks, Trump lines up really well with the TWCM identity.
The bottom line is that many TWCM are anxious and disappointed about their lives and the direction the country is taking and see additional threats in a multicultural diverse world. As such, there is a yearning to “the good old days” when American White Males embraced their exceptionalism and power and did not have to be shy about being “better”. They were better because they had more power, which is exactly the kind of logic that Trump symbolizes and endorses.
I absolutely recommend reading through the rest of Greggs thoughts, it’s a fascinating look at the possible social reasoning behind Trumps rise and Trumps personality. Another article I recommend reading is a personality analysis written by Dan McAdams and published in June 2016. It’s an incredibly thorough piece that goes into incredible detail. I couldn’t possibly do it justice without turning this overlong post into a white paper.
Mental Health Concerns
So now we have a decent picture of how Trump thinks and works, but we also need to understand his mental state. Mental health is never easy to address, whether within your own family or when applied to public figures. The fact remains that Donald Trump is the oldest president in US history, beating out Ronald Reagan by a few months. With age comes concerns about health and the possibility of declining faculties, Ronald Reagan was thought to have signs of Alzheimer’s disease during his presidency. Having seen the affects first hand, it’s scary to think that we may have a president going through similar struggles. Donald Trump’s father had Alzheimer’s disease and it is a hereditary condition, which means it’s certainly something the American people should think about.
I’m not the first person to pose this question or point out that Trump has some very odd habits. So what have we seen so far? We’ve seen that Trump doesn’t always recall what he’s previously said and in at least one instance seemingly forgot who was sitting next to him. Trump often gets flustered during interviews and seems to have trouble forming complete sentences. We’ve seen that Trump can’t seem to organize or plan ahead very well, often leaving important decisions until the last minute or until others implore him to get things done. Trump seems to have issues with coordination, fearing sharp inclines and leaning on others for support. Trump has demonstrated anxiety and paranoia about a number of things including computers and American Intelligence agencies. Trump has also be known to become easily agitated, even displaying that tendency when conversing with our allies.
So what does all of this mean? I can’t say for sure, I’m not sure anyone other than Trumps personal doctor could, but these are all symptoms of dementia according to the Mayo Clinic.
Is Trump Personally Profiting From his Presidency?
It’s no secret that Trumps presidency has been expensive so far, I’ve got an entire section dedicated to it below, but Trump and his family also stand to benefit from those tax payer dollars. Over the past six months, Trump has raised the fee or his Mar-a-Lago resort from $100k to $150k and finally, on January 1st, to $200k. It should be noted that the fee has been as high as $200k in the past, it’s just that raising it now in light of his presidency seems suspect. Additionally, Trumps White House has stated that using the Mar-a-Lago resort to do business makes him accessible to “Regular Americans”. Beyond implying that a regular American can afford to stay at Mar-a-Lago, implying this club makes Trump accessible is a great way to raise the profile of the club and attract new members that will pay at least $213k for a chance at meeting Trump.
If that sounds like a conflict of business, that’s because it is, and there is certainly no shortage of them here. Let’s take a look at a few of the other conflicts of business that we know about so far. Ivanka insists on staying in the Trump tower, this means protection provided by the Department of Defense must rent or lease space within the building to adequately protect Ivanka. Trump still owns the tower and will see profits from that rent or lease agreement.
Trump recently attacked Nordstrom on Twitter for dropping his daughters clothing line. Nordstrom is an American company, whereas Ivanka was literally importing tons of Chinese made goods while Trump was making his “Buy American” speech. Kallyanne Conway later said “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I would tell you. I’m going to. I hate shopping and I’m going to go get some myself today,” after which the Government Ethics Committee called for an investigation into her abuse of influence. Hypocrisy aside (Trump criticizing an American company for not carrying his daughters Chinese made clothing, really?) doesn’t that seem like Trump using his influence to enrich his daughter?
There are additional conflicts as well. Trumps sons use tax payer funded protection on their business trips, resulting in free publicity for the Trump brand at tax payer expense. Trumps sons appearing in the White House also implies that doing business with them will get you access to their father. Additionally, Melania also recently came under fire when she revealed, through a lawsuit that was later refiled, that she was expecting to make “multimillion-dollar business relationships” during her husbands presidency.
Still don’t see a problem here? Well, we know Trump is still profiting from his businesses. We know Trump and his administration have used their power and positions to try and promote the Trump family brands and businesses. That certainly seems like a conflict of interest. That said, I couldn’t possibly name all of the conflicts of interest this administration has. I encourage you to take a look at the research others are doing and question whether this should be allowed or not.
Financial & Economic Impact
Make no mistake, what we’re seeing here is the consolidation of power among incredibly wealthy individuals. These individuals are, by and large, coming directly from running some of the largest corporations in American history and have little to no political experience. Do not make the mistake of thinking these people care about you. They don’t. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they’ll follow the rules. They won’t. What they care about is money. As Nicholas Carnes, a political scientist at Duke University, puts it: “The research really says that when you put a bunch of millionaires in charge, you can expect public policy that helps millionaires at the expense of everybody else.”
That gives you an idea of who will be running what things, but what has Trump himself done so far? Trump has openly harassed companies and caused market instability by berating companies he doesn’t agree with. This isn’t confined to only our economy either, there are indications that Trumps tweets do impact other markets as well. Economic instability, whether local or global, is not a good thing.
Trump has vowed to repeal the Johnson amendment, which would expand a large tax loophole (one that Trump has previously used himself) for organizations looking to contribute to campaigns or otherwise shelter funds. This is discussed in more detail below but the basic concern is that any organization that wanted to contribute to any campaign could now create a 501(c) organization as a non-profit shell company to funnel money through without reporting or taxation to worry about. For instance, the parent company could donate $5 million to their shell 501(c) and then send that money off to Trump (or anyone, under the guise of a campaign contribution). The parent company could then deduct that $5 million as a charitable donation to a non-profit and the shell company could claim it’s non-profit as it simply directed that money to Trump without taking a cent of it. In keeping it non-profit, they would not have to worry about paying taxes on the $5 million and wouldn’t have to report where it went either. That should concern you.
Moving on to a lesser known proposed change, Trump would like to eliminate the estate tax. The estate tax, or death tax, is a 40% tax on any estate valued at more than 5.45 million dollars. There is of course a question of conflict of interest here as Trumps heirs, as well as the heirs of Trumps friends, would directly profit from this elimination. Those in favor of eliminating the tax argue that it can hurt small businesses, which is entirely true. Those that favor keeping the bill point out that it helps to slow the rising economic equality gap. In my opinion, we should rework the tax rather than eliminating it outright. I think it would be beneficial to make exemptions for small businesses and create a graduated tax hierarchy. This way we would still keep this source of tax income while giving small businesses a break.
Trump has asked for a review of the Dodd-Frank Act. The Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law in 2010 by Obama in response to the financial crisis of 2007-2008. It’s primary goal is to encourage transparency in the financial regulatory environment while extending oversight of specifically risky institutions. There is an excellent deep dive on the act and it’s effects here (both negative and positive) if you’re interested in learning more.
More worryingly, Trump is trying to dismantle the Fiduciary Rule, put into place in April of 2016. This rule stipulates that those advising you on investing must act in your best interest. The problem is those that handle investments often get kick backs, and if they get a larger kickback from a lower returning investment then they are effectively given a reason to throw the investor under the bus to get themselves a larger return. This rule keeps those who are less investment savvy from being taken advantage of and removes that conflict of interest on the investment brokers side. Now, some brokers don’t like this rule as it obviously hampers their ability to make the most money from each customer. The argument from brokers is that it is overly complex and hampers consumer choice. Wouldn’t it be better to try creating a more focused rule more rather than completely do away with it, if that is indeed the case? Once again, John Oliver has an excellent video that thoroughly covers this issue, give it a watch if you want to learn more.
Beyond those proposed changes, Trump and his family are impacting tax payers constantly. According to Judicial Watch, Obama cost tax payers about $79.5 million over his 8 years as president. In contrast, estimates for Trumps first year as president are set to eclipse Obama’s 8 years if Trump continues his current trend. According to the NYPD, it costs about $500,000 a day to guard the Trump Tower. Some simple math puts that cost at $182.5 million for a year, or more than twice Obama’s spending over 8 years. Additionally, it is estimated that Trumps trips to Mar-a-Lago cost tax payers about $3 million per trip. As pointed out in that article, Trump has visited Trump branded properties every weekend since he became president, for a total cost of about $16.5 million as of this writing. Further consideration should be given to the cost of Secret Service members protecting Trumps sons on those international business trips I mentioned earlier. These trips, used to promote Trumps own businesses, combine with the other expenses to create an estimated $11.3 million in taxpayer cost for Trumps first month in office. Update: He’s still at it.
Trump released his first budget proposal March 16. As is a theme here, John Oliver has an excellent piece covering the issue that can help put some of the cuts in perspective. The proposal includes a whole lot of cuts and a predictable boost to military spending. The amount and severity of the proposed cuts have led to the budget being labeled dead before arrival by some Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Furthermore, many of the programs they’ve listed for cuts are those designed to help low-income Americans that need help and, perhaps ironically, those in rural areas that voted for him. Confusingly, many programs up for cuts are relatively low budget programs that aren’t causing our current deficit, so I’d be interested in hearing the justification for cutting funding to these programs. Especially when you consider the amount of money the president and his family have soaked up so far. Wouldn’t it be easier to move Melania to DC rather than pay for her protection in New York? It would certainly save a lot of money.
I recommend taking a look at what CNN put together and the article NBCNews put out as they both give an excellent look at the impact. It’s important to note that this budget proposal is just that, a proposal. There will be a lot of debate and reform before a budget is officially passed, but this does give us a very good idea of what Trump wants to do. One has to wonder, is this what fiscal conservatism look like? How does Trump, who repeatedly criticized Obama for his travels, justify his families and his own expenses? How does Trump justify cutting or completely eliminating programs that help many of the voters he relied on to get elected?
Trump on Church & State
He started his first National Prayer Breakfast speech by bragging about the ratings of his reality TV show while he was the host. Trump also took the time to promise that he will “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment”. The Johnson Amendment, as mentioned above, is a law that was passed in 1954 and prohibits all 501(c) non-profit organizations from opposing or endorsing political candidates. It was not originally aimed at churches but churches are covered under 501(c) non-profit organizations in most cases. If a 501(c) non-profit organization wishes to participate in politics, they must give up their tax exempt status. Churches are not the only ones covered under this amendment, which is something that should alarm you, but they are clearly Trumps target here.
So why is this an issue? If we allow these 501(c) organizations to contribute to campaigns, we are essentially creating a method to funnel tax exempt campaign contributions while simultaneously exempting these organizations from reporting on those contributions. Trump would be literally subsidizing contributions to his (or any other) campaign at the expense of American citizens. The American people have shown in the past that they don’t want this to happen and more recent polls show a higher percentage of Americans are against this being repealed than previous polls. Unfortunately, Congress has already introduced a bill that would nullify the law. Perhaps more alarming is the fact that Trump himself has used this loophole to dodge taxes in the past by having those that owed him money pay his tax-exempt charity rather than himself. So we now know that Trump has a personal stake in creating a tax loophole and eliminating the reporting requirements for that loophole.
Other than Trump’s personal stake, trying to allow more funding from churches isn’t a surprise as Trump acknowledged the role of religious communities in helping him get elected and mentioned the Johnson Amendment during his RNC acceptance speech, saying “At this moment, I would like to thank the evangelical and religious community in general who have been so good to me and so supportive.”. This brings up the question of why anyone supported or continues to support Trump based on religious beliefs. Are not the laws some of these law makers are pushing the very definition of hypocrisy when you consider their claim to be Christians?
He imagined a wealthy Christian knocking at the gates of heaven and saying, “Here I am, Lord! … I went to Church, I was close to you, I belong to this association, I did this… Don’t you remember all the offerings I made?”
To which Jesus may reply, according to the Pope:
“Yes, I remember. The offerings, I remember them: All dirty. All stolen from the poor. I don’t know you.’ That will be Jesus’ response to these scandalous people who live a double life.”
Trump has stated that he loves God and his church but went on to state in that same interview that he’s never asked for forgiveness or taken confession, which is a prominent Christian doctrine. Trump went on to seemingly mock taking communion, saying “When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker”. He’s also stated that the bible is his favorite book but declined to share his favorite verse saying “The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.”. Does it seem like he’s dodging the question? Some religious conservatives have raised this same question in the past.
Either way, it comes down to Trump and other Republicans trying to allow churches more sway in politics. I don’t need to tell you that this is in violation of our First Amendment right, which protects citizens from having a religion foisted upon them by the government. The Heritage Guide to the Constitution has an article that sheds some light on the possible intents of the founding fathers as it relates to our First Amendment. While it does mention that the founding fathers where not against religion in government, it also points out that those founders wanted to make sure the government couldn’t force religion upon us. Bills such as HR781 would allow the government to use funding from churches, thereby swaying government decisions based on religious bias. It’s not hard to imagine that the end result would be churches funding anti-abortion legislation or other legislation on anything that doesn’t match with their faith based views.
Faith vs fact issues aside, would not that impose the ideals of a religion on the people? Isn’t that in direct opposition of the Establishment of Religion clause? It certainly seems that way.
Trump & Constitutional Freedoms
Unfortunately, the Trump administration has demonstrated that it either doesn’t know much about or doesn’t care about American Constitutional rights and freedoms. Furthermore, this administration don’t seem to understand who those rights and freedoms extend to. Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate this is with how Trump has been lashing out at media scrutiny since before he was elected. As I noted above, Trump recently labeled media outlets as “the enemy of the American people” and even gone so far as to block certain outlets from covering some of his events.
Why is this of concern? The First Amendment of our Constitution reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” In other words; you probably shouldn’t single out certain organizations and bar them from reporting on what you, as an elected public official, are doing. That could correctly be described as abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.
Trump has made it known that he plans to push for less media freedom and some Republican law makers are taking that direction and running with it. Republican law makers in Arizona have even gone so far as to introduce legislation (SB1142) that would make assembling in protest a crime for all involved if it turned violent or if the police suspect it may turn violent. Luckily that bill was struck down before it could go too far. If it had passed, that bill would have given police the right to arrest any and all persons involved in a protest if they felt it was going to turn violent. Police would have been given the right to seize all assets of those people as well any who helped plan the protest, whether it became violent or not. That seems like a broad overreach of government power and also would have given those opposing the protest an easy way to sabotage that protest. Don’t like what those people are protesting? Go ahead and start breaking things, get arrested, and claim you were a part of their group. Under that legislation, everyone who attended the protest would have been arrested along with the person who came in with the intent of causing trouble. Minnesota actually passed a similar bill, HF322, that allows police departments to sue protesters for the cost of policing. If you still aren’t worried, consider that two journalists covering Trumps inauguration protests were charged with felony riot charges simply for being present.
Even if you are a citizen who does not participate in protests, this is something that should concern you. There’s nothing to stop lawmakers in other states from trying to pass similar legislation. If something like that were to pass and should you ever want to exercise the right you are entitled to as an American citizen, you would be jailed and have all of your assets seized. That certainly seems like it would infringe on our First Amendment right and promote suppression of dissent.
Speaking of suppressing dissent, that’s another topic I’d like to touch upon. As noted multiple times above, Trump has labeled many media outlets as fake news despite evidence to the contrary and Trump himself being a demonstrable liar. While I can’t pretend to comprehend the entire intent of Trumps claims, we do have historical precedence. When a dictator or autocrat wants to suppress dissent, they seem to use the “enemy of the people” claim as their tool. It’s been used by Adolf Hitler’s and Joseph Stalin’s administrations. It’s still in use today. The historical and recent precedent coupled to our presidents willing use of a phrase that is linked to dictators should concern you.
Additionally, this isn’t the only form of suppression we’ve seen. A high school in Maryland was made to take down posters that promote diversity based on the argument that they were anti-Trump. The main argument seems to be that the artist who created the posters also created the “Hope” election posters for Obama. That in itself shouldn’t be an issue but the school further argued that this made the posters political, and per school rules the teachers aren’t allow to influence students in political matters. According to the Huffington Post, the artist himself says
“We the People” campaign is that, “equality, respect, and religious freedom are unassailable American values and non-partisan.” He added, “I find it very disturbing that someone could find those ideas specifically, and by extension inclusion in general, to be partisan or problematic.”
When the argument against promoting diversity is that it’s not something Trump would like, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate.
Trump & Media Misdirection, a Theory
Time to break out that tin foil hat! I saved this for last as this post is already an incredibly dense read and this section dips into conspiracy territory. That’s not to say it may not be true, but it’s just a theory and so should be taken with a grain of salt as they say.
This isn’t a completely new idea, there are two articles (both published on Medium) that I’ve generally seen referenced when this comes up. Those articles are here and here. Please note that the two observations below were made by my cousin, Micheal Friedlander, and they are being used with permission.
I’ve been struggling feeling that the Travel Ban is a misdirect and negotiation tactic, and want o put that word of caution out there for us to consider. I’ve loved seeing the (necessary) responses, shows of solidarity, and support to run counter to that ban. I’m proud of my friends, acquaintances, and fellow Americans who have stood and spoken up. I hope that simultaneously, we are careful not to fall victim to what very well might be a Trump/Bannon tactic.
The Ban seems to have been overly extreme, and timed it such a way that it’s hard not to view it as an intentional device to grab the attention of the “opposition,” which in the Trump administration’s mind is the media, the Democrats, and the protestors. During the time period we’ve been focused on the Ban, the Trump administration has seized control of the National Security Council, a group responsible for authorizing secret assassinations, including against at least two American citizens. To reiterate: Steve Bannon now is integral in controlling an organization that is solely responsible for investigating, instigating, carrying out, and checking the legality of Government assassinations. Concurrently with this, Trump has purged several senior officials from the State department, throwing that agency in chaos and crippling its ability to check his administration.
This seems like the long-term moves the Trump administration actually wants to go through. It’s a scary consolidation of power and a simultaneous removal of opposition. So as we rightfully protest the Travel Ban and stand with those affected, please be careful to watch the movements within our Executive Branch as well. Because protesting this ban is good, but not if it comes at the cost of allowing the administration to begin a process of fascist-like consolidation of power. We need to be working to stop both.
This is hard to argue with, it came to light not long afterwards that Trump himself wasn’t aware he would be putting Bannon on the NSC when he signed his EO. That in itself is funny/horrifying and could lend to the theory that others are pulling Trumps strings in the background.
Another possible vector for distraction are Trumps tweets, which almost always cause media turmoil and are largely inconsequential. This seems like a very easy way to distract media and possibly Trump himself while more important things happen in the background.
But if I were this administration, this would be how I would proceed in order to overwhelm those opposing me. Create an executive order, time it over the weekend, and not clarify what it means to create confusion in regards to its enforcement. And picking an area where you know your opponents will have a large reaction will help your cause.
Additionally, I was very careful not to “reduce the ban to a fakeout.” As I said, protest and action against the ban is necessary. I’m glad it’s happening. I’m not sure if you missed it or not, but I said at the end of my post that “both require action.”
What I’m concerned about is that an equally, potentially more serious problem is occurring at the same time and not being acted against with the same fervor. And it does not seem coincidental that all of this was timed simultaneously. If a group you’re working against seems to be wanting you to act a certain way, it’s a good idea to examine why.
So the first point on enforcement is a good one, the original travel ban caused some confusion on whether or not green card holders were exempt. Trumps new travel ban clarifies that green card holders are exempt, so that may have simply been a new administration making a mistake.
We also have a long and well thought out post by Heather Richardson, professor of History at Boston College that you’ve probably seen shared on Facebook. I’ve left the wording completely the same but tried some formatting to make it easier to read.
“I don’t like to talk about politics on Facebook– political history is my job, after all, and you are my friends– but there is an important non-partisan point to make today.
What Bannon is doing, most dramatically with last night’s ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries– is creating what is known as a “shock event.”
Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order.
When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.
Last night’s Executive Order has all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and counterterrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it.
Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.
My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one’s interest to play the shock event game. It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won’t like.
I don’t know what Bannon is up to– although I have some guesses– but because I know Bannon’s ideas well, I am positive that there is not a single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle– and my friends range pretty widely– who will benefit from whatever it is.
If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have been tricked into accepting their real goal.
But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event.
A successful shock event depends on speed and chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide along established lines. This, for example, is how Confederate leaders railroaded the initial southern states out of the Union.
If people realize they are being played, though, they can reach across old lines and reorganize to challenge the leaders who are pulling the strings. This was Lincoln’s strategy when he joined together Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, anti-Nebraska voters, and nativists into the new Republican Party to stand against the Slave Power.
Five years before, such a coalition would have been unimaginable. Members of those groups agreed on very little other than that they wanted all Americans to have equal economic opportunity. Once they began to work together to promote a fair economic system, though, they found much common ground. They ended up rededicating the nation to a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Confederate leaders and Lincoln both knew about the political potential of a shock event. As we are in the midst of one, it seems worth noting that Lincoln seemed to have the better idea about how to use it.”
I’ll leave you with this one. Thanks for taking the time to read through this, hopefully you’ve gleaned some valuable information and maybe a new perspective. Let me know what I missed and let me know if there is something else you’d like covered!