Our college professor sons were up from San Diego, and, as is our practice, we sat on the back porch drinking and discussing the current state of affairs. After a while, I noticed one word entering the conversation so often that it was beginning to chafe. I stood up and shouted, "Enough! Enough of the T-word. I hereby banish its use!"
It was futile, of course, you can't get away from it now. As the racist Alabama governor, George Wallace, famously said about Southern bigotry, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." Just substitute Trump and you get the picture in the Disunited States today.
It's not just the frequency of the moniker that troubles me. It's the fact that ascribing all present and coming woes to one man misses the point.
See, here's the thing: Donald Trump is not really running this show. He is a narcissistic, ignorant blowhard, who ran for president as a goof. He was as startled as anyone when America's electorate threw a pre-kindergarten tantrum ("This'll show the grownups! Nyah nyah!") and put him in the White House.
When someone ostensibly in charge isn't up to the job, it means that someone else takes over (see: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney).
In the case of Trump, many people are pulling the strings, from the captains of industry—especially the death/weapons and air pollution industries—to every Republican in Congress, most notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
And we—the press, the populace—seem unaware of this. We gape, with near stupefaction, at the orange-haired clown in the center ring, oblivious to the fact that others are controlling his freakishly fascinating and appalling actions. We don't notice that those same manipulators have sent people prowling beneath the bleachers to pick our pockets as we gawk at the ostensible main attraction.
It's long past time that we give them the credit they are due.
Let's begin with McConnell, this era's Dick Cheney and the most powerful man in Washington for the past six years.
McConnell is happy as a pig in slop at what Trump is doing and so are his 51 stooges in the Senate.
Comedian Jon Stewart used to mock McConnell, portraying the chinless Kentuckian as a slow-talking tortoise. But there is nothing amusing about this particular land-dwelling reptile, whose shell conceals a cornucopia of sinister tricks.
This is the man who chose to nullify the American people's right to choose their president when he spent six years derailing the man they said they wanted to lead them, Barack Obama. This is the guy who had such little respect for America's political institutions that he denied the people a Supreme Court Justice for a year because he feared that a jurist chosen by the man who represented the people would be beyond his control.
McConnell won that last battle and eventually got Trump to rubber-stamp his choice for the court, a guy who will join the GOP's other corporatist judges to ensure that money remains the deciding factor in politics until your grandchildren have grandchildren. This court is about to put its seal of approval on gerrymandering that will keep Republicans in power indefinitely. McConnell (not Trump, despite appearances) may get another pick soon as well.
Almost as bad are the 51 other members of the U.S. Senate, who do whatever McConnell tells them to do. They are supposed to represent the citizens of Maine or Wisconsin or Arizona or Georgia. They don't, and if you scrunched all 51 of them together you wouldn't get a single backbone.
One GOP senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, is hinting that he is going to oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that it is too cruel (other GOP senators oppose the bill because it isn't cruel enough). But Heller's coyness comes with fine print: He opposes the bill "in its present form." When the time comes, he will do as Uncle Mitch tells him to do, as have such other "mavericks" such as Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona.
With a Senate divided 52-48, any three Republicans could have given the country a Supreme Court justice 18 months ago and could stop today's Republican efforts to harm the poor and middle-class people in their states who get sick. All they have to do is stand up to McConnell.
The far-right House of Representatives is led by Ryan, who, it turns out, is an Ayn Rand cultist: "government is bad so I'll go to Washington and see if I can destroy it." When the House voted to overturn the Affordable Care Act and deprive millions of Americans of medical care, Ryan gushed that he had been working on limiting health care for 20 years. He was so excited he was drooling.
Like McConnell, Ryan has puppets in the House, some of them from around here, like Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and Devin Nunes in the Central Valley.
Behind these people are America's titans of industry, the corporate hierarchy, who are supposed to look out for their fellow citizens but don't. There are so many foxes in the country's henhouse that the chickens don't stand a chance.
So we have military warlords whispering (flatteringly, to be sure) in Trump's ear that the world needs more weapons, and, presto, a multi-billion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia goes through and the military gleefully explodes what some deranged general called "the mother of all bombs" in the Middle East. These men and women could easily, and may, persuade Trump to use The Bomb.
There are too many others to mention. People in charge of environmental protection who don't believe the environment needs protecting; people in charge of peoples' health who worry only about the health of Big Pharma's bottom line; those in charge of education who disdain public schools.
None of them care whether your grandchildren will have bad lungs from polluted air, or whether you have a job to take care of your family, or whether you can send grandma to get her teeth fixed, or whether your kid misses school because he is sick.
To them, the Constitution and traditions of this country are abstract and out-of-date.
To repeat: It's not Trump who is running the country. It is all these people and organizations who are taking us to ruin, using the pliable and easily manipulated Trump as their front-man.
We need to acknowledge that and somehow hold them accountable, if we hope to change it. Δ