It is essential for all of us to understand that the constant lies and distortions emanating from the White House and GOP leadership are tactics of both authoritarian propaganda and psychological abuse. And the purpose of most psychological abuse, on an individual and group level, is CONTROL. Control without reason. Control without facts. Control without truth. Control without mercy. Kind of like an abusive spouse (I’m looking at you, Steve Bannon).
Before the election, I wrote about my sense that Donald Trump was portraying our country as the dark, dysfunctional Gotham City of Batman Returns, claiming “Only I Can Protect You…”. And I was optimistic that American voters would recognize that no, we don’t live in a failed Gotham City and we don’t need to elect Oswald Cobblepot, that sleazy, lying groper.
And then we — or some of us — did.
Not most of us, contrary to the claims of a “landslide.” In fact, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by the largest margin in U.S. history for a candidate who did not win the election: 2.5 million votes. But here we are, stuck with Donald Cobblepot as our President-elect.
And President-elect Cobblepot is now on a “victory tour” of rallies like the ones he used to whip up angry crowds before the election, calling for deeds like deporting millions of people, building a wall between us and Mexico, and “locking up” the former First Lady and Secretary of State who was his political opponent. Scary stuff, and it scared me.
But hey, now some of his handlers are making the rounds, claiming that there are no such things as actual facts any more — all that matters is how many people believe whatever lies the President-elect and his advisers spread in their “post-truth world”. Including the leader of the white supremacist platform Breitbart “News”, the President-elect’s senior adviser Steve Bannon. Sure sounds like propaganda to me, in the mold of the Big Lie — and apparently the libertarian magazine Reason agrees. Trump’s former campaign manager says the press takes “too literally” what the President-elect says and has said. Shucks, he doesn’t really mean any of those things! And yet he continues to repeat them, now, after the election, at the rallies that he so enjoys, with an ugly, triumphal tone that is as far as one can get from being a gracious victor.
And isn’t it weird that he is holding these “victory tour” rallies? Is that customary for U.S. President-elects? Well, no, it’s not. In fact, it’s not customary or normal for most elected leaders of Western democracies. The last Western leader who held post-election rallies like this, full of fire-breathing threats against vanquished enemies, was Adolf Hitler. No, that’s not hyperbole. Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek did the research.
I am really horrified by the spectacle of a President-elect whipping up the faithful into an angry frenzy when he should be learning the job he has so little training to do. His lack of training, or knowledge, or understanding, or even intelligence, has been amply demonstrated by his amateur meddling in foreign affairs and his disorganized communications with foreign governments. So far, he has: seized opportunities to discuss his business priorities with them and ask for favors; included his adult children, who will run the family’s global empire, with foreign leaders like the Prime Minister of Japan; offended the governments of China and the U.K.; undermined the credibility of NATO; and, apparently, endorsed the murders of thousands of Filipinos under the out-of-control president of the Philippines, Duterte. Yes, the one who called President Obama “son of a whore” for having raised concerns about those illegal killings of civilians without any legal process. They had a nice chat on the phone. The chat included the topic of Trump’s major real estate investments and development plans in the Philippines. But, we are told, there are no conflicts of interest between the incoming administration and public policy. Richard Painter, former head of the White House ethics office of President George W. Bush, begs to differ, calling those conflicts of interest real, unethical, and dangerous.
So what next? I hope that the few rational beings who have been named to the incoming Cabinet will be able to keep Trump from conflagrating worldwide conflict. Retired General Mattis seems both sensible and clear on the deference our military owes to the Constitution and civilian control. And I am looking to President Obama for help, though he certainly doesn’t owe this country anything after eight long years of service and having saved the world from another Great Depression. I believe he will do what he can, while he can, to put as many safeguards in place as are available for public lands and waters, voting rights, etc. And I am praying that he will deploy his considerable skills as a constitutional lawyer, community organizer, Senator, President and communicator to help rally organized, lawful opposition to the Cobblepot who will soon move into OUR White House. Let’s not forget that it belongs to us — and he works for US, not the other way ’round.