Featuring essays by Elizabeth George on the future of our country
Toddlers 4 President!
Democratic Convention 2016: How It Might Have Been
On Matters of the Lie, the War, and Judgment
On Getting What We Deserve
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On Getting What We Deserve

I remember reading, years ago, an opinion column written by Carlos Fuentes in the Los Angeles Times. His subject was the Fatwa that had been recently declared against Salman Rushdie upon the publication of The Satanic Verses. Fuentes pointed out that there are two kinds of societies in which it is dangerous to live. The first, he said, is a society in which nothing goes and everything matters. The second, he said, is a society in which everything goes and nothing matters. I have feared for a long time now that we are becoming the second sort of society, the slope we are on now greased by the coming celebration of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for the Presidency.

The blame for this can be placed on…just about everyone. With the medium of television long focused on profits and barely focused at all on what the FCC once demanded of their licensed stations—that they “serve the public interest”—we have seen since last summer that hours and days and weeks have been devoted to the self-promotion of Donald Trump as a qualified candidate for the Presidency. Since Trump’s face on television screens equated to money, nothing was required of him but to declare the country a ruined place brought to its knees by unrestrained and illegal immigration caused by a porous border with Mexico, by allowing Muslims entrance into the country, by trade deals in which other countries gained much and the US gained little, by treaties with NATO countries, by a weakened military, by “Obamacare” and its disastrous consequences. Mexican immigrants were accused of being rapists and drug users, Muslims were called potential terrorists, women were demeaned, journalists were threatened, disabled individuals were mocked, protesters at rallies were punched out by audience members and encouraged to do so by the candidate. And those of us who watched became complicit in sponsoring the candidacy of an individual who wished to represent the party of Abraham Lincoln.

He was allowed to define the narrative of the primary process. He learned early on that insults and lies were an addiction for a populace who didn’t seem to require anything else from him. He went for Jeb Bush first because he knew Jeb Bush represented the biggest threat to him, having been a governor, the son of one President and the brother of another, clearly the choice of the establishment Republicans who have brought the country to its present state from a passion to destroy the Presidency of Barack Obama. In Donald’s eyes, Jeb had to be eliminated and by pooh-poohing him at rallies, in televised “debates” that were no more debates than bear baiting was a dignified sport, he dispatched him with very little trouble. People claimed that Donald was saying what everyone was thinking anyway: Jeb Bush lacked energy, Carly Fiorina was too ugly to be President, Ben Carson was a liar, and on and on. Soon enough, simple monikers began to suffice: lyin’ Ted Cruz and little Marco Rubio stood in place of substantive discourse. Indeed, discourse wasn’t necessary at all. All that was required in addition to insults were a slogan and a list of promises.

Make American Great Again would do for the slogan. No one asked exactly what that meant. No one inquired what it was that was making America less than great. In place of anything that might serve as an example of the nation’s weakness, the candidate made phone calls into morning talk shows—always breathlessly accepted by the producers—and he reduced discussion of problems and policies to 140 characters sent out on Twitter. These, too, became stories on the televised news.
The promises were dazzling to the rally goers, addressing as they did every secret fear and unspoken hatred of a populace that has long sought infotainment in place of knowledge. The candidate promised a wall across the border with Mexico paid for by the Mexican government; the candidate promised an end to Obamacare, swearing that it would be repealed within his first one hundred days in office; the candidate promised heavy tariffs on products from companies that have moved their means of production out of the US; the candidate promised to halt the legal immigration of Muslims into the country; the candidate promised to bar the entrance of Muslim visitors to the country; the candidate promised to deport illegal residents of the US along with their US born children; the candidate promised to bring back the coal industry; the candidate promised to increase spending on the military; the candidate promised to wipe out ISIS. Along with the promises came the suggestions: the use of nuclear weapons against ISIS would not be ruled out; the use of nuclear weapons in Europe would not be ruled out; Japan and South Korea ought to be encouraged to develop their own nuclear arsenal; NATO nations that allow the US to have military bases within their countries should pay for that dubious privilege.

It didn’t seem to matter what he said. His contempt for his voters became so great that, as he put it, he could have shot someone on Fifth Avenue and it would not have cost him a single vote. Indeed, he began to bang on about the polls, his standing in the polls, and what the polls were saying about his candidacy as if this were or could ever be an adequate substitute for knowing how to govern a country of over 300,000,000 people. And along with his standing in the polls came the complaints about the primary process, about the allocation of delegates at the GOP convention, about how the process itself was “stacked” against him, about what his supporters would do inside the convention if things did not go his way. The threat of disunity did not serve him well with the GOP powerbrokers. But the threat of disunity was a heady drink that his followers swallowed as their addiction to him was fed once more.

It all worked. So now the public waits to see what sort of monster will be born from this slouch toward Cleveland. Will it be more of the same? Why would it not be when what has gone before has served the interests of gaining the Presidency so very well?

And here is what you don’t want to read, here is what is going to make you very angry, here is what will make you want to stop reading this very moment although I hope you will not.

In the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders is the Donald, just without the insults and the ugly monikers.

His slogan is forgivable in that every campaign must have its slogans. The plethora promises are less so.

Like Donald’s promises, Bernie’s promises hit his supporters viscerally and they speak to his supporters’ greatest fears:
How will I pay my college debt? Why, public colleges and universities will be free for all. No reference is made to the actual question being asked. Your personal and present college debt? Will the government pay for it, picking up the tab for the years you spent becoming what you wished to become? No mention that I’m aware of has been made of that.

What will be done about the outrageous cost of medical care? It will be covered by the government.

What will be done about Wall Street? Legislation will be passed to control excesses, despite that legislation already being in place.

What will be done about the obscene amount of money spent on elections? Citizens United will be repealed by the Supreme Court.

What will be done about the reliance on fossil fuels? The government will spend money to develop alternative sources of energy.

What will be done about ISIS? The candidate’s first act as President will be to ask Congress to authorize military action in the Middle East. (April 24 in an interview on national television).

Although the candidate has spent over 20 years in the Senate without passing one significant piece of legislation, the answers to our nation’s ills and to people’s fears, are right there within his promises. Aren’t they?

As the primary season has rolled on and as Bernie Sanders’ route to the nomination has narrowed, he has begun to indulge—as perhaps anyone in his position would—in strategies that served Donald Trump well:

Now we hear references to “what the polls say” about his candidacy. Now we hear his accusation that his opponent is not qualified to be President. Now we hear how he has been treated unfairly by the primary process. Now we hear the plan to persuade super delegates to change their support to him either prior to the convention or on the convention floor. Now we hear the subtle threat of what will happen if he does not get the planks he wants onto the democratic platform. Now we get to see what happens when a candidate places himself and his ego above public interest.

I know you don’t like reading this. It is what I’ve believed for many months now but what I have been reluctant to put in writing and send out to people. Bernie is our Donald. He is better spoken (but then, who could fail at that task?) but nearly from the first he has done exactly what Donald has done. He has listed promises that he cannot hope to fulfill and he has undermined the candidacy of his opponent through the endless repetition of a list of accusations against that candidate. In doing so in the interests of ego over ethics, he has placed the nation into the perilous position in which we find ourselves today.

I am sick at heart over all of this: on one side the ascendancy of a demagogue in the person of Donald Trump who wears his psychopathology like a badge of honor and on the other side the self-righteous tearing down of the only person left standing who is remotely qualified to be President of the United States.

Ultimately, I believe that we get what we deserve as a nation. The person for whom we cast our vote makes a statement about who and what we have become.

- Elizabeth George
Whidbey Island
Washington State



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