We are not going to criticize the new kids in The White House for taking their time to find the right people to help lead the country to health of all kinds: fiscal, emotional, international. Nor are we turning publicly purple at the thought of some of those mentioned as future holders of important domestic and international posts.
We will, however, ask the same question so many did during the primaries and the campaign: we’ve got more than three hundred millions souls in residence in the US of A. Are these men and women the best and the brightest we can marshal to serve?
True enough, most alert citizens would want nothing to do with a political system as down-and-dirty as ours has become. Nor would they want their private lives unearthed and microscopically examined. But surely there are hundreds of pre-approved personalities – advised and consented to, “vetted,” office-holders of old who had been confirmed overwhelmingly by earlier Congresses – who still believe a better world lies ahead. Even if they are not that optimistic, at least they know how to get around in that world, how to maneuver, persuade, lead.
Two realizations for today.
Number One: The Nation voted for change. If possible, from top to bottom. To many of us, the names “floated” as fillers of important offices and cabinet posts are unfamiliar. How could this be otherwise? Change means change, and not every voter knows whence cometh his deliverance…from standard Ivy League haunts or unknown industrial enclaves. The former come with attachments and histories, not always good. The latter come with their own set of baggage, about which we are struggling to learn but seem unable to unblock the dams of public information.
Number Two: The Nation is going to get just about the same set of bureaucratic sweethearts it had before. Congressional incumbents have been returned. “Newbies” too often have already served, profited, retired, and decided to make a comeback. Even The Tea Party, or the various caucuses, are populated by figures already dissected and discarded.
The one big change, of course, is at the top. Here’s a guy who instinctively understood the country’s unrest and anger, played to them, wooed them, promised them everything including Arpege, now standing bug-eyed before the realization that what he wanted he got, and now he may have to make good on those promises.
On the other hand, the same character reneged on nearly every promise offered almost immediately, or at least – and certainly now – walked back the more impossibly decisive actions formulated that acted as bait for the hordes of voters who felt their voices muted or simply ignored. Here’s a guy who knows how to weasel better than almost any office holder who’s come before. He’s a wizard at persuading his troops that what they feel as rain is really sunshine. And of course, vice versa.
The Nation voted. Will it be happy with the results?
Of course, it is far too early to tell.
But the Press, after woeing-is-me-ing for a tender five minutes, has returned to the airwaves and Twitter pages and is busy doing exactly what they did for the past year and a half. Talk among themselves, uncover secrets and lies, build up and then instantly tear down. The Press is as gullible as the voters. If the national mood turns on economic issues, or lack of economic progress, so too does the press’. Having made more money than a network CEO ever dreamed since June of last year, what common sense reason is there for it to grow up and reassume its legitimate watchdog role? It’s easy to go on air with one mea culpa after another, shake one’s head at one’s admitted errors, and then start all over again to sell hugger-muggery. The Press bought what it was selling, and wound up empty-handed. Surely this will continue.
We hear a great many commentators say that so-and-so – Mr. Trump himself, Steve Bannon, Ted Cruz – must not be normalized. That some politicians have crossed a Rubicon and entered a landscape full of prejudice, hate and war. That by acceding to the leadership quote unquote of these men, our American civil liberties are at real risk.
This may be true. Then again, we don’t know. We can’t afford to wait, however, to decide. While we have not yet sent money to the ACLU or to the Southern Poverty Law Center, we do have a responsibility to our families, neighbors, and Americans to come to be alert, to be on a military footing ourselves, so that at the first sign of creeping dysfunction we are ready for combat.
Should even establishment figures like Mitt Romney be seduced into an interview with the President-elect, or in fact show up as cabinet selections, as the press will remind us, it’s more than a matter of optics. We can’t let ourselves fall prey to the temptation to announce, “There, you see? It’s not going to be so bad after all.” That may make many of us feel better. But it does not negate the campaign of fear, need, and anger that preceded the election itself.
We also believe there will come a time, perhaps in a few months, or in a year, when the public, having at last been heard, is going to stop to really think. If better economic times are not forthcoming, if tax reform means underwriting the one percent and no one else, if foreign policy is seen as an arm of the Trump eagerness to make money personally rather than for the benefit of the nation at large, if in fact “the swamp” isn’t drained, the public is likely to stop in its tracks, look around, clench its fists, and scream, “Hey! Wait a Minute!”