We the People Live
Once again Star Trek has proven itself as an accurate predictor of our present. Nearly 50 years ago an episode of the original Star Trek series predicted the meltdown we just witnessed in the abortive effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. By perhaps no coincidence whatsoever, the very day that the effort went down in flames the episode was shown on TV. May the Force be with us.
Last August, before the presidential election, I wrote a post Empire State Presidential Elections (1944-2016): A Day in Infamy. The post reviewed the State of New York’s history and the presidency. New Yorkers had become president. New Yorkers had run for president and lost. New Yorkers had run for a party nomination and lost. And New Yorkers had dithered over whether or not to run. All in all, from the time New York became the Empire State with the completion of the Erie Canal into the 20th century, New York has played a prominent role in the story of the American presidency.
Typically these New Yorkers were governors. Typically the people who took the leap into national politics at the highest level had honed their skills and made a name for themselves through being the governor of the Empire State. They had executive political experience. They had participated in the making of the sausage. They had engaged in the horse trading. So when they made the leap to the next level they were ready or as ready as one could be without having been a successful general. The epitome of this preparation occurred in the 1944 election when the candidates of both major parties had New York State gubernatorial experience.
The tradition died in 2016. Once again there were two New Yorkers running for national office. Since the loser of the race is not the issue here, I will refrain from any comments about her. As for the winning candidate, here is what I wrote in August months before his victory:
Our two Empire State presidential candidates are not identical. Since everything you need to know you can learn from Star Trek, it is appropriate to turn there for insight. In the episode, The Children Shall Lead, the children on an outpost are rendered orphans but display no trauma over the horror of losing their parents. The cause is a beast called “Angel” by them and named Gorgan. The richly costumed sleekly haired human looking monster is skilled in exploiting their pain to service his gain. He dominates them and in the ways of science fiction takes control of the Starship Enterprise.
Not to worry. Kirk’s dedication to the spirit of Star Trek prevails. His hero and role model is, after all, Abraham Lincoln. He takes back his ship. He takes back his crew. He returns the Enterprise to its rightful path. He defeats the monstrosity that has temporarily commandeered them. In the final showdown between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, Kirk calls on the deceived children to see the ugliness of the monster who led them astray. He tells them:
Without you children he’s nothing.
The evil remains within him.
Look how ugly he really is.
Look at him and don=t be afraid.
With each phrase, the children see more and more of the truth and the image of the monster becomes uglier and uglier. In the end, Gorgan is revealed as the grotesque monster he always was underneath his superficial exterior. As befitting his debased nature, when exposed for the disgusting ugly incarnation of evil that he is, his parting words to his former admirers who now spurn him are:
Death to you all!
Death to you all!
Death to you all!
Perhaps the first person on the international scene to see the truth of our President was the Russian leader. It is easy to understand why our immature child President would want Macho-Macho Man to be his BFF but how long could he deceive the Russian strongman? During the presidential election, a question about the nuclear triad had stumped the future President. In a phone call between Macho-Macho Man and the immature child president, the Russian raised the issue of START, he wanted to negotiate the terms for a possible extension of the strategic arms treaty. Naturally, he was unable to do so since he was conversing with a person as ignorant then as he had been earlier. Instead Macho-Macho Man witnessed a blithering idiot babble about how America is a loser in all treaties. This was the moment of truth. This was the moment of revelation. This was the moment of eyes being opened. Our immature child President may still be of use to Macho-Macho Man, but not as an adult leader.
For Republicans in Congress, the moment of truth occurred during the horse-trading in the vain effort to resuscitate the doomed Trumpcare bill. This was a time of governing not campaigning. All the slogans from the professional political wrestling arena, all the hissy-fit tweets in the wee hours of the morning, all the simpleminded solutions were no longer sufficient. What worked on the campaign trail where one speaks in “poetry” proved useless when the need arose to govern in “prose.” The Republican representatives observed first-hand, up close and personal that the immature child president had nothing to offer. He had no vision. He had no ideas. He had no skill in negotiating. He had no ability to make a deal. He was useless. Sad.
This experience calls to mind the analysis of Jonathan Rauch in an article entitled “Amateur Hour” (The Atlantic, November 2015), from a year before the election. He wrote that Americans did not want as president “people who had zero elective experience.” He opined that a real break with the existing pattern would be the election of someone with no political experience at all. He noted Obama’s very limited political experience and that of the candidates only Ted Cruz could “match Obama’s exalted standard of unpreparedness.” Rauch expected amateurs to self-destruct.
That being said, Rauch recognized that this time around, the situation was different. He wrote:
That said, there has never been a tantrum quite like the one that ensued when a pompadoured, potty-mouthed billionaire shot to the top of Republican polls without being a Republican in any meaningful sense, and without possessing political experience in any sense at all, and without saying anything coherent or even intelligible, and without having any chance of winning the presidency.
With hindsight, we can easily observe the shortcoming of his analysis. Rauch was exactly right in his description of our immature child President and exactly wrong about what Americans wanted, especially given the shortcomings of his second-tier opponent foolishly extolled as the best prepared candidate ever. The American people did not yet see the truth.
Rauch continued with a ringing declaration that “the Donald is not, in fact, going to be president of the United States.” I recall reading one smugly silly Electoral College forecast just before the election where the learned voice-of-reason columnist sought to calm concerned people by confidently asserting there would be another Democratic victory comparable to the two triumphs of Obama. The blue states were a lock, many of the battleground states would be won, and some red states might even flip blue. The well-educated can be ignoramuses too. I confess that I too anticipated a meltdown which has yet to occur.
Rauch concluded his article with the claim that:
amateurism is a much better qualification for The Apprentice than for high political office. Being [a] fresh [candidate] is one thing. Half-baked is another.
Rauch’s prognostications for the election proved false but his depiction of our immature child president is spot on. In another article in the same issue of The Atlantic, Adam Goodheart writing about the Salem Witch Trials, offered this unexpectedly sage insight into the presidency today:
Almost anyone who has ever been 11 years old still knows how it feels to dwell in a world where…whole empires of fantasy are built amid the geography of the everyday…and where the ultimate prize is getting a crowded roomful of adults to pay attention. A preteen has little sense of the consequences for herself, much less for another person, let alone an entire village or province. What she does have, though, is an acute appreciation of the struggle for power―and, quite often, a well-honed skill at manipulating those who hold authority.
When our immature child president was an unruly disruptive 13-year old class smart-aleck-dumb-aleck, he was sent to military school in the vain hope that he would grow up. We live with the consequence of that failure. He remains skilled in manipulating We the People who hold authority. Not a majority of We the People, not a plurality of We the People, not even as many as Mitt Romney won after running the worst presidential campaign ever (how would he even know that?), but enough in the right places to win.
The question for the American people is at what point will We the People learn what Macho-Macho Man and the Republication representatives have seen for ourselves? At what point will the American people realize that Trumpcare targeted us for Worsecare? At what point will the American people realize that the Trump budget targets us for God-Awful Government? At what point will the American people realize that we have been flimflammed, conned, hustled, and slicked by an immature child whose dual goals are to be the center of attention and make rich people richer? Has the moment of seeing the ugliness of the Gorgan finally arrived? Probably not; after all, there is no Kirk to offer an alternative and no Lincoln either.
Image from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065234/mediaviewer/rm3937245440