For me, the trouble with writing about politics these days is that it’s too easy to say bad things.
I don’t mean that it’s easy to insult the President and his people. That’s always easy. It’s always been easy, truth be told, which is exactly why the media always does it: They meet their deadlines and win Pulitzers and can still make Happy Hour, and We The People love to read it. We get off on it; it feels good to pretend that we’re better than someone else, and when that someone’s in the Oval Office, it feels really good. We eat that shit right up and beg for more, and it just keeps coming.
Now, right here is where I’d put in the throwaway joke. I could say that it’s actually hard to insult President Trump because, no matter what I say and how bad I make it, the truth is as bad or worse, so nothing I say can really be an insult. That would draw a laugh and you’d love it (if you followed it); you know you would, so don’t bother to deny it.
Besides, I’m not listening. I’m writing. Stop interrupting me and learn something.
The other way I could go is to defend Trump. One or two of the things he’s done make good sense, and all things considered he has yet to actually do much harm — but that’s not him. The Senate and the courts have been obstructing for the past month. The best thing I might honestly say about him is that he hasn’t blown the government apart yet.
But that’s the thing: Even if I wanted to say that, I couldn’t. A third of the country is pissed off that he’s being obstructed, another third is too furious at him to consider that he might have any virtues at all, and the rest have given up on politics for the next forty-seven months and are watching “The Walking Dead” to cheer up a bit. Hard to blame them, really, but the point is, that’s (count them) zero thirds of my readers that would listen to me. Which sucks, because we’re so busy being pissed off that we’re missing the big picture again.
Because our government, as always, is not doing its job. And most of America is happy about this.
Stop and think about that for a second.
Four years ago, when we couldn’t pass a budget AGAIN, we were getting upset. Not the loud riots-in-the-streets upset with protest signs, but that quiet calculating upset that says, “You better not be running for re-election, buddy.” But somehow, the crisis was averted, and we were diverted, and now we’ve got someone else to be mad at, and somehow we managed to forget: We still don’t have a new budget. We’re running on yet another continuing resolution, and given the logjam in Congress over just the cabinet confirmations, we’re not going to see a new budget this year either.
And this makes us happy?!
Forget for a second your loathing of Donald J. Trump the man. Forget all you know about how trickle-down economics doesn’t work (as if anyone actually thinks it does) or how your essential freedoms are being threatened (when are they not?)
Instead, consider that those government programs that function perfectly — however few or many — are operating with the same budget that they had a decade ago. Consider that the ones we learned were a complete waste, or duplicated some other program, are still getting the exact same amount of money. Think about all the bridges that need rebuilding, all the highways that need repair, the ancient buses your city has to use because nobody’s spending money to replace them.
Consider that the Pentagon is still buying thousands of tanks that will rust and fall apart before they’re ever used. Consider that the Navy will need to ground two whole carrier air wings due to escalating maintenance costs from the outdated fighters. Think for a moment about the fact that we’re still running military operations in Afghanistan a decade after that war supposedly ended — think hard about that, because yes, George W. Bush lied to us, but apparently so did the man who ran on a platform of peace to replace him.
No, I’m not saying Saint Obama was evil or incompetent. I’m also not saying that about President Dubya or The Beast. I’m not even telling you what we should be doing about any one of these things or Afghanistan in particular, because why? Because I can’t. For the most part, I don’t know and neither do you.
The truth is a complicated thing, especially when it comes to geopolitics and economies. Anyone who says they’ve got a simple fix is lying or deluded. Period; end of story.
And that right there is why we need a government that’s doing its job.
Right now, just like six of the past eight years and six of the eight before that and before that and before that, we’ve got a Congress that’s so busy feuding over which way it goes that it doesn’t go any way at all. Any way you slice it, that sucks.
Fifty years ago, Hunter S. Thompson was describing President Nixon in a memorably unflattering way. He always maintained that the copyeditor misread the line, that he’d really meant to say, “There is still no doubt in my mind that he could pass for human.” Instead they printed, “…he could never pass for human.” Either way, it’s as powerful statement as I’ve ever seen of — well, of fear and loathing.
I’m pretty sure Donald J. Trump is human. So is much of Congress. Are they the people we really want running things? Maybe not, but I’ll tell you this much: They’re who we’ve got.
To my mind, it’s about damn time they get off their asses and start doing their jobs. And, because we’d have to be insane to trust them to do it right, we need to keep watching real close and telling them when we want them to do it our way.
Because if we don’t, who will?
The Thompson quote and story is from “Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail”, 1972. It’s by Thompson, so I have no clue if it’s got any basis in fact save that he truly loathed Richard Nixon.