Sunday, April 30, 2017

Howard Fineman: Trump's first 100 days

As regular readers know, I often quote from the thoughtful political analyses written by journalist Howard Fineman, political analyst for Huffington Post and NBC.

He began a discussion of Trump's 100 days by quoting Trump's close friend, newpaper publisher Christopher Ruddy, who told Fineman that the key lesson Trump has learned in these 100 days is that there is a Congress -- and that he does not run it.

Ruddy added that this was a revelation to Trump.  Fineman added that it was a revelation to others, too -- meaning Democrats in Congress, who have realized that they do have power, even in their minority status.

Fineman acknowledged, then quickly moved past, Trump's "long list of misdeeds" to focus on more general themes.

"In politics, he has coarsened discourse and made meaning meaningless. . . .  But he is the ultimate wind-tunnel test for the bulky, complex aircraft we call the United States.  Will the bolts hold?   Will the thing stay aloft?

"In a sense, there are signs that Trump's multiple challenges to our centuries-old constitutional system -- and to our society as whole -- are having a positive effect.  People now know what's at stake and that law and society itself must not be easily Trumped.

"Start with the courts. . . . Trump . . . will have a chance to stack our judicial system with justices who distrust Washington power.   But in the meantime, federal judges everywhere from Hawaii to D.C. are asserting the judiciary's role as a co-equal branch."

Fineman gives as examples the judicial blocking of Trump's anti-Muslim immigration bans, as well as their block of AG Sessions' threat to punish "sanctuary cities."  He then reminds us that Trump's election shows us how important it is to vote:   we choose the president who will appoint all those federal judges.   He also chides the media for its "inexcusable campaign slumber," the results of which should be the needed wake-up call for a return to "old school journalism . . . . in the face of Orwellian leadership."

Fineman continues:  "For too long, Democrats relied on the theory that shifting demographics and the cultural changes that come with them would vault them into power. . . .  But Trump has shown that demographics is not necessarily political destiny.  Now that he is in power, he will do everything he can to keep the two apart.

"Trump is forcing the Democrats to rethink everything.   There is no going back to the "big government" programmatic thinking of the New Deal.   There is no future in the 'Wall Street + worker' theory of the Clintons and the Obamas.  So where to?

"Trump actually provides the starting place.   His definition of America is simply too narrow, too negative, too fearful, too xenophobic, too based on mere money as the only social good in America.

"That is not what this country is, or [not] primarily what it is.  The Democrats need to define anew what it is to be an American, and build an American society according to what President Abraham Lincoln called the "better angels of our nature."

"And they'll need to propose a "sharing economy" in a national sense. . . .  [They] will have to offer a coherent, upbeat alternative to Trump's vision of America, deploying better salesmanship in the process.

"Trump is the man America's founders feared:  a demagogue who mixes elements of both the monarchy and the mob.  If we can't survive him, we don't deserve what our predecessors gave us."

"But we can, and we do."

Thank you, Howard Fineman, for this inspiring message on this 100th day of disorientation and dismay.   Chris Hayes (MSNBC) was in line with this thinking when he said, on Friday night in conversation with Michael Moore:  "The biggest story of the first 100 days is not about Donald Trump.   It's about the resistance, the mobilization of the civil society in opposition."   He meant the marches, the protest rallies, the petitions, the calls to congressional offices -- becoming active citizens.


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