Last evening while having an earnest conversation with two women about the importance of gratitude during periods of grief and loss, we discussed how it had contributed to healing. One had recently lost her mother after seven long years of caregiving. The other admitted that she had not lost anyone close to her in life.
As the conversation broadened to discussion of life’s challenges in general, the woman who had not lost anyone close to her raised her hand and said, “Maybe you won’t agree with me, and I don’t know where you stand on this, but I feel like the new regime is going to make things better for all of us.”
She is a sweet woman. Well-meaning in every way. So I bit my tongue at the “new regime” comment and did not attempt any sort of reconnaissance on the matter.
But people never used to use the term “new regime” as a positive. The definition of the word “regime” alone should be a warning sign: a government, especially an authoritarian one.
So how did we get to the point where the idea of an authoritarian government seems like a good idea?
It was not lost on me that her allegiances toward the “new regime,” as she put it, might be lacking some sort of insight. Her family is quite well-to-do. I’ve gotten to know her husband fairly well, and he is a good man as well. He works hard and has earned the grand style of living in which they can comfortably engage.
These were not people for whom the 2008 recession destroyed their income. Perhaps their investment portfolio sagged for a while, but it came back. The economic recovery under President Obama required public money and a restoration of consumer confidence to take hold. Those attributes are not easy matters over which to preside as a President.
To make matters worse, President Obama’s opponents sought to undermine his leadership well before he even stepped into office. Mitch McConnell, the stodgy Senator from Down East, swore that the principle goal of the Republican Party would be to make President Obama a “one-term president.” And then the GOP-led Congress obfuscated every initiative Obama tried to start. The success of Obamacare was undermined by a long-term negative campaign against the Affordable Care Act. That began before it was signed into law and continued through fifty attempts to repeal it in Congress.
Even after the conservative Supreme Court ruled Obamacare constitutional, the GOP continued to whine and complained about the program because they considered it an expansion of government. Every shortcoming of the ACA was highlighted while benefits such as providing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, a vital provision for millions of Americans, was ignored by the GOP.
And while the program had problems getting launched, millions of Americans that previously could not gain access to coverage were now enrolled thanks to subsidies to reduce the cost of insurance. This operative directly resembles the provisions offered to employees of corporations that provide health insurance. The principles are the same, but the GOP bitterly complained that the subsidies were one more form of handout to a populace they considered lazy or unworthy of such support.
Health insurance companies were not exactly collaborative on the Obamacare front. Newly developed plans that offered coverage for fairly priced premiums were eliminated after just a year. More expensive plans were forced on those insured under the original program, or enrollees were shoved into HMOs and other cost-savings programs. Rather than responding with gratitude for all the new business Obamacare delivered to their plates, insurance companies shortsightedly dumped plans they deemed unprofitable. The recoil from this turned much of the populace off to the idea of
This reaction symbolizes the manner in which much of conservative America responded to economic reform led by President Obama on a number of fronts. The necessary re-tooling of the auto industry, in which several major American automakers were on the brink of bankruptcy, was directed by a team assigned by President Obama to fund and support automakers in a program in which they could pay back low-interest loans. This saved millions of valuable jobs and car companies paid off their loans within several years of the public investment. This was a success by any measure, yet Republicans grumbled into their suit collars that public money should never have been used for such purpose. A few conservatives even insisted that America’s car companies deserved to die, and should have been left for the free market to swallow up.
Thus the Darwinistic notions of free-market ideologues show little concern for the well-being of everyday Americans. And even some of those everyday Americans seem to have long forgotten how bad things really got in 2008 when millions of people were thrown out of jobs. The Bush administration had made a royal mess of the country on multiple fronts. With two wars raging and the echo effects of 9/11 still rattling the world with Osama bin Laden at large and Bush admitting that he’d forgotten all about him, America had good reason to feel insecure.
Eight years later the economy has been showing signs of reasonable growth. Eleven million jobs were created during President Obama’s tenure.
Yet unions have still been under attack by conservatives such as Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker, who gutted collective bargaining with public employees in his state. These attempts at reducing labor’s influence and voice have been replicated in other public and private sector industries as well. President Ronald Reagan can be credited with setting the domino effect in motion, a cause that has reduced the earning power and security for millions of middle-class Americans.
Yet the GOP has successfully blamed President Obama for failing to restore middle-class jobs lost to the migration of capital overseas, where manufacturing operations of global companies have shifted in pursuit of cheaper labor.
Republicans preach loyalty to the working populace, and Donald Trump cynically has promised to restore jobs in coal-mining and manufacturing. But look at the real results. His grandstanding effort at the Carrier plant in Indiana is symbolic of the fecklessness of his methods. More than 800 jobs still migrated to Mexico, and Carrier got a $7M tax incentive in the process. If anyone but Donald Trump had “executed” the deal, he would have called them names and castigated them for weak negotiating skills.
Fun times or Fun House?
So the world is in for some real fun times with Donald Trump, who stumbled into victory because the GOP successfully browbeat Hillary Clinton about emails and Benghazi to the point that regular working people could no longer tell truth from fiction, and remained cowering in their homes for fear of being hit with another round of stinking lies disguised as truth. America has been duped into the Fun House that is Donald Trump’s world. Facts don’t matter. Opinion reigns. And lies win the day. It’s a frightening world where no one knows where to turn for sanity.
The GOP is responsible for the insanity. Eight years of solid, considerate and even visionary leadership of President Obama was turned into one long and constant smear campaign accusing him of dividing the country. The GOP leveraged the voice of racism against Obama by accusing the President of being racist himself. This is a classic GOP trick used against candidate John Kerry in Swift Boat debacle. Democrats seem feeble in the face of such turnabout lies. And too many Americans think the Fun House is a nice place to live. It excites them. “Trump says what I think!” they enthuse.
Outside the Fun House
The rest of America just grows numb. And that’s how the GOP likes it. Bullies want people to stand down, show no resistance and to stand up only when told.
The numbness only wore off when Donald Trump arrived with a cold shot of anger and public ingratitude toward the Obama administration and its rescue of the nation from the abyss created by Bush and Company. This message appealed greatly to conservatives who preferred to forget all about the Bush years, the tragic wars of choice that stole and maimed their sons and daughters, and the terror of 9/11 created by negligence or worse yet, calculated ignorance toward the real threat of terror.
These realities were much too hard for conservatives to admit, and for moderates to imagine. Despite all that Obama had done to rescue the economy and restore some sense of consistent national identify and avoid speculative wars, conservatives branded him weak and mocked his intelligence as dithering academic indecision.
In other words, ingratitude became the word of the hour.
Trump milked that ingratitude for all it was worth. His campaign slogan Make America Great Again took ingratitude to the heights of arrogance. He didn’t just imply that Obama was a failure, and accuse Hillary of even less leadership ability, he lied for affect, and knew he’d never be called to account because the cash-hungry press was all too happy to take big advertising dollars in exchange for broadcasting Donald Trump’s ingratitude.
In the face of this ungrateful tsunami of selfish anger and belligerence, Hillary Clinton sought to reason with the American people. But there is no reasoning with people possessed of such selfish, fearful instincts. The rich had been indoctrinated to think that Obama was a failure while the poor were told that Hillary Clinton held no hope or concern for them.
Middle class disaffection
Neither were the middle class left to guess for themselves. To that audience, Trump applied a different tactic. He went out to black audiences bragging that a black President had done little to make their lives better. There was an element of truth to the accusation, but it was Republican prejudice that made it so difficult to gain progress for black folks in America, not Obama’s complacency.
The gains made for the immigrant and LGBT community were dog-whistled to death by Donald Trump. His slogan Make America Great Again was a spurious call to roll back policies tolerant of minority needs. This message resonated with white Americans eager for any leg up in society. Those that lived in small towns or flyover communities abandoned by corporate America thought they saw a glimmer of light in Trumps seeming favoritism toward the originally powerful white community. The KKK ate that message up, and Trump did not deny it. Thus the mood of ingratitude was flipped inside out and preached in speeches that praised the power of politically incorrect speech as a sign of greatness, not shame.
Hillary Clinton branded this trend “deplorable,” and she was absolutely correct about that. The long smear campaign directed toward Obama as a supposed “elitist” was instantly shifted toward Clinton. Trump’s dark directors saw that as an opportunity and turned populist with the message. Thus the ingratitude of the Alt-Right and angry Independents of the nation earned a full voice because the GOP used the “deplorables” remark as propaganda to make it seem as if the Democratic Party was against them all the time.
And that’s how Donald Trump came to be President. His appeal was not to the “forgotten” masses, as the popular narrative goes. Instead, Trump leveraged a basic selfishness, ingratitude and fear born from the cold fact that the last conservative administration had been such a gastric failure that it shit all over the hopes and dreams of everyday Americans.
That’s why Trump succeeded in throwing so much shit around. The ungrateful always appreciate revenge for the transgressions they feel were directed against them. They took great pleasure in seeing the shit created by Bush and company being thrown right in the faces of Obama and Clinton.
Nice people deceived
Even nice people were deceived, and placed their confidence in the seeming likability of Donald Trump, with whom they were familiar from TV, and who seems harmless and happy on the surface, like a magician or a clown on WGN TV.
But Trump is the King of Ingratitude. He’s never happy with anything anyone says about him. Even Time Magazine’s Person of the Year Award was an insult to him, and he complained that he was not named Man of the Year.
So you see, an ungrateful, ultimately selfish America got exactly what it wanted when Donald Trump was elected to office. Only 25% of the American population voted for the man, but with help of the Russians and the FBI, enough voters in electoral states were scared off from voting at the last minute that treasonous ingratitude won the day.
This is the ugliest period in American history, ever. When President Kennedy said the words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” he was not intimating that the nation should be used for selfish purposes. Yet that’s what Donald Trump is about to do, enrich himself at all of our expense. It’s what he does best, and has done it for years. He’s a proven fraud as evidenced by his settlement payout for so-called Trump University. But the ungrateful masses stuck by him because they view him as the Victim of the Press, not the Whore of Babylon that he truly is.
Ingratitude is the New American Way. And welcome to it.