Our Long Trump Nightmare Grows In intensity

by James M. WallThe_Scream

The posting below originally ran in this space, March 2, 2016. Since the Trump nightmare has only grown in intensity, I am reproducing the earlier posting for the benefit of new readers, and as a reminder for all of us, that elections have consequences.—Jim Wall

Super Tuesday [March 1] performed as predicted. Hillary Clinton won six southern states with considerable African-American backing. She narrowly won Massachusetts. Sanders won Vermont, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Colorado.

The major message from this particular Super Tuesday is that Donald Trump has emerged as an even more threatening nightmare to both political parties. It is a nightmare which will only grow in intensity.

Trump’s success is rooted in the political toxins of fear and hate, symbiotic emotions generated by a political process whose dominant generating force is the manic desire to gain power and control wealth.

That force is so prevalent that a disturbingly large and expanding number of voters do not respond to the current political culture with the agonizing “scream” displayed above in the iconic composition by the Expressionist Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.

Instead of screaming in horror, those voters thrive on fear and hate, toxic forces that landed with the pious Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.

After the Pilgrims and their successors conquered and slaughtered the indigenous people of a not-so-new land, a new republic grew into an empire, but at what a cost. “We reap what we sow” is the harsh reminder of how we got to this moment that demands a “scream”.

In our current political incarnation, Republicans are directly responsible for Trumpism, while Democrats assisted in creating the cultural soil in which Trumpism was born and raised.

The Democratic Party developed a softer brand of fear and hate through its militant neoliberalism. That softer brand is now embodied in the campaign of Hillary Clinton, carrying forward the Clinton brand her husband shaped and polished in his two terms in the White House.

Nicholas Kristof describes the current Trump phenomenon in polite New York Times language when he writes:

The most likely Republican nominee for president is a man who mocks women, insults Latinos, endorses war crimes like torture, denounces party icons and favors barring people from the United States based on their religion.

He’s less a true-believer conservative than an opportunist, though, for he has supported single-payer health insurance, abortion rights and tighter gun measures. Lindsey Graham says he’s “crazy,” Jeb Bush says he would be worse than President Obama, and the conservative National Review warned that he is a “menace to American conservatism.”

alternetDonald Trump is “smarter than critics believe — he understood the political mood better than we pundits did — but I can’t think of any national politician I’ve met over the decades who was so ill informed on the issues, or so evasive, or who so elegantly and dangerously melded bombast and vapidity”.

Kristof asks the question we will hear increasingly over the next nine months, “how did we get to this stage where the leading Republican candidate is loathed by the Republican establishment?”

His answer is direct: “Republican leaders brought this on themselves. Over the decades they pried open a Pandora’s box, a toxic politics of fear and resentment, sometimes brewed with a tinge of racial animus, and they could never satisfy the unrealistic expectations that they nurtured among supporters”.

Peter Wehner is a self-described evangelical Christian and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He served in the last three Republican administrations. He speaks from the GOP side of the political spectrum and the conservative side of the religious spectrum.

The question that troubles him is why is Donald Trump “the candidate of choice of many evangelical Christians?” He probes for an answer in a recent New York Times column he wrote before Trump’s Super Tuesday victories:

Mr. Trump won a plurality of evangelical votes in each of the last three Republican contests, in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. He won the glowing endorsement of Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, who has called him ‘one of the greatest visionaries of our time.’ Last week, Pat Robertson, the founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, told Mr. Trump during an interview, ‘You inspire us all.’

Wehner adds that “Trump’s evangelical supporters don’t care about his agenda; they are utterly captivated by his persona. They view him as the strongest, most dominant, most assertive political figure they have ever seen. In an odd bow to Nietzschean ethics, they respect and applaud his Will to Power. And so the man who openly admires tyrants like Vladimir V. Putin and praised the Chinese crackdown in Tiananmen Square because it showed ‘strength’ has become the repository of their hopes”.

Set aside the fact that Mr. Trump is a compulsive and unrepentant liar. Set aside, too, that he has demonstrated no ability for statecraft or the actual administration of government and has demonstrated much incompetence at business to boot. Bracket for now the fact that Mr. Trump has been more erratic, unprincipled and proudly ignorant when it comes to public policy than perhaps any major presidential candidate in American history.

What “stuns” Wehner is how “his fellow evangelicals can rally behind a man whose words and actions are so at odds with the central teachings of our faith. They overlook, rationalize and even delight in Mr. Trump’s obsessive name-calling and Twitter attacks, his threats and acts of intimidation, his vindictiveness and casual cruelty (including mocking the disabled and P.O.W.s), all of which masquerade as strength and toughness.”

This Republican evangelical Christian points to a conclusion that has obviously disturbed him: “For some evangelicals, Christianity is no longer shaping their politics; with Mr. Trump in view, their faith lies subordinate”.

Yet it goes beyond that. Trumpism is not a political philosophy; it is a purposeful effort, led by a demagogue, to incite ugly passions, stoke resentments and divisions, and create fear of those who are not like ‘us’ — Mexicans, Muslims and Syrian refugees. But it will not end there. There will always be fresh targets.

Author and analyst Mike Lofgren identifies the source of the fear and hate that generated Trumpism, the “war on terror”:

The ‘war on terror’ is the longest continuous war in US history. Taxpayers have ponied up over $4 trillion to wage it. Yet the consensus of our intelligence community is that we are more in danger than ever. Did we spend more than $4 trillion to make ourselves less safe? Let us unpack the contradictions.

Terrorism in the United States is statistically a negligible cause of mortality: One is about as likely to die from being crushed by a flat-screen TV, and more likely to die falling in the bathtub than from terrorism. Imagine if we had spent $4 trillion to cure cancer or heart disease. Nevertheless, nearly every word US government officials have uttered about the matter during the last 15 years has been designed to instill dread of terrorism in the population. And it has worked.

Lofgren cites a study of the South Carolina Republican primary which found that voters “declared terrorism to be their foremost concern, eclipsing a stagnant, low-wage economy; deteriorating living standards leading to an actual increase in the death rate of GOP voters’ core demographic; and the most expensive and least available health care in the ‘developed’ world.”

It is not just the voters of South Carolina who see “terrorism” as our nation’s “foremost concern”. We are a people described in this statement by a foremost authority on shaping national concerns:

The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

—Hermann Goring, in an interview by Gustave Gilbert, April 18, 1946.

The reproduction of The Scream is from Wikipedia. The photo of Donald Trump is from AlterNet.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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4 Responses to Our Long Trump Nightmare Grows In intensity

  1. Jim, This piece was spot on when you first published it, and it still is–depressingly so. “Fear and hate” reign supreme in politics, currently. I recall MLK’s question from his last book, “Where do we go from here–chaos or community?” “Faith is the substance of ….”

  2. Jack Graham says:

    Compared to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump is a martyred saint. If Trump is as bad as claimed, Clinton is far worse. The United States are undergoing rapid decline because we have been betrayed by a private banking cartel which lurks behind the Federal Reserve, and has gained illicit control over our supply and flow of money and credit, and our major news media. This private banking cartel has for years determined our candidates for President and otherwise run our government from behind the scenes. They chose Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush for us in 2016, both working for destruction of nation states, excessive free trade, and open borders as part of a New World Order, including a North American Union to be built on the ruins of Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Trump upset their plans this year, but Clinton is still a candidate of Wall Street. Attempts to demonize Trump with false charges of spreading hate overlook the betrayal of the United States by powers of high finance and global business whom Hillary represents. There are plenty of Republicans who oppose Trump’s takeover of their party, and will cast protest votes this year. And Democrats should likewise oppose Hillary’s corruption instead of crying in their beer over Trump. I voted for Jill Stein in 2012, because both Obama and Romney were (and still are) agents of Wall Street. I reserve the right to do the same this year. And Democrats can vote for her in 2016 instead of seeking to impose upon us the most corrupt politician of our time in history as occupant of the White House. Enough crocodile tears about Trump. If he is a disappointment, Democrats should at least acknowledge that their party is no longer the party of William Jennings Bryan and John F. Kennedy. And they should repent.

  3. I see Jack Graham is a FOX News lemming. The Republicans love to call Obama divisive. Could there possibly be anyone more so in politics than Donald Trump? Right now Obama would beat both Trump and Clinton if he could run again. He leads them both in favorability. Today a US Congressman, one of Trump’s closest allies and a possible cabinet appointee, said that Hillary Clinton should be brought before a firing squad and executed. A Republican inquiry committee could find no wrong doing by her after a four year scrutiny, nothing, nada, zip. Yet she is a “liar” who should be executed. Trump uses tragedy to win favor, the police shootings, the mother that the right-wing convinced that Hillary was responsible for her son’s death in Benghazi so she would take the stage at the RNC convention. They and the NRA have created this fear and gun culture in the USA. They are responsible for this war in the streets. They are supported by right-wing nut cases, bigots, racists, even the KKK (Trump still hasn’t denied ties to David Duke). The other group Trump’s fear tactics have cowed are old white people my age, supposedly “Americas Greatest Generation.” They have become fearful little xenophobes hiding away in their huge home and their gated communities. The last big group he has convinced are the stupid, the ignorant – would have to be watered to grow, the ones glued 24/7 to Rush and FOX. There are a lot of dumb people in America, easy to sway with fear and hatred. Trump even made the statement that he likes ignorant people, and have you ever seen the Republicans support education, except for Charter Schools for the children of the elite? Finally have you ever seen people who lie more then Trump’s whole entourage, and then they backtrack and say “Oh, I didn’t mean it that way”; and the vegetables believe them. You are right, sir, this is a dangerous bunch of people. If anyone thinks they have seen the worst of war in the streets, wait till Trump is elected – Civil War II.

  4. Roy Hayes says:

    Major frustration. I am unable to support either of the candidates. So I’ve doubled my support for Obama. If the issues (I’m thinking of the Middle East) aren’t resolved before Obama leaves office, we can’t expect anything from his successor. Obama should cooperate with President Putin to defeat terrorism and to make things right in Syria. I, personally, am persuaded that the UN is the only viable alternative to what the NEOCONs call the NWO (New World Order). Obama must withhold the US veto at the UN when the Palestine-Israeli issues are considered in November. “The Elders”, in their last mailing, called for a stronger, more effective UN. I read (someplace) that after Obama leaves the White House that he is considering running for UN Secretary-General. I think that’s a very good idea.

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