Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Trumpian's New Clothes

MSNBC weekend host and Daily Beast writer Joy-Ann Reid warns us that in under three weeks, our media has already normalized Trump's openly unconstitutional kleptocracy as the way America has always been.

With Donald Trump about to ascend to the White House, the media risk being tamed by their devotion to access and the belligerencies of the notoriously vengeful resident of Trump Tower and his right-wing wrecking crew of a team. We face a singular test, both as a profession and as a country: will we allow ourselves to see what we see, or will we mentally drape the naked emperor in our midst?

Trump is beset by clear and alarming conflicts between his international business concerns and the national interest. In just the two weeks since the voters delivered him a narrow Electoral College victory, he has openly met with his Indian business partners; put his daughter on the phone with foreign leaders; dangled an unavailable ambassadorship to his UK political doppelganger Nigel Farage and simultaneously pushed Farage to help kill a wind farm project that would mar his Scottish golf course view. His leased D.C. hotel inside the old Post Office has become a prime destination for those seeking a way to curry favor with the incoming president by sliding their credit cards and at checkout time.

Real questions are being raised about possible violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, and there’s more to come. Trump is battling Washington D.C. over taxes owed by the hotel, which he leases from the same federal government he will soon lead. The LPGA will in months host a golf tournament on a course branded with the president’s name. Trump remains the subject of numerous lawsuits, ongoing questions about his self-dealing “charity,” and an alleged IRS audit (he will soon appoint the head of the agency). He only recently (and allegedly) divested himself of a substantial investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline that he will soon have a hand in resolving through his command of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And there are lingering questions as to whether he sexually harassed or assaulted women, and perhaps more to the point: how many.

And these are just a handful of the personal and legal quagmires he faces.

Add to that the alarming consensus of experts regarding extensive Russian interference in the U.S. election through the pumping of fake news and propaganda into the country’s digital bloodstream, and the unprecedented intervention of the FBI within two weeks of the voting, and serious questions of basic legitimacy shroud the incoming president, who lost the popular vote by more than 2 million votes and counting.

And despite Jill Stein’s self-promotional foray into machine-rigging conspiracy theories, which happen to distract from real questions about voter disenfranchisement and suppression, Trump is likely to survive the three-state recount challenges. The Electoral College is unlikely to take the advice of legal scholars who have called on them to choose the person who got millions more votes to be the president.

Trump will, barring circumstances that are at this stage unforeseeable, be sworn in as the country’s 45th president on January 20.

The worst case scenario for the next four years is daunting: a country sinking into kleptocracy, with its natural resources, parks and lands carved up and sold off by Trump and his billionaire cabinet to the highest bidder with fat tax credits to boot; Medicare and other beloved social safety net programs dismantled along with Obamacare and its protections for 20 million people; a Justice Department sowing fear rather than confidence in communities of color; terrified immigrants and Muslims relying on Democratic mayors as their only shield; and an international community left horrified by an America that seems to have lost both its soul and its mind.

If that’s what’s coming, beware of the fictions that are sure to come with it; little lies that salve your discontent, but that obscure the realities that become more and more unpopular to speak of.

And of course, the worst case is actually far more awful and something I expect almost as a matter of foregone conclusion at this point: a brutal "regime change" quagmire war with Iran, an EU pushed to the point of financial and social collapse as right-wing nationalism shatters the continent and Turkey completes the transition to dictatorship, and a Russia ascendant with military might across the former Soviet republics, China rampant in the Pacific, Brazil, Japan, and Australia in a lost decade and America leaderless and rudderless.  And that's before we get to Israel and ISIS and Syria.

Strap in kids.  The next four years are most likely the beginning of the most turbulent era in international politics in decades.

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