An Ethics Alarms Audit: Who Or What Is At Fault For The Rise Of Donald Trump?

I have intentionally avoided most of the many articles that have used the unsettling rise of Donald Trump as a Presidential contender to attack their favorite targets—talk radio, Republicans, Obama, the Tea Party, the “elites,” the news media, reality TV…it’s a long list. One of the few I did read was this one, by Peggy Noonan. Its main thesis:

“The unprotected came to think they owed the establishment—another word for the protected—nothing, no particular loyalty, no old allegiance. Mr. Trump came from that…What marks this political moment, in Europe and the U.S., is the rise of the unprotected. It is the rise of people who don’t have all that much against those who’ve been given many blessings and seem to believe they have them not because they’re fortunate but because they’re better….This is a terrible feature of our age—that we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens. And a country really can’t continue this way.”

Yup. That’s how populist uprisings always start, and Noonan properly diagnosed this one. Still, it was neither pre-ordained nor necessary that the individual such a movement would unite around had to be such a dangerous, unstable and unworthy one, or that the citizens supporting him would display such complete absence of logic and responsibility.

Reading the debates between Trump supporters and detractors on various websites, I am reminded of the classic “Simpsons” episode where Springfield split into two warring factions, the Mensa group, and the anti-Mensa group. The latter was characterized by angry stupidity, and if a member made a logical and coherent argument against the astute and educated opposition, he would be instantly ejected with the cry, “You’re one of them!”

Herman Kahn, the futurist, used to say that even the best plans, organizations, and systems could be unsettled by “the 2% contingency of bad management or bad luck.” The United States has been very fortunate in its approximately 250 years’ experiment. Bismarck famously said that “There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America,” and at times it has seemed that way. When the nation’s management failed, the U.S. has been astoundingly lucky. When it has been unlucky, brilliant leaders have been on hand to manage the problem. The Trump phenomenon illustrates the fact of existence that luck eventually runs out: so far, bad luck and bad management have joined forces to produce the threat of a Donald Trump presidency.

There are many people, groups and institutions responsible for Trump getting this far, and it is dishonest, incompetent and unfair to blame one without identifying the rest. Each was arguably essential to the chaotic mix, and thus nothing and no one deserves to be cited as “the” cause.

Here, in rough but not definitive particular order, are the main miscreants. I’ve limited myself to eleven, but the list could easily be longer.

1. Donald Trump: Trump’s candidacy itself was reckless and unethical. In 2011 I wrote why, and not one thing has changed in that time, except that in 2011 the other random catalysts that allowed him to thrive this time weren’t in place. Think of the United States political system as an individual with a compromised immunity system. When he was exposed to a disgusting fungus in 2011, he was healthy enough to throw it off, but now the fungus, in a second encounter, has run amok, infecting his brain and heart. Still, it is the same fungus. I wrote of it in 2011:

As the United States faces some of the most difficult challenges in its history, Trump has chosen to use the nation’s process of deciding on its leader for his own ego gratification and self-promotion, without  preparation for the job, deference to fair campaign rhetoric, or acknowledgment of his own fatal flaws as a candidate. Exploiting his status as a media celebrity in a celebrity-besotted culture, as well as the news media’s lack of discipline or principle, he is opportunistically advancing his candidacy on the lack of credible GOP contenders, using tabloid headline tactics. …Ignoring the fact that the statements of high-profile presidential candidates have international consequences, his few policy positions have included reckless and irresponsible answers…Donald Trump is perfectly happy to make a mockery of the presidential nomination and election processes while distorting them too. If he manages to convince enough fools to vote for him, hell, sure…he’d have a blast running for President. If his run peters out, it’s still worth lots of publicity, and increases the value of the Trump “brand.” …[He]is intentionally appealing to the worst in 21st Century American character: fear, celebrity worship, ignorance, and materialism. Meanwhile, every second of attention his candidacy distracts from serious consideration of our nation’s leadership reduces the chances of the public doing its hardest and most important job carefully and competently.

2. Barack Obama: Presidents who abuse power typically cause the electorate pendulum to swing away from strong leadership, and the resulting weak leader reminds everyone that the United States does not do well under a flaccid, incompetent Chief Executive. Nixon begat Carter, who begat Reagan. Obama is as weak as Carter; a more incompetent manager, far more dishonest and divisive, and has had twice as much time to do serious damage to the country. The natural fear, anger and resentment such a poor (and arrogant) performance is bound to create in a large portion of the electorate has also been magnified by non-stop race-baiting from Obama’s party, supporters and the news media, all enabled and tacitly approved by Obama himself. It isn’t infuriating enough that the President can’t do his job and won’t make his appointees and subordinate do theirs—citizens, commentators and political figures who notice  are called racists for doing so. Small wonder, then, that an uncivil boor who ignores basic dignity and will not shy from blunt assessments of political opponents has unusual appeal.

3. Hillary Clinton: The cynical emergence of one of the most unqualified, corrupt and dishonest candidates ever to have a strong chance of winning the White House, through the illogical but typical workings of human nature, made a repulsive candidate like Trump seem far less outrageous than he should have. She is the ultimate insider, and the ultimate ethics corrupter. Her invalid rationale for gaining power is built on a foundation of group identification regardless of proven ability—the formula that elected Obama—nepotism, in that her husband was, by comparison to his two successors, a skilled if disgraced leader (but disgraced in a way that progressive ideology deems acceptable), and cognitive dissonance run amuck: Obama’s reign has so ratcheted up the demonization of conservatives and Republicans that the mere fact of their fervent opposition, for they are uncharacteristically clear-eyed about Hillary Clinton’s deficits as a leader and a human being, makes her more attractive. Faced with the prospect of a compulsive liar and corrupt politician nor only becoming President but dragging the man who single-handedly made blow jobs “not sex” in junior high schools across America, many conservatives found their responsible objections to Trump subsumed by a Satanic bargain that holds that anyone is preferable to the lesser Clinton, and a Republican candidate most offensive to corrupted Clinton supporters may be the best way to defeat her. She has done nothing in her awful campaign to disprove this theory either.

4. Democrats. The party has spent almost eight years not merely opposing but denigrating and vilifying men, gun rights supporters, whites, law enforcement, the military, opponents of President Obama’s policies,  college students, religious objection to abortion and gay marriage, the wealthy and successful, believers in American exceptionalism, and opponents of open borders and benefits for the children of illegal immigrants. It has used the news media, political correctness and indoctrination in schools and campuses to stifle free expression and political speech. Again, this opened the door for a loud-mouthed, intemperate boor like Trump, who appeared to be fighting for basic respect and fairness against a government and a progressive culture that was tending toward totalitarian controls.

5. Illegal immigration advocates. Without the long-running, inexcusable mendacity and mutual abdication of duty by both Republicans and Democrats regarding the U.S.’s  suicidal, expensive, incompetent and unethical suspension of immigration laws and principles resulting in 12 million illegal residents who should not be here but cannot be removed, there would be no Donald Trump candidacy, even if all the other eleven factors were in play. I am tempted to write that if Trump did nothing else but stop the flow of illegals from Mexico and killed the odious “Dream Acts” which make law-breaking by Mexican parents appear to be a noble act of love, it would be worth putting up with all the other horribles a Trump Presidency would visit on our nation and culture. Sadly, it would be a bad bargain. Still, look at this story from the Los Angeles Times over the weekend:

A career smuggler nabbed while guiding four immigrants through the Otay Mountains last year was sentenced Friday to five years in prison.U.S. Border Patrol agents had caught Efrain Delgado Rosales with undocumented immigrants 23 times in less than 17 years, according to the U.S. attorney’s office….Federal prosecutors said agents have apprehended Delgado 24 times since 1999, and in all but one instance, he was found with at least two and up to 46 undocumented immigrants…

And if you have a problem with this, well, you’re just a xenophobic racist, that’s all. This is the refrain from the Obama administration, Democratic “sanctuary cities,” Hispanic-American activists and almost all of the news media. When I think about it, I can just feel my lizard brain trying to take control and make me support the one candidate who unequivocally opposes this conspiracy.

6. The Republican Party.  For purely pragmatic reasons—you know, votes—the Republican Party has avoided open rejection of its dark side, which has become angrier and more active thanks to being poked in the eyes repeatedly by the stick of Obama’s arrogant policies and speeches. Oh, the Democrats have their dark side too—they are called anti-male feminists, militant gays, black racists, pacifists, isolationists, radical environmentalists, United States of America haters, classists, socialists and communists, but somehow the GOP loonies seem uglier, or at least are portrayed that way, since most journalists are progressives and Democratic Party apologists.  They include anti-intellectuals, racists, white supremacists, bigots, misogynists, Christian extremists,  theocrats, out-of-touch seniors who long for the moral standards of the Fifties and a lot of stupid people. They have always been lurking out there, but nobody thought a single candidate would get them all excited at once.

Surprise!

From a competence perspective, the Republican Party chose poorly by assuming that Trump would be a flashy attraction to get the party’s debates ratings and nothing more. Their approach could have “worked,” but because of all the other randomly colliding factors, didn’t. i will point out again, however, that I suggested at the very beginning that the party need to assert its integrity by formally rejecting Trump’s candidacy, as they could then with minimal mess. Now the party has to do it at the convention, if at all.

7. The Republican presidential candidates. It was not inevitable that none of the other candidates would be able to best Trump and emerge from the pack. They all made individual tactical decisions that combined to work to Trump’s advantage. Jeb Bush’s candidacy wasted time, attention and money. Marco Rubio, who had all the apparent ingredients of a successful challenger, proved that he lacked the character, determination, judgment and strength to be President. Chris Christie had the skills and credibility to eviscerate Trump in the debates, but chose to use those skills on Rubio instead. Bush, Trump’s main target initially, looked weak, and made Trump look strong. I pointed out—I would say “maintained,” except that I was rightin September of last year, when Trump was just rising, that a well-executed Joseph Welch-style take-down of Trump ( “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”) was necessary, and indeed mandatory. “If someone doesn’t at least try it, none of these 15 non-Trumps are smart enough to be President,” I wrote.

Yup.

8. The celebrity culture. This has been a progressive cancer on the American mind and in our culture for too long to track, but at some point it began doing irrevocable damage, with Trump being the first sharp pain of a maybe operable brain tumor. Reagan took advantage of it, and the two “rock star” Democratic Presidents, Clinton and Obama. Hillary’s much vaunted run as “the most admired woman” in polls has been entirely based on her celebrity and fame, not on anything she has done. American children grow up idolizing singers, actors and sports stars, and politicians decided that blurring the lines between their occupations and the glamorous ones was in their best interest. Was the Tipping point Tip O’Neil breaking with tradition and doing a commercial for luggage? Was it Bill Clinton playing the sax on Arsenio’s show? Congress calling actresses who played farmers to testify about farmers’ issues? Michelle Obama cavorting like Madonna with Jimmy Fallon? Fox and MSCBC creating a new revolving door between careers in politics and careers as TV show hosts? Was it Arnold? Was it reality TV? Maybe the Democratic smear that Ronald Reagan was “just an actor” (despite the fact that he was an experienced politician and two-term governor of California) backfired on everybody, with Reagan proving that “an actor” could be a successful and transformative leader too.

Whatever it was, today too many Americans see fame as virtue and celebrity as a proof of ability.

9. The liberal news media. You can google this topic and find endless indictments from the right and the left, all with some truths contained. Here are some recent ones from EsquireNew York Times, the Huffington Post, and Salon. Even these don’t properly hold the news media accountable for its complicity in creating the environment that has nourished Trump, in demonizing Obama critics, its biased reporting on illegal immigration (and its dishonest use of “immigration” to blur the vital distinction between the legal and illegal varieties), and other factors I have already noted.

First the news media gave Trump constant coverage and free exposure and publicity for being outrageous (Ratings!), then it used false equivalencies to minimize the substantive distinctions between him and his legitimate GOP opponents (since journalists regard one Republican as bad as another), and finally it was soft on Trump because liberal journalists see going through him as Hillary’s easiest path to power. None of this is ethical journalism, of course, but since 2008, the U.S. news media has become increasingly estranged from basic ethical principles like objectivity, fairness, competence, diligence, and integrity, especially during election cycles.

10. The conservative news media. Fox and especially conservative radio talk show hosts have been fueling resentment and anger against the political establishment in increasingly ugly and excessive terms for years, nurturing Trump’s core without suspecting whom it would rally behind. Sean Hannity regularly gave Trump fawning interviews; Mark Levin conditioned his audience with exactly the same kind of boorish, uncivil, low-brow hateful rhetoric that Trump revels in. Rush Limbaugh, to his undying shame, has chuckled over Trump’s rise upsetting “the drive-by media” and breaking through political correctness barriers, while refusing to condemn his obviously irresponsible and destructive candidacy.

Some of these same demagogues who have accused Barack Obama of trying to destroy the nation are rooting for Trump to destroy the Republican Party and the institution of the Presidency, because the current system didn’t block gay marriage, won’t deport 12 million illegals, and can’t seem to cut the budget. They are not the primary ingredients of the poison Trump cake, but they are the most sickening.

11. The education system. Our schools do not teach values; they do not teach history; they do not graduate students who understand the balance of powers, what a President does, or how to assess a potential leader. Civic and historical literacy aren’t even considered important goals. Donald Trump’s reasoning is almost always a rationalization, almost never a valid assessemnt of right and wrong, and our schools don’t teach critical thinking sufficiently for the average voter to know the difference. We have allowed the public to become too ignorant, lazy and stupid for democracy to function.

 

 

26 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Literature, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

26 responses to “An Ethics Alarms Audit: Who Or What Is At Fault For The Rise Of Donald Trump?

  1. Debra Reitz

    This is the best analysis I’ve read regarding the rise of Trump. Thank you! I read all you columns, this is my first comment.

    • Thank YOU, and welcome—hope to hear from you more. This was unusual, in that I actually thought about the post for more than a week, unlike the more typical, 45 minutes and out post.

      • joed68

        This would take me a solid month to write, but from what I’ve observed, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that you wrote even a piece of this caliber in the usual 45 minutes. You amaze me!

  2. Steve-O-in-NJ

    It’s the best analysis I have read yet, but I’d add on #12. We the people. In the end the power to greet the media with a healthy skepticism, to distinguish celebrity from actual leader and “put not your faith in princes” as the Bible says, to step in and teach the next generation more than the three Rs, to withhold support from the incompetent, and to tell the two major parties “No, you need to do better than this,” rests with each of us. However, the American people, like the late Romans who happily sat down to bread and circuses where the early Romans swore undying loyalty to the Republic and its ideals, have allowed themselves, ourselves, to become lazy, addicted to instant entertainment, and easy absorption of one way or the other as the unquestioned right way to think, and whatever way is opposed as plain evil. A population like that is fertile ground for the other 11 factors you laid out so well.

    • phil

      I would agree with you on that Steve, if it were not for how the Tea Party protesters were treated by the Republican “establishment” (until I have a better way to describe them, I will stick with establishment).

      All across the country, people that just don’t engage in this type of thing, were getting together in public places and holding up signs asking for the Repubs to pay attention to their concerns. What they got in response was some lip service in order to get elections won, but they also got folks like McConnell saying that his people would defeat the Tea Partiers.

      So the polite people in the “angry” wing got ignored. Now the people in the “pissed off” wing of both (and neither) parties are being heard.

      • Steve-O-in-NJ

        The Tea Partiers seem to have been as much the stubborn wing as anything else. I spoke to a GOP congressman who was there in 2010 when the first wave of Tea Partiers were elected. He said that trying to talk to them was like arguing with a three-year-old about bedtime. They knew what they wanted and didn’t care the smallest bit what anyone else’s thoughts on the matter were. It was an all-or-nothing approach, they were not interested if you said they couldn’t have the whole loaf but they could have half. The thought on the more experienced side was that eventually this anger and stubbornness would die down. Then they could do business and perhaps co-opt them into the mainstream of the GOP as TPers made deals in return for chairmanships, etc. When that failed, they then started to beat them into being a permanent junior wing, which it appeared they had accomplished in 2014, after a few TPers embarrassed themselves. Apparently they didn’t fully succeed.

    • That’s interesting: I had a #12, which I called “Democracy.”

  3. Milo gave an interview with Dave Rubin about a week ago and he made a chilling observation about Bernie and Trump supporters, He pointed out that they are in part the product of a rejection of traditional politics, and if say… Hillary won the Democratic nomination, that a fickle Bernie voter, in it more to make the old guard hurt than actually support their candidate, might transfer over to Trump.

    Now this is Milo, keep in mind, he calls Trump “Daddy” and he didn’t even entertain the idea of a Cruz nomination and Trump voters flocking to Bernie… But it did get me thinking.

    He has a point.

    Trump ISN’T a Conservative. Bernie ISN’T a Democrat. Their supporters do not care about party lines. This is a cultural election, not a policy election. And the culture is sick. Trump is turning America into a nation of assholes? Given. Bernie is turning America into a nation of violent assholes. Milo asked Dave: “Which camp do you think is more violent? Who are you most afraid of if they lose? It’s not the Trump supporters blocking highways, and Trump hasn’t won yet.”

    It was a good talk… Let me find it.

  4. Jack said, “We have allowed the public to become too ignorant, lazy and stupid for democracy to function.”

    That sentence sums up the entire post quite nicely; in a small way, it also validates my statement that I think we are likely headed for a Constitutional crisis in my lifetime.

    This post brings to mind a Martin Niemöller quote:

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    Apathy, general laziness, historical ignorance, and absolute stupidity (but mostly apathy) towards government creates an environment where governments are allowed to be bastardized by extremists until the masses get pissed off enough that they’re willing to vote for the devil himself to radically change the very government that’s allowed them to prosper for so many years. Apathy itself or the byproducts of apathy will be the downfall of the United States of America; apathy is a certain path to the destruction of the Constitution and the freedoms we enjoy.

  5. 11 is the root.

    We have a generation of crybabies. They wanted a public university to establish a board of color to address alleged racial discrimination. They claimed that a speech on a bus away from campus created a hostile educational environment.

    They want a strongman who will protect them from being offended, while offending their perceived enemies. Donald Trump is promising to be that strongman.

  6. Patrice

    “11. The education system… We have allowed the public to become too ignorant, lazy and stupid for democracy to function.”

    This should be at the top of the list. In fact, if this were not true, none of the other culprits would have become the problems that they all are.

  7. Chris Marschner

    Great blog Jack. Many excellent responses. It has been my opinion that Trumps rise is nothing more than a rejection of the trends in politics that seem to have finally awakened the many who feel betrayed by the party they willingly supported for years. Trump simply assumed the role as standard bearer because he had not only the financial capacity to do so but also the desire to be the guy that takes charge who also has a thick enough skin to suffer the personal attacks that come with the territory. Long before Trump entered this stage we have long lamented that good people do not run out of fear that the opposition will dredge up some dirt that could be a career killer. The problem I have with Trump is that he slings as much mud as anyone else and so far not much in the way of hard policy prescriptions.

    I cannot get inside his mind to know whether he is doing this to satisfy some narcissistic tendency for dominance. I could say that about just about every politician that seeks to make governance his/her life’s work. The quest for power seems quite strong because it causes otherwise good men and women to desecrate another person’s character just to gain political advantage.

    You listed 11 subgroups that led to Trump’s rise. I need only one. I suggest that we all played a role in his rise from time to time in one degree or another. However, the lion’s share of the blame does fall squarely on the shoulders of those that have or are in the process of seeking dominion over others.

    Michael E’s comment about crybabies in college is slightly off the mark. They cry not to be heard but to gain power over what they consider the opposition (read oppressor). This is merely a tactic that is currently working. As you have commented on many times the college administrators cave for political expediency; facilitating more of the same behavior. Such behavior is further reinforced by many in positions of power who seek more power by balkanizing the populace. These students become the cannon fodder for those who earn a high income as “social justice” advocates. It is a learned behavior and self perpetuating cycle. It is no different than the recruiting and tactical practices of ISIS. The leadership is never the martyr – only the easily impressionable will be willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause.

    Trump is the perceived tool to fend off the attacks on individual liberty from those who wish to impose only one approved way of thinking. I for one do not want to eliminate one approved way of thinking merely for another approved way – the Donald Trump way. I want my way – right or wrong. I want it to be up to me to convince you I am right and up to you to convince me that you are right. I want it to be that we can part amicably and work on other matters if neither prevails in the current debate.

    I just want someone will put the interests of the U.S. first and who will protect and defend the Constitution for everyone’s sake. Will Trump do that? I believe he will only when it serves his interests.

  8. Trade Protectionists. These are people who’ve had a rough time of it over the past decade or so — lost houses, lost jobs, lost dreams — and they’ve decided that the problem is international trade. They may even have a point, because there’s evidence that free trade with China has had a net harmful effect on the American economy — and even trade that produces net benefits can harm subgroups in the economy. So they’ve decided to endorse the candidate that promises to force Americans to buy from other Americans, no matter how unlikely that is to work, or how much it will hurt other Americans, and no matter how much harm would come from a Trump presidency.

    On the Democratic side, trade protectionists support Bernie Sanders, who has the same kinds of policies as Donald Trump when it comes to international trade.

  9. Other Bill

    As they say after the fat lady has sung (I know you hate opera, but still…) “Bravo!” Again, too bad you don’t have a bigger pulpit or a spot on a major network. Just the Bismarck quote is worth the price of admission. Wait, this website doesn’t have a pay wall. Hmmm.

  10. luckyesteeyoreman

    #s 9, 10, and 11: I don’t even call them “media” anymore. Nor do I refer to the system, formerly devised and sustained for learning, as an “education” system, except when I am being sarcastic.

    All three of those perpetrators, or perpetrator-groups or perpetrator segments of society, now fall under what I call the “propcasters” – short for propaganda broadcasters. They are three segments of one might call the propaganda-indoctrination complex (reminiscent of the “military-industrial complex”).

    There are more propcasters, to be sure, like some bloggers and tweeters, and the so-called Non-Government Organizations worldwide – even the Public Affairs departments of the many government organizations. But 9, 10 and 11 envelop a large part of the propaganda-indoctrination complex.

    I’m just grateful that you didn’t single-out the TEA Party this time. [snickering]

  11. Mary Catherine Rendahl

    All 11 of these factors are responsible for the chaos we are now facing. However, even though you did not put them in order, I would list number 11 at the top. Our educational system has failed several decades of children by now, and as young adults they not only have no clue how to think critically, they seem to think that they don’t need to. At this point in our history, I’m not sure we can turn things around. I fear for the life my grandchildren will have to lead.

  12. Greg

    I would give voters more credit than you do for caring about actual policies. Most of the people that I talk to who are voting or thinking of voting for Trump have deep reservations about the man himself, but they are holding their noses because there is no other candidate whose policies are not repugnant to them.

    I think if there were any candidate other than Trump who opposed (1) Democrats’ vilification of men, etc., and the entire range of issues subsumed under the term, “political correctness,” (2) illegal immigration, (3) unfettered free trade and (4) endless foreign wars and military entanglements, that candidate would win in a landslide. On each of these issues, large numbers of Americans, and possibly majorities, are opposed to the status quo, yet there is not a single other candidate in either party who credibly stands on their side on even one of those issues.

    The Democratic candidates are all 100% for political correctness and illegal immigration. The Republican candidates pretend to care about political correctness, but if elected, they will do nothing at all about it; just as Bush did, they will watch passively while the government bureaucracy grinds our faces deeper and deeper into it. They claim to oppose illegal immigration, but their records show that they are lying or at least that they will sell us out for a 1% decrease in the estate tax.

    The Republicans are all 100% for unfettered free trade and endless war. So is Clinton. Sanders expresses some reservations about free trade and endless war, but who can believe him? Obama said the same things and we got more of both.

    I would blame the celebrity culture, the education system, the “dark side” for the people who bizarrely believe that Trump the man is anything but contemptible. But he would have been run out of the race months ago if not for a sick political system with two parties that give voters no choice whatsoever on any of the issues that they care about the most.

  13. _______________________________

    Number of words: 841
    Level of Intelligibility: Well it was written rather quickly but I think the general idea comes through.
    Neologisms: One, possibly more.
    _______________________________

    I was looking for the post on the ‘laughing matter’ of the ‘prophet’ who had his followers bury him in the false belief he would be able to survive it with his faith. There, the King Lear reference came up. And I thought that the King Lear motif – as one expressing deep and terrible division and a ‘storm’ which symbolizes it (social and political psychosis?) – could be restaged in the present in such a way that it shed light on ‘what really is going on in America right now’.

    It is my contention that few seem to understand it, and few seem to have an ‘answer’, and also that when people speak about it, their view of the issue and the problem is tendentious to themselves, is partial and incomplete, and always seems off the mark. No public figure can state the ‘truth’ and broach the topic, because it is the political system that has married itself to lying. I don’t know, it just seems that it functions through lies on many different levels. It is absurd to imagine that a political agent could ‘tell the truth’. It would be self-defeating.

    When people attempt to RX the present, they seem to end up projecting into it a distilled and essentialized versions of their own view of ‘the world’. And there are versions a-plenty! But it is more than that: it is their entire value-structure; deep assumptions about what is ‘right’ (and ‘wrong’) which are there functioning but sub-rationally. I would describe this as ‘metaphysical problem’ and a ‘metaphysical crisis’. It is a crisis occurring at such a profound level that it under-structures – ‘spiritually’ (and ‘invisibly’) – their ideation about the present, about meaning, about everything.

    So, the King Lear motif with his devilish daughters, and the various factions that form as the Kingdom divides, is an apt metaphor and, if I had more knowledge, perhaps the play could be adapted to illustrate our own present.

    Trump then perhaps would be the Duke of Cornwall, and the line “Out, vile jelly! Where is thy lustre now?” would be linked to the idea of destroying the external eye which is called to discern ‘reality’ but which has, in fact, failed its owner. Just as Gloucester says eventually: “I stumbled when I saw” he only comes to ‘see’ when he does not see with his exterior eyes, but with his interior eyes.

    I came across a reference to this book: ‘Closed Chambers: The First Eyewitness Account of the Epic Struggles Inside the Supreme Court by Edward Lazarus.

    (https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/l/lazarus-chambers.html)(Worth the read).

    It seem to point to the division of a kingdom (if you’ll accept the metaphor) and traces the historical roots to the rather obvious: State’s rights, race-issues, and all the profound questions arising out of the American Civil War. It focuses on the ‘Sixties Crisis’ as the center, if you will, of a social storm where many different forces set things in motion which are still roiling and boiling in our present, and which indeed do not seem incapable of (to quote Zoltar) leading to a Constitutional Crisis.

    But the origins of the crisis are sub-Constitutional (this is my view). The crisis is occurring in people within a set of limits imposed or forced by a Constitution which is a social and political arrangement. It seems there is disagreement about what the Constitution means and should mean.

    And if Lazarus is correct, the ‘storm’ is now occurring, and the crisis is upon us (has been upon us for a while). I assume everyone here is quite older than I am and have basically LIVED these events. I am only trying to catch up, trying to understand things very very hard to understand. Also: intensely emotional.

    I don’t know. Trump is an emblem, a symptom, and a manifestation, of something that is not fully conscious. I mean if we were to employ psychological analysis (Freudian or Jungian). But he is also an eruption into the ‘conscious attitude’ of the present a deeper, a hidden, a repressed, but a nonetheless real and alive social sentiment. Everyone says they know what that is: It is the American Nazi isn’t it? This is basically what people (the Good People who oppose him) KNOW to be true.

    Here we see ‘demonization’ as it makes itself a viable method of analysis. It really seems to work like this and on all sides: the projection of evil onto the Opposition. If this is so it really does bode strangely indeed for the Republic. This demonization is operative on both sides.

    Trump seems to me a distorted presence – like a complex or archetypal dream-figure according to Jungian analysis – that cannot merely be repressed and pushed back down. He will not go back down. In psychology what you repress has to come out, and will come out, but in some other way. No, Trump has to be looked at, he has to be ‘interrogated’ as you would a dream-figure, and in this sense you have to find out what is there ‘behind’ him.

    He is NOT random or accidental. The Shadow has to be incorporated into the conscious personality, and the Shadow also has many gifts to bring to the conscious attitude (when it is ‘appropriately dealt with’). (That is a bit of Jungianism-in-operation but it seems to be true).

  14. Here is the correct link to Lazarus’ book review (of his own book): https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/l/lazarus-chambers.html

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