Trump: The beneficiary as well as the creator of evil

Sam Smith – Seventeen years ago I wrote An Apology to Younger Americans” in which I noted that, “Even members of Confederacy had the grace to secede from the union; my generation has remained within like a deadly virus, subverting it, shaming it, screwing it, stealing from it, and finally strangling it. It will likely be known as the worst generation – the one that brought the First American Republic down – unmatched in the damage it has done to the Constitution, the environment, and a two century struggle to create a society democratic and decent in its politics, economics, and social concourse.”

In understanding the Trump disaster it is important to realize that he was not only a creator of our troubles but a major beneficiary of them as well. We tend to overrate both the evils and successes of our political leaders when, in fact, they are often the results of actions and events that long preceded them. Trump is no exception.

Here are some examples of things that made someone as awful at Trump possible:

[] In 1981 Ronald Reagan fired 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who were members of the PATCO union. As David Schultz wrote a couple of decades later, “The firing of PATCO employees not only demonstrated a clear resolve by the president to take control of the bureaucracy, but it also sent a clear message to the private sector that unions no longer needed to be feared.” This was only a particularly dramatic example of an anti-union trend that produced a two-third drop in their membership. And one thing not noted about unions as that they are educational institutions for workers. With their decline it became much easier for those like Trump to pretend they were on the side of workers.

[] You can’t have a decent democracy without an educational system that introduces the young to its nature and standards. In recent decades there was been a stunning decline in civics education and a far less informed citizenry has been one of its biggest prices with people like Trump its beneficiary.

[] When I started out as a journalist, only about half of the trade had a college degree. As late as 1976, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that journalism was not a profession. When I started covering Capitol Hill in 1959, I hid the fact that I had gone to Harvard because it would have worked against me. Today Washington journalists are part of what I call the gradocracy – a huge increase in MBAs, lawyers and journalists whose degrees and culture puts them far further apart from ordinary citizens and made it easier for con men like Trump to get into the action.

Back in the 1950s we were turning out 5,000 MBAs a year, by 2005 the figure was 142,000. In 1970 we produced 65,000 Phds, last year the figure was 181,000.  And in 2009 the Washingtonian Magazine estimated there were  80,000 lawyers in DC.alone. The gap between the liberal elite and the people it was trying to reach had grown enormously.

[] As this gradocracy grew in power its amoral basis spread throughout the country and people like Donald Trump became among those to be admired and not criticized. Business school became in charge of our theology.

[] While I call myself a Seventh Day Agnostic I have always appreciated the role of organized religion in teaching and encouraging moral behavior. Obviously this doesn’t apply to all sects but it is significant that while, according to one study, 85% of members of the Silent Generation like myself are religiously affiliated, that figure is only 56% for younger Millennials. Combine the decline in religious involvement with the lack of civics education and you see the Trump gap opening.

[] As America became more urbanized the values of smaller communities was replaced by an increasing emphasis on individual success and contentment. Fewer Americans were part of something that could be called a community and were making it on their own, causing a decline in the value placed on community.

[] [] []

Donald Trump is a terrible human but we need to bear in mind the factors that made it so easy for him to get where he got. He didn’t invent the mindless acceptance of his sort of evil; he just figured out how to take advantage of it.

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