Moving Beyond Trumpery. How to Survive 2018

I can handle things – I’m smart. Unlike everybody says, like dumb.  I’m smart, and I want respect!”

                          Donald J. Trump or Fredo Corleone?

2017: a year of “Trumpery”

Donald Trump has been president of the US for a full year.  He finishes his first year in office with a historically low approval rating within his own country, historically low confidence in the US being able to fulfill its traditional role of global leadership, a criminal investigation closing in on his advisors and family, unprecedented divisions within the country, a foreign policy running madly off in all directions, and now, a very public discussion as to whether the president really is an incompetent fool.

One thing I’ve learned during the last year of watching US politics is that the name Trump is an aptronym, whereby a person’s name describes his or her occupation and/or characteristics.   Like Gordon Gecko, the character in the movie Wall Street who exhibited as much warmth and empathy as a lizard.  Donald Trump is an expert merchant of “trumpery” which is defined by several dictionaries as:

  • worthless nonsense;
  • something without use or value; or:
  • trivial or useless articles

The word originates from the French tromper, which means to deceive.  And, it’s become increasingly obvious that the American voters have been deceived – conned, in fact.  Millions of them thought they were electing a skilled leader who was going to protect and advance their interests by introducing a businesslike approach to Washington.  Instead, they got a bombastic twitter-addict who knows nothing about running a government, doesn’t want to know anything about running a government, protects the Republican donor class rather than the American middle class, and appears to spend more time on a golf course than he does developing sound policy.  Ils ont été trompées.

Now this – Trump is “an idiot surrounded by clowns”

As the Trump presidency enters its second year, the public is presented with new claims that Trump is unsuited for his position, and revelations that even those around him regularly question his ability and intellect.   To which, the Trump response is….”I’m, like, really smart.”   To a great many, the description of presidential dysfunction in Michael Wolff’s book is a non-event – there is no great surprise, no grand unveiling of closely-held White House secrets. It elicits a “No shit, Sherlock” response.  Over the past year Trump has constantly shown himself to be an incompetent fool through his tweets, unscripted comments, constant lies, and his inability to act as a world leader rather than a vindictive child. 

Wolff’s book adds little to the debate of Trump’s incompetence, save for some confirmation that even Trump’s associates share the view.  Even those coming to his defence aren’t really helping.  Thomas Barrack, a longtime Trump friend and inauguration chairman, commented that “It’s not mental instability. It’s management by controlled and orchestrated chaos.” Someone please tell Mr. Barrack that “chaos” is not a complimentary term when describing the leadership of a government.   And, that it’s not controlled chaos – it’s just chaos.  

Prescription for 2018 – Ignore the Trumpery

2018. In which the world realizes that president Trump does not govern or lead effectively, but still presides over his own bad reality show. Therefore, he should be paid attention for entertainment value only.  Otherwise, best to ignore him.  His tweets are not worthy of repeating in national media.  His speeches should be covered as any speeches delivered by an incoherent, irrelevant figure would be.  His brown-nosing aides such as Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, Marc Short and Sarah Sanders should never be given one second of valuable airtime or one line of print in reputable media to defend his indefensible actions.  With a man who craves attention and lives for “ratings”, we should all refuse to take the ratings bait. 

For this blog, which I started a bit over a year ago and has focused far too much on Trump and the circus he rode in with, I plan to focus on more important matters than American politicians embarrassing themselves and their country, and whether Trump reads books, golfs three times a week, or really watches television eight hours per day.  I’ll focus on such questions as “are smartphones making us into stupid layabouts who have sold their privacy to Google and Amazon?”  Or really important issues like Cardiff City’s recent 4-game losing streak that may affect the team’s hopes of promotion back into the Premier League. 

I feel better already.

I have the luxury of ignoring Trump – I don’t live in the US and am not directly affected by Trumpery (except for the matters noted below).  Unfortunately, for millions of Americans 2018 promises a deteriorating health care structure, stagnation in trade and job growth, and a tax base sharply redistributed to benefit the very wealthy.  That’s the price to pay for Americans’ having elected Trump and a hard-right Republican congress.    Advice to Americans: don’t despair – mid-terms are coming later in the year, and the Republicans are already scared.  They seem to be very nervous about the prospect of heading into an election linked with Trump, so an increasing number of Republican congressmen are announcing their retirements.  Let’s see how many more distance themselves from this “stable genius”.

Leave it to the adults

Ignoring Trump during 2018 will only be possible if he’s kept far away from issues where he can do real damage outside his own borders – issues such as climate, trade, and international relations.  For this, we need to rely on the “Axis of Adults”, the senior advisors (Kelly, Tillerson, Mattis, etc.) around Trump who can temper his childlike outbursts and keep him away from the car keys and the drawer of sharp knives.

On climate, Trump is already a non-entity.  States and cities have stepped in to fill the leadership position vacated by the US federal government, and are taking huge steps to fulfil the obligations that would have been within the Paris Accord.  Market conditions are driving a shift from coal to sustainable, non CO2 producing energy sources.

On trade, Trump will be surprised to find that international trade agreements cannot be vacated on a whim.  For NAFTA, for example, he would face stiff opposition from governors and representatives in the thirty-odd states where Canada is the largest trading partner.  These government reps, along with industry leaders who have long argued against isolationist trade policies, will shout the president down.

The challenge with Trump is keeping him out of the diplomatic playpen.  Trump doesn’t play well with others – as evident by his challenging Kim Jong Un to a “my button’s bigger than yours” showdown, his threatening Iran, and his “we’re taking names” reaction to criticism at the U.N.   This is where adult supervision is most critical.  And where the Axis of Adults can play the biggest role.  Much like Nixon’s senior staff (Schlesinger, Kissinger) who spread the word that Nixon’s orders had to be vetted by them before acted upon, these aides can manage around Trump and keep some degree of sanity in the White House.  It’s a tall order, but I’m sure they are, like, really smart.

Welcome to 2018.

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