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Not much is left of populist Trump

Jennie Young • Feb 18, 2018 at 8:00 AM

It’s a privilege to write for Community Voices where my underdog liberal perspective gets a chance. Occasional letters to the Forum was easy, but participation in a regular column with a picture (which I tried to bargain away) was daunting. Especially writing for a column that’d been dominated by attacks on liberals and President Obama. But really, why bother with mostly non-verifiable argument if it’s already a locally prevailing view, echoing Fox News?

Or, what’s the use of repetitive argument about Obama’s “socialist agenda” already having us barreling down the path to ruin, in the way of Greece? I found that irksome because anyone who’d studied the matter understood how Greece was a sitting duck when the global financial whammy hit, simply from chronic shortsighted governance and a population notorious for not paying taxes. And wasn’t it our own short-sighted, out-of-control financial sector that decked us and most of the world?

I try to write respectfully, in appreciation for the thousands in this university city who’ve done enough homework to give my work serious and honest appraisal, whether they agree or not. I’m grateful reader feedback hasn’t been at all one-sided, as I may have half expected, since I do write disparagingly of Donald Trump‘s character and performance. Maybe that’s because I’m in good company over-all, as that happens to be increasingly the opinion of the American public.

No modern presidency has ever begun with such a low approval rating and ended its first year even worse, even with some fairly positive economic numbers. What disappoints me about the negative feedback is when few of the writers direct their language toward factually debunking the content, choosing to follow Trump’s model by pivoting and misdirecting the subject to President Obama and the Clintons’ perceived failings. A recent contributor to the Forum felt “duped” because my theme didn’t develop along the trajectory he’d anticipated. Another gushed categorically that “(Trump) has done more good in one year than Obama did in eight.” Oh, my.

Another reader took the time to forward a link, suggesting that I comment after my last article which focused on Trump’s Asia tour, his troubling support of the Philippine’s murdering strongman Duterte, and his connection to money laundering through the Trump Ocean Front Resort in Panama. Oddly, it led to Alex Jones’s INFOWARS for an article titled “Socialism in Venezuela.” It attributed Venezuela’s current desperate economic distress directly to Hugo Chavez’s efforts to “redistribute wealth.” OK, I’ll comment, with the understanding, please, that my few sentences might call for a little backgrounding on your part.

Chavez first ran for president as a populist with language surprisingly similar to the populist campaign of Donald Trump. (The difference is that Trump had to first create a fake vision of an America on the skids with himself as our only possible salvation.) At the time, the Venezuelan government coffers were flush with cash from record high petroleum exports, while poverty rates stood at 50 percent. The effect of Chavez’s investment in poor communities caused a dramatic drop in poverty level, down to 20 percent. His commitment to local autonomy inspired ordinary people to develop and oversee their own community improvements.

We can’t know long-term effects of Chavez’s reforms, but we can know Venezuela’s current plight was caused by trusting in seemingly inexhaustible oil reserves. Venezuela had foolishly nurtured overconfidence in its one-industry economy, like, say, West Virginia with coal. The precipitous fall in global oil prices and rapid depletion of government monies created widespread desperation. We can’t know for sure what manner of autocratic kleptocracy would have been shaped had he lived, but his successor has certainly gone that route. That‘s going to happen in desperate times when the powerful and their cronies, regardless of their politics, won’t resist grabbing the largest share.

Our Trump has been a sham populist. He promised to drain the swamp, repeal Obamacare and replace it with universal healthcare, maybe like Canada’s. (Until someone told him that could be complicated. Who knew?) He’d be our working-class champion and knew well how to end decades-long exploitation by the wealthy and big corporations. He promised lower- and middle-class and small-business tax cuts, with filing so simple as to fit on a card, and not to be shared by wealthy vultures. He promised to rescind NAFTA and impose stiff tariffs on corporations who relocated outside the U.S. Not to mention disappearing our country’s debt.

Instead, he has so far embraced the swamp and ceded responsibility to establishment heavyweights Ryan and McConnell. His flouting of traditions and norms undermines hard-earned progress on environmental and social justice, and is rapidly destroying America’s global standing. He just signed an unpopular tax bill, which sets us up for an additional 1.5 trillion of debt, and permanently gives 80 percent of the benefits to the wealthy and corporations. Small temporary cuts for everyone else, with 13 million likely to lose health insurance, and premiums going up. He vehemently swears he’ll reap no benefits himself, by the way.

Nothing much is left of populist Trump, but his impulsive and retrograde trademark xenophobia. Somewhat less of his base continues to defend him while the Republican establishment endures him, because he’s so “useful.”

Jennie Young of Elizabethton is a retired language arts teacher.




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