Donald Trump and America’s Decline

W.J. Astore

Donald Trump, as Tom Engelhardt reminds us today at TomDispatch.com, was a declinist candidate for the presidency.  He saw America in decline, in peril, and said so.  He deplored America’s trade policies, its immigration policies, its position in the world.  He was a unique blend of pessimism, realism, and optimism — but, as recent events have shown, it has all ended in opportunism for Trump. And that opportunism — combined with his ego-driven need for adulation — is only exacerbating the very real decline of America.

As a candidate, Trump was rightly pessimistic about America and its wars, outspokenly realistic about our “third-world” infrastructure, and cagily optimistic that America could be great “again.” But if his first five months as president have shown anything, it’s that his approach to governance is in the service of his own brand and interests.  His motto: What’s good for Trump is good for America.  And that motto defines as well as restricts his vision.

As a candidate, Trump had valid insights into some of the aspects of American decline.  If only he would act on these insights!  If only he’d get us out of debilitating forever wars; if only he’d invest a trillion dollars in U.S. infrastructure; if only he’d commit truly to helping the working classes with better jobs (support for higher wages and health care for all would be a start).  Yet Trump, who talked of draining the swamp of Washington, has only become the latest and scariest creature of that swamp.

Despite all his failings, Trump has managed to secure a base of support that is resilient (so far).  Why is this?  As undisciplined as Trump can be and often is (all those damaging tweets!), there’s a reality to him. He may be boorish, bullying, boastful, and belligerent, but he’s real in the sense that he’s not trying to hide his flaws (because he sees them as strengths).

Contrast Trump with the Democratic establishment.  Yes, Bernie Sanders is real; he resonated (and resonates still) with America.  But the Democratic Party?  It’s still caught in the past, re-fighting the election of 2016, re-fighting the Cold War with Russia, re-fighting its old dispute between its “activists” and its “pragmatists.”  It appears the pragmatists are still winning, despite the fact that its posing pragmatist of progressivism (yes, it’s an oxymoron), Hillary Clinton, crashed and burned so spectacularly last November.

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“It says so on his hat.”

But to return to Tom Engelhardt’s article.  The grim irony of Trump is that the man who campaigned on the slogan “MAGA: Make America Great Again,” is doing his best as president to lead America deeper into a ditch.

In a different context, the Gospel speaks of a day when the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  Trump, posing as an American Firster, may well lead Americans to a new and shocking position as Lasters.

4 thoughts on “Donald Trump and America’s Decline

  1. Truth In Disclosure: I didn’t vote because my overseas paper ballot was late. I might have voted Trump: NEVER a Clinton! (Stein?)
    Anyway, I KNOW my vote for Sanders was stolen from me-I still claim “‘Democrats Abroad’ owes me train fare”. I quit!
    You make a VERY valid point Democrat Party in total disarray. Yet so are Republicans: ‘Aunt’ Lindsey & cohort John McCain can’t understand America destroyed 2 superpowers of production in WWII; Europe & Japan. Pink Cadillacs & asbestos covered suburban homes don’t last for ever.
    Let’s hope Trump is “so bad it’s good” – I forget whose line. His atrocious appointments? I’m All for impeachment!

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  2. You may want to replace your peaceful looking beach rocks, with an “Amber Alert” for America.

    I read recently an analysis on American politics and it’s direction. The analysis mentioned that after Bush Younger the country was politically looking forward to change. The result was the semi-outsider Obama defeated the establishment insider Hillary Clinton in 2008. Obama did not outright win the primaries, it took the Super Delegates to put him over the top. The author said the Democrats at least were looking for Hope and Change. Obama went to victory over McCain and Romney. Obama had coat tails at least in 2008.

    The analysis brought up the rise of the “Tea Party” as further evidence that Americans wanted a change.

    It seems rather evident Main Street Americans suspected and then realized their standard of living was stagnant or falling, but Wall Street was bailed out. Trump did understand and capitalized as you mentioned this American decline. Trump swept the establishment Republicans away. Sanders caused the Democratic Party a major case of heartburn. The Super Delegates again decided the issue. Trump, the ultimate outsider in the sense of politics won the presidential race.

    The Democratic establishment is now obsessed with all things Trump and still making excuses up to explain Clinton’s loss.

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  3. What is it that drives America? Vested interests. Trump is bored with policy either foreign or domestic. He is the embodiment of vested interest with all of his real estate wheeling and dealing. That’s what consumes the man, so any policy he oversees is either taken from “advisors” or the result of letting the deep state run things. He is the reluctant president and most likely would have stayed in Trump tower, framed by the ornamentation of excess he loves, if he had his druthers.

    This is why nobody should hope for any change from the guy. I doubt he feels strongly about any of the things he is said to be behind. What lights his fire is gilding his residences, being the dominant guy in every room and pulling off deals that enhance his wealth. I’m an atheist, but I have no doubt Jesus had the Trump-like in mind when drew the analogy of the camel passing through the eye of a needle.

    Nothing can be expected of Trump because on all the issues that tower in importance he is a bemused drifter, if not irritated by the bother. No one better could occupy the White House from the standpoint of the lobbies in our Democracy of Lobbies.

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