Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders & George Armstrong Custer

June 21, 2017

 

People need heroes. If a person does a simple act to help others in danger, we make that person into a hero. We do that even if the risk involved is low. Believing that heroes walk among us makes us feel stronger and safer. Rewarding heroes encourages imitation and strengthens society. Designating heroes is good for us all.

But when it comes to politics, people want superheroes. We want larger-than-life champions who will ride forth and slay dragons. Donald Trump is the superhero of the alt-right. He was elected to drive back immigrants and the liberal elite. Bernie Sanders is becoming the superhero of progressives. Sander will rally moderates to the progressive cause and overthrow the Vulgarians of the right. He talks of extending social programs, including free college tuition and Medicare for all. Had he only been nominated, it is said, he would have handily defeated the demon Trump. The reality is that the U.S. has swung to the right and Trump is just an opportunist grafted onto that movement. Defeating Trump will not win back the Senate or House.

Personally, I feel uneasy with superheroes. Obama was elected to his first term as something of a superhero. He was one of the few Congressmen opposing the stupidity of G. W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and so voters thought he could get us out of war in the Middle East. Of course, he could not. Obama as president shrank from superhero to pretty-good-Joe. When we embrace superheros, we are buying into delusion. Superheros either disappoint like Obama or they deliver, like Hitler. Germans embraced Hitler out of the desperation caused by war reparations and depression following WWI. Hitler promised to make Germany strong again. And he did. For a while.

George Armstrong Custer was another superhero. He was rightly famous for his bravery and daring during the Civil War.  He saw himself and his 7th Cavalry as larger than life. He believed he really was a superhero. But he led all who followed him to their death. In political life, superheroes can inspire millions for a year or two. For the long haul, it is wiser to follow a down-to-earth, practical problem solver, if you can find one. Obama, after he shrank, was OK. The only lasting superheroes in politics are the ones who died before reality set in. If you need to follow a force that is larger than life, go to your church, temple, synagogue, or mosque.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

Mike Smetzer in Colorado - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Mike Smetzer in Colorado – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Great Aunt Ada’s Gifts vs. the Trump Presidency

June 2, 2017

 

Watching the Trump presidency unfold is one amazing performance after another. It is entertaining. It is riveting. It has comedy. It has dramatic suspense. And it is personally frightening. Frightening because Trump’s theater is the real world and all of our lives hang on his lines.

I wish watching the Trump presidency were more like opening presents from a great aunt I’ll call Ada. Ada either sends English regimental ties when I haven’t worn a dress shirt in years. Or creative hand-knit socks that are like nothing I’ve worn since my mod phase in the sixties.

Aunt Ada means well and she loves me. She’s just out of touch with my life. When my aunt sends a useless gift, no one’s life is destroyed, democracy is not undermined, and the very continuance of civilization is not threatened. The only note of suspense is “will it be a tie or socks?”

Aunt Ada does no harm. I toss the tie or socks in a bag for Goodwill. Then I write her a little thank-you note, adding I hope she likes the present I sent, which I suspect is equally useless to her. And we both get back to our separate lives. Sort of like my relationship with Trump when I just saw him for a few moments on The Apprentice as I was clicking through channels on a dull night.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Michael B. Smetzer

Detail from "Sunset" - Acrylic Painting on Wood by Mike Smetzer

Detail from “Sunset” – Acrylic Painting on Wood by Mike Smetzer

President Donald J. Trump & His Diehard Fans

January 22, 2017

When it comes to believing con artists like Donald Trump, I am reminded that Will Rogers said there are three kinds of people. Those that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. And the rest who have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

The Republican Convention Is Over

July 23, 2016

Well, the Republican madhouse convention is finally over. I remember when the Republicans nominated Bob Dole in 1996 and John McCain in 2008. They were both men of proven courage. Dole and McCain also had honesty and integrity. They both tried to come up with reasoned solutions. Donald Trump, by contrast has no integrity and presents no reasoned solutions. Trump makes grand proclamations of what he can do, and expects us to just have confidence that he can deliver. And many people will believe him because he gives them an emotional high by fanning the wildfires of hate, fear and prejudice. Trump targets people Americans can blame for the disappointments in their lives. He energizes their anger and promotes willful ignorance.

His radical supporters carry this attack message further. “The Muslims are to blame!” they shout. “Ban Islam!” “The Mexicans are to blame! Build a wall against them! Deport them!” “Hilary used a private email system! Shoot her!”

People. Trump is not a man with the answers. He’s a confidence man. A huckster selling you a snake oil that will cure all your ills. Do you think he is a self-made man? He went from college directly into his family’s New York real estate business. Do you think he is a brilliant business man? His businesses have repeatedly gone bankrupt. He comes out ahead. It’s the people who trust him who lose their money. Were you impressed by The Art of the Deal? His ghost writer says it is more fiction than fact. People spent their money on Trump University courses because he told them he had chosen the teachers. He didn’t choose any of them.

Now Trump has the chance of a lifetime, the opportunity to use wild claims and bravado to con the American people into making him president. Trump isn’t out to save the country. He is out to promote himself. If Trump were captain of a sinking ship with only one twenty-person lifeboat, he would abandon ship with only himself, two or three close aides, and all his money and luggage. Then after everyone else drowned, he would brag about how brilliantly he managed his escape, and, of course, announce plans to build a new ship.

Trump’s political career has been built by inventing “facts” and manipulating people’s fears and prejudices to con us into voting for him. Slick salesmen like Trump have a term for the people they target. They call them marks.