Surviving the Trump Presidency

On the ninety-ninth day, the president announced that nuclear war on the Korean peninsula was possible.  On the one-hundredth day Trump held a victory rally in Pennsylvania while protestors took to the streets throughout America and much of the world to protest the president’s policies regarding climate change.  On the one hundred and first day the president defended his invitation of Philippines president and butcher Rodrigo Duterte to the White House.

It is fitting that the last days of Trump’s first one hundred highlighted the greatest dangers of his presidency: nuclear war, climate change and his egregious disregard for human rights.  The first two can fairly be characterized as risking the end of the human race as we know it.  The third is a direct threat to the democratic form of government for democracy cannot exist without deep respect for human rights.  What will tomorrow bring?

Trump is right about one thing:  One hundred days is an arbitrary distinction.  It is a small but significant sample.  But like the January barometer for the stock market, it has some measurable value in predicting the future.

After one hundred and one days of a Trump White House, we can draw a number of conclusions:

Donald Trump wanted to win the White House but he did not want to run the government.  Recall that strange report during the campaign that he offered policy, domestic and foreign, to governor John Kasich of Ohio if only Kasich would endorse him and become his running mate.  It seemed too bizarre to be true back then.  It does not seem so now.  The president has turned virtually all policy matters over to his son-in-law Jared Kushner – a man whose inexperience equals that of the president.

If Trump wanted and expected to become president, why didn’t he spend a moment in preparation?  It is clear he knows very little about the complex issues that awaited his arrival in Washington.  He was going to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over a long weekend.  He was going to repeal and replace Obamacare in the blink of an eye – who knew healthcare was so complicated?  He was going to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure.  It would be so easy.  Not today, boss.  He was going to pull out of NAFTA and CAFTA on day one.  Now, he appoints commissions to study the problem.

He’s in over his head and he knows it.  Unfortunately his ego will not allow him to sit on his hands and do nothing.  He must act and there lies the danger.

Donald Trump has no philosophy, no ideology and no grounding principles of government to guide him.  He believes his unpredictable quality serves him well.  Maybe it did in real estate transactions but as commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military, it can result in unnecessary wars that never end.  If all goes perfectly wrong, it can result in nuclear holocaust.

The Trump administration was divided from the beginning.  In the beginning the dark knight Steve Bannon was clearly in charge.  He had his buddies and allies, including the Russian connection – National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – and they had his back.  But when the protestors, the media and the opposition turned up the heat the Russian connection peeled away and Jared Kushner became the president’s closest adviser.  Is there unity in the White House now? Definitely not.  Bannon is still kicking around the halls.  He will not go quietly.  Maybe he holds a few trump cards of his own.

Russia Gate may well die a natural death.  Oh, there was collusion.  Trump’s team met with Putin’s people on numerous occasions.  They shared information.  Trump’s people knew in advance what WikiLeaks would dump in the days and weeks ahead.  They coordinated their campaigns.

Unfortunately, we do not know if Donald Trump was in the circle.  He had no need to know.  His advisors gave him his schedule and told him what to say.  Yes, Donald had his spontaneous moments but the broad strokes of his campaign were given to him.  Bannon was the man who made Trump president.  Not Kushner.  Not Ivanka.  Not Kellyanne.  Bannon.

Tillerson could go down.  Bannon and Sessions should as well.  But Trump will probably escape relatively unscathed.  Should he have known?  Yes.  Did he know?  Maybe not.

The Trump administration is guilty of gross incompetence.  In real estate, you can always walk away from a bad deal.  In government, there is only one congress and only a handful of legislative opportunities.  In politics, you don’t roll out a major legislative initiative like healthcare unless you have a good idea you’ll win.  You can say Speaker of the House Paul Ryan sabotaged Trump.  You can say it was the Freedom Caucus.  Whatever.  Trump stumbled out the gate and got trumped.  Even as the new and improved healthcare bill squeaks by the House, the Senate is poised to strike it down.  The celebration, reminiscent of George W. Bush’s Mission Accomplished, was premature.

In Washington, failure begets failure.  Trump doesn’t get it.  Kushner doesn’t get.  At the moment, Bannon doesn’t care.  This mess belongs to the president.

Donald loves adulation and the only love he gets now is when he drops a bomb.  Nobody loves Donald for releasing toxic chemicals into the air and water.  Nobody loves him for judicial appointees.  Nobody loves him for executive orders that never seem to matter.  But everybody loves him when he drops a bomb.  Will they still love him if he escalates the ongoing wars?  That is an open question.  Americans are tired of war.  Trump promised to stay out of war.  Can he get away with raising the flag and pounding the drums of war?  I don’t think so.  Not this time.  This time it will be as it was for LBJ who dropped out of the presidential race rather than face the antiwar movement.  Trump may hate us – the protestors, the dissidents, the resistance – but he doesn’t want to be the most despised president since Richard Nixon.

The president will keep his campaign promises on climate change and Supreme Court appointments.  The issues are interrelated and together they represent the greatest damage this White House can do short of nuclear war.

Trump loves coal and believes that all environmental concerns are secondary to economic interests.  Left to his own and his Republican allies, they will wait for the rising tide of global warming to swallow Miami before they will yield an inch.  They don’t believe in science.  They don’t believe in renewable energy.  They don’t believe that pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has any significant effect.  They don’t believe that releasing toxic chemicals into the water supply will kill and maim humans and animals alike.  At least they pretend they don’t believe.

They sit in their golden towers, protected from the suffering masses, and go about the business of amassing fortunes.  They will erect monuments to greed and allow the natural wonders of the world to crumble.  They will fracture the earth for natural gas and drill for oil in Monument Valley.  They will build a bridge over Grand Canyon and let the Colorado River run dry.  They will dig up ancient burial grounds and deface sacred lands with hotels, oil pipelines and residential development.  They will destroy the planet and build a rocket to the moon so that they and only they can escape the fallout.


The great hope was and is that Trump could be successfully impeached in less than a year.  That almost certainly will not happen.   As long as the Republicans control both houses of congress they will protect the president from Russia Gate.  It is obvious.  They don’t like Trump.  Many of them don’t believe in his policies.  But he delivered the White House to Republican hands and they will go to great lengths to protect him from disgrace.

But do not believe the resistance doesn’t matter.  It matters more than ever.  The only thing that holds the president and his party back is the resistance.

Even as the prospects of impeachment grow dimmer with every day the investigations in the House and Senate stall and fail to deliver, the cry for impeachment in the streets must be heard.  The politicians may forget; the people cannot.

This president, knowingly or not, was elected by the corrupt influence of an adversarial foreign power and a meddling FBI director whose true motives are not yet known.  If we are not able to take this president down then we must cripple him.  We must make it impossible for him to conduct business as usual.  Politically, we must push forward to the midterm elections.  Without control of the House or the Senate it will be difficult to mitigate the harm.  With control of the House or the Senate, we would control the agenda.

An investigation of the president’s conflict of interests would compel him to release his tax returns.  The investigation of his connections to Russia and Putin’s determined effort to elect Trump would gain momentum.  The heat would bear down on every inhabitant of this White House like the oppressive humidity of a Louisiana summer.  They would hide in their rooms or retire to spend more time with their children.  Their every action would be under a microscope.  The pressure would paralyze.

They will act impulsively.  Trump will fire anyone who even looked at a Russian spy novel.  Even Ivanka and Kushner will step down in the hope they can save their business empire.

And the chips will begin to fall.

This is the hope: that the resistance born in the first 101 days of Trump will remain strong and grow into a movement that gives birth to a new kind of government, the kind of government that many have promised but few have delivered – a government that not only responds to the people but engages and protects the people’s interests.

As anyone who has read the late great Howard Zinn knows, the struggle never ends.  As Neil Young said, rust never sleeps.  The people must remain alert, informed and ready to take action.  The people must stand in constant, unified resistance to the forces that will always seek to exploit them and the natural resources that support us all.

The Trumps succeeded in exploiting our democracy because the institutions that control and dominate our political system have failed in a fundamental way.  The people know by raw instinct that no one in government – from the local council to the state house to the halls of congress and the oval office – represents their interests.

People are not human beings with needs and desire.  They are digits in a database.  They can be manipulated for political gain.

Well, it didn’t work this last time around and I suppose that’s the good news.  The Clinton machine crashed and burned and failed to defeat a crude political neophyte – a con man and pretender who worked his magic tricks on a public ready to believe.

Perhaps the most astounding development of all is that those who formed Trump’s base, who worked for him, voted for him and contributed despite the candidate’s pledge to finance his own campaign, remain loyal to this day.

It would be a mistake to dismiss these people outright.  If they are watching at all they have seen Trump without his mask.  They know he is inept.  They know he changes his positions like a laborer changes shirts.  They know he is not a man of his word.  They stick with him because they have seen no evidence that anyone else has changed.

Politicians of both parties continue to play their games.  Senators weeping like small children over the demise of the filibuster.  Threats and counter-threats over a self-imposed deadline for funding the government.  Calculated responses to launching missiles and dropping bombs in faraway lands.

It’s all theater and the people see through it.

What do we do about all this?  We do what we’ve always done.  We keep working for change – each in his and her own way.  We push our elected leaders for actions and answers.  We vote for people who break the mold.  We contribute what we can when we see the potential for real change.

We can take heart from the recent presidential election in France.  While Marine Le Pen gets most of the publicity, perhaps the more important lesson is that the two parties – Socialist and Republican – that have controlled French politics for half a century lost their grip on the reins of power.

Can it happen here?  Why not?  Of course it is easier to upset the established order in a parliamentary system like France.  Of course it might have been easier before the Supreme Court opened the doors to unlimited corporate financing of elections.  But it is still possible.  The candidacy of Bernie Sanders demonstrated the potential of small individual contributions in a presidential election.  That it has carried over to some degree in congressional elections under the reign of Trump is encouraging.

Congress continues to suffer some the lowest approval marks in history.  Trump’s approval continues to hover at 40% — another historically low mark.  When government is this unpopular in a democracy, the people are begging for change.  The people are so fed up with our officials that in the last election many who voted for Trump were willing to listen and consider the Bernie Sanders alternative.  This is not a philosophical divide.

The issues that Trump and Sanders had in common were their antiwar stands, trade policy and rebuilding the infrastructure.  Those issues should define the next generation of candidates.  That Trump cannot deliver does not mean that the issues will vanish.  His ultimate failure on healthcare – both with congress and with the people – suggests the people want Medicare for all.  That is another issue that can win elections.

Trump and Sanders stood for basic, comprehensive systemic change.  No one currently in power gets it – or if they do, they are unable to advocate a position that does not attract corporate contributions.  If the politicians we have cannot deliver we must find new politicians.  We need independents to take their rightful place in the body politic.

It can happen.  We have to believe it can.  The first goal is to win the Senate in the midterm election.  If we win the Senate, there is a chance we can win the House – even with gerrymandered districts.  If we win the Senate, we can stop Trump’s regressive appointments to the Supreme Court.  We can force him to moderation.  If we win the House, we can enact electoral reforms, prohibit gerrymandering and push the ball forward on Medicare for all, infrastructure spending and fair trade.

If we take the House or the Senate we can weigh this president down with serious investigations armed with subpoena powers.  There are a whole lot of people in the Trump White House – including Trump – who are praying that doesn’t happen.  The resistance must make it so.

The fact that Trump has no philosophy is an opportunity.  He would be open to a Clinton pivot.  Just as Clinton became a champion of conservative causes – trade policy, welfare reform and deregulation of Wall Street – so Trump could become a champion of progressive causes.

Trump doesn’t care who loves him.  He just wants to be loved.  He wants to be led.  He wants someone to take hold of the reins and tell him what to do.

Let’s take that role and run with it.

Jack Random is the author of Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press.)