Trump’s Speech and Systemic Failure

President Donald TrumpI didn’t notice much thoughtful reaction to Trump’s speech last night. There was, of course, Lindsey Graham saying that Trump was very presidential. And there were lots of normal people making reasonable comments. But I didn’t see much analysis. And I think I understand why: there was nothing to analyze.

A good example of this comes from Matthew Yglesias, The Real Crisis Is That Trump Has No Idea What He’s Doing. It ends with, “Repudiation at the polls clearly hasn’t caused Trump to rethink anything about this disastrous approach, so we’re now all just left to hope for the best over the next two years. With luck, at some point, we’ll have a functioning government again.”

Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing. And so he just falls back into repeating his usual talking points. The only difference was that there were several minutes of him demagoguing a couple of stories where immigrants killed Americans. I’m really not sure it will move public opinion — at least after it is widely reported tomorrow that his speech was filled with deception and performed by a squinting man with barely suppressed rage. I’m sure it was a big hit with the base, however.

Beyond Outrage?

But this is what our nation has come to. It’s hard to get outraged by what Trump did last night given that he (with almost complete support from Republicans) does every day. What is there to say that hasn’t been said countless times before? If people support Trump, there really isn’t anything that he could do that would change that.

Well… There was this article in The New York Times, A Florida Town Grapples With a Shutdown After a Hurricane. This town is in the panhandle of Florida — you know: Alabama. So it’s filled with Trump supporters. And this is best summed up by Crystal Minton, a prison secretary, and single mother, “I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this. I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”

It’s a remarkable statement. Were the good things the hurting of the right people? Who are these people who need hurting? They clearly aren’t the ones with real power over her. I assume they are brown people — especially from other countries.

It hardly matters. Her big mistake was to believe that Trump (or any Republican) would ever do what was in her interest. One good thing about Trump is that he’s laid the game bare. He doesn’t speak in subtext. And he doesn’t have any problem screwing over his own voters.

What’s sad is that even if people like Ms Minton do figure out that they’ve been conned, they will continue to vote Republican. They will learn not to vote for Trump (at least for a while) but will continue to vote for Republicans with the same policy.

Our Useless Media

Most of the writing about Trump’s predictable performance last night has been focused on the networks’ choice to air this garbage. As has been widely noted, the networks gave air time for a presidential speech on immigration to Bush in 2006 and Trump in 2019. But they denied it to Obama in 2014. Oh my! I wonder why?!

Most people claim that the networks were “played” by Trump. For example, Media Matters reported, The Networks Got Played. Ten years ago, I would have agreed. Now I don’t think so.

The people at the networks may think of themselves as liberal, but they are exactly the kind of people who benefit from Republican policy. The anchors and executives (the people with power) are all millionaires. They’ve done well by Trump’s tax cut. They may prefer a less-chaotic Republican, but Trump is delivering for them.

Systemic Failure

All of this — Trump, Republicans, the media — come down to systemic problems in this country. We have a president who was “elected” by a minority. We have Republicans throughout the nation in charge because of gerrymandering. The Supreme Court is conservative because norms are no longer followed and our entire system of government apparently depends critically on them. It’s all a mess.

The only good thing I can say is that as the country gets more and more unequal, it will become more and more likely that the people will rise up. But until them, at least half the nation will be looking for a president who will hurt “the right people.”