Where Trump came from and where we can go now

Sam Smith – In trying to figure out how someone as absurd as Donald Trump has been so successful, I’ve come up with several answers:

  • The rise of corporatism: Lyndon Johnson, the last truly progressive president, said, “To put it simply, I am a Democrat by conviction. The Democratic Party has more to offer the successive generation of this nation than has the other party.The other party has always been the party of a single interest, This single interest, by which I mean Business, is a legitimate interest, and it is one which has contributed mightily to the growth of the US… But it can be only one of many interests. There its rights and privileges, and its duties, are considered alongside those of the farmer and rancher, the working man and the various rights and aspirations of the different sections of the country.” A few years later, Ronald Reagan would say, “Higher productivity, a larger gross national product, a healthy Dow Jones average–they are our goals and are worthy ones”
  •  The rise of advertising and public relations has diminished the importance of facts, replacing them with lies and hyperbole. This is one of Donald Trump’s favorite priorities.
  • The decline of community. As corporations and cities have gotten larger, the individuals within them have become less members of a community, as in a small town, and more lonely survivors of a society that no longer gives respect except to those with power.
  • The shifting of education to meet the demands of the aforementioned. As American priorities changed, so has education with far greater emphasis on individual success and achievement as opposed to values such a cooperation, community, and social decency. 

In attempting to deal with the Trump crisis, there is little we can do about the first two factors but we still have some control over creating community and improving education. Even cities can have working communities but they must be created from the bottom up. For example, over 40 years ago, DC created advisory neighborhood commissions. As one ANC describes it, “Each ANC functions as an advisor to the DC Council and executive branch, sharing information with residents and providing a connection between the neighborhood and other parts of the District government but also carrying information and perspectives from the neighborhood to members of the legislative and executive branch. Under the law, District agencies in the executive agencies are required to give particular attention – referred to as “great weight” — to the issues and concerns shared through official vote of an ANC about a proposed decision or action that is subject to public notice requirements.”

I was one of the first neighborhood commissioners and I can assure you that Donald Trump would have had to dramatically change his ways to have any influence in our ‘hood. 

Further, finding ways to localize politics starts to undermine power and the role money plays into it. 

The other change that would help would be to reorient our education systems to include not only individual achievement but also teaching things like cooperation, multiculturalism, and social values. Our personal success should be secondary to working well with others and we need schools to help us learn how. 

In short, we’re in an awful situatios, with the first American republic fading fast, but it is not hopeless. As the Ukrainians are teaching us now, the weak and the local can stand up against the power thieves, and – weak as they may be – change things for the better more than we can currently imagine.