Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Onward Into Darkness

When Donald Trump reversed course and signed the pork-ridden spending bill that Congress sent to him, it was perhaps the strongest signal yet that Trump finally knows it's over for him.

Trump cited needed relief to those devastated by the lockdowns as his reason for signing the bill, which includes throwing hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign governments and their pet programs, including gender studies in Pakistan and water resources in Tibet -- all while Americans are losing their jobs, food banks are being overwhelmed, drug abuse is up, domestic abuse is up, suicides are up.  

Nothing in recent memory laid bare the utter contempt that Congress has for the American people. And Trump signed it.

Yes, he made noise about redlining the parts of the bill he wanted removed, citing his ability to do so under the 1974 Impoundment Control Act. But all that does is potentially freeze the money he doesn't want spent for up to 45 days. In 45 days, Trump will be out of office. The bill has already passed, so all Congress has to do is enact its own version of a pocket veto -- wait 45 days, do nothing, and then Pakistan will get its gender-studies money.

I'll give him credit where it's due, as he pushed for larger relief checks for American citizens hit by the fallout from the ongoing C-19 hysteria. In this effort he was joined by Democrats and populist-leaning Republicans. But Mitch McConnell and other establishment Republicans blocked the way for the larger checks, laughably citing concerns over the deficit when the nation is already trillions of dollars in debt, and the fact that people "undeserving" of the money might get some of their own tax dollars back. By tying passage of the larger checks to demands for an election-fraud commission and a repeal of legal protections for online tech giants, McConnell has essentially poison-pilled the proposal. Democrats won't agree to an election-fraud commission, even if one is sorely needed, and since they love the social-media censorship from Silicon Valley, they'll never agree to a move designed to punish Facebook and their cronies for the politically biased silencing of their users. 

So Trump is left looking as if he did the right thing for the American people, when in reality it cost him nothing and his demands will have no effect. It feels a lot like all his election challenges. While the rampant election fraud was glaringly obvious even to a half-witted child, I think Trump must have always known his efforts wouldn't go anywhere. He continuously fed his followers promises that something big was just around the corner that would remedy the fraud, but the "something big" never materialized. The fact is that the 2016 election was an aberration, and the establishment proved this year that it was determined to go to any and all lengths to make sure it never happened again. In signing the pork-infested spending bill that he vowed not to sign just days earlier, I think Trump is signaling that he finally knows his fight for the presidency is over. 

In reflecting on his presidency, I recently thought back to the days of the United States Football League. Trump bought the New Jersey Generals when the USFL was enjoying moderate success as a new springtime football league. But several of its franchises were struggling financially, and Trump convinced his fellow owners that the solution was to take on the NFL directly by moving the USFL to a fall schedule -- and launching an antitrust suit against the NFL. 

Trump had long wanted to be an NFL owner. He'd already been denied the chance to buy the Buffalo Bills. So if you're rich and you want to force your way into an elite club, what do you do? You sue. Trump didn't really care about bringing down a monopoly in the name of justice and fairness. No, he just wanted to win the suit so he could force a merger with the NFL and finally break into the league.  

Turns out the jury saw through the ruse. The jurors did find the NFL guilty of monopolistic practices on 27 counts. However, they also decided that the USFL's financial problems were a result of its own actions, not the NFL's market supremacy. Thus, the court awarded the USFL legal damages totaling a whopping $1. One dollar. Because antitrust damages were tripled, the league walked away with a grand total of $3. 

When then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle heard the news, he arrived at the courthouse to see Trump receiving his comeuppance:

Trump, already there, was sitting alongside John Mara, the son of New York Giants owner Wellington Mara. When the words "one dollar" emerged from [the judge's] lips, the younger Mara pulled out a $1 bill from his wallet and handed it to the Generals' owner. Trump's sunken expression was worth the price.

Undaunted after bringing a promising football league to an untimely death by using it to fulfill his own ambitions, Trump set up shop in Atlantic City, where his casino dreams also fell flat. 

The point is not that all of Trump's business ventures crash and burn, because not all of them do. The point is that they're always self-serving. And if one of his ventures looks doomed to fail, Trump has a lifelong habit of claiming to put up a hard fight, blaming other people for his own failures, and then moving on to the next venture with nary a thought about the destruction he leaves in his wake. 

So don't feel too sorry for Trump as he fades into the presidential sunset. For him, the presidency was just another personal ambition. Now that things haven't worked out in his favor, he's blamed everyone else and put up half-hearted fights that don't live up to the bluster of his tweets.  

Don't get me wrong. I would have rather seen Trump win the election than Joe Biden. But that's not because I like Trump. I've never liked him. In fact, I voted third party in both 2016 and 2020. 

The thing that so many of his detractors don't understand about Trump is that his movement has never really been about him, but about populist politics. He was popular for exactly the same reason Bernie Sanders was popular -- they both appealed to a working class that had already been gutted long before the virus came along. The people who used to be the backbone of the Democratic Party, the hard-working people of the American heartland that Woody Guthrie once sang about, were sold out and left without a voice when the Democrats first made corporate alliances under Bill Clinton and then jettisoned class politics in favor of woke identity politics. The result has been a desperately flailing underclass of workers characterized as racists and "deplorables" by the same party that used to represent them. When the Dems abandoned them, along came Trump, promising them better times ahead. Whether he was sincere or not, they were happy to have someone finally listening to them and their concerns, and he rode their hopes to a surprise victory in 2016. 

Again, I'll give him credit where it's due: He saved American labor from the disaster the Trans-Pacific Partnership would have wrought, and he hasn't launched a single war during his time in office. 

But on the whole, I think Trump was never fully up to the challenge of being president. He was the wrong person for the job. He could never get out of his own way. He could never articulate a convincing argument. Name-calling your opponents in tweetstorms full of all-caps and exclamation points is not a sufficient argument, let alone one befitting a president. 

In fact, I think another person with a greater gift for reasonableness, thoughtfulness, and articulation could have steered us away from the mess we've ended up with in regard to the virus. Pundits, governors, and mayors alike have made persuasive arguments for why our reaction to the virus has been so disastrous -- why masks don't work, why lockdowns make things worse, why Sweden (and, closer to home, South Dakota) had the right idea all along. 

A lover of liberty and common sense could have made a convincing argument for the horrible slippery slopes we were creating. But because the ruling class was so infected with Trump Derangement Syndrome, it could only act in knee-jerk fashion and oppose any idea that came from Trump's mouth, merely because it came from Trump's mouth. 

Trump questions the efficacy of masks, and the media doubles down on its propaganda telling you to wear them. Trump mentions hydroxychloroquine, and the media instantly demonizes a decades-old generic drug that numerous physicians said they used on their own patients with great success. Most notably, Trump, after catching the virus himself, urges Americans not to fear COVID or let it dominate their lives -- and the media went into full meltdown mode, revealing their hand in the process that they want you to live in fear of a virus with well over a 99% survival rate. 

I think those words from Trump, after he was discharged from Walter Reed following his illness, were the most presidential of his entire administration. If we had heard more inspirational words like that, rather than so much self-aggrandizing rage, who knows how different things could be right now. 

But things are what they are, and Trump has proved himself to be not a great leader. What's important, though, is that the movement he energized won't soon go away. Because, again, this was never about Trump, but about something much bigger. Even now in the halls of Congress we're seeing Republicans take sides -- the establishment hacks who think you're not entitled to a $2,000 check while they sign off on handing over billions of dollars to Pakistani gender studies and every other special interest under the sun, and the populists who believe hard-working Americans deserve a fair shake in these unprecedented times. This is a movement that won't disappear with Trump, and it may just be what unites working-class Democrats and Republicans against the two-party establishment that spits in the faces of the average American without a second thought. 

None of that is to say we have easy times ahead. Joe Biden is likely to make COVID rules far more draconian than they already are, and he represents a party that supports greater online censorship, embraces cancel culture, politicizes language, insists that everyone believe "man" and "woman" are not biological realities but interchangeable feelings, and thinks that the solution to having pushed blacks to the back of the bus is not equal protection under the law but pushing whites to the back of the bus instead. Biden promised us a long, dark winter, and I have no doubt he and his party will deliver in abundance.

I'll be watching the ever-unfolding developments, and I'll be doing what I can to help push against the nightmares to come, mostly for the sake of my daughter. I want her to live in a world where she's free to move about and free to express herself without fear of reprisal. We're rapidly losing that world, and I don't know if it can be saved. 

I'll probably blog less in the year to come. I have only so much time in my day, and I have to prioritize my own work, help my wife with homeschooling our daughter, and attend to my own mental and physical health. It's tiring to have to fight on so many fronts all the time. I'll continue to do what I can, but I fear that 2021 will be far darker than 2020 -- and I'm not convinced there's a whole lot we can do about it. Not with so many things aligned against us, and with so many people obeying and complying with the madness, either out of ignorance or fear.

In short, it feels like a losing battle. I can only hope the world proves me wrong. 

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