Let’s take a trip to an imaginary town somewhere in the Midwest. It’s not terribly big — its population remains well below a hundred thousand — but it’s growing and, as such, suffers from the usual pains. There are construction, roadwork, the influx of soulless sports bars around its charming square, and drug abuse and homeless problems. Old-timers are harrumphing about big hotels and tall mixed-use developments springing up in its central business district.
Town leaders are standing on their heads, trying to spur growth (read: jobs) and raise desperately needed operating revenues. The old timers look upon the changes in the town through narrowed eyes.
The town’s got a first-term mayor whose been doing her best to keep up with the changes and bring town services in line with its burgeoning population. Call her Mayor Pam Johnston. A lot of Mayor Johnston’s decisions and actions have been met with resistance. The old-timers don’t want to see their traditionally charming, heretofore small town become a bursting-at-the-seams city. It isn’t easy for Mayor Johnston to balance the needs of the growing populace and the wishes of those who want the town to stay just as it was, say, ten or twenty years ago.
Mayor Johnston, unfortunately, has a public relations problem. She just can’t seem to roll out new projects and initiatives in a way that’s palatable to long-time residents. There are plenty of bitter pills the populace must swallow as the town expands both outward and, in a lot of cases, upward. Mayor Johnston, sadly, doesn’t have a terribly good bedside manner. She likes to say, “Take this pill. Swallow it right now. And don’t complain about the horrible taste. It’s good for you, dammit!”
Patients, by and large, don’t like treated that way by their doctors. Nor citizens by their mayors.
Lots of people in this imaginary town are grumbling. Many are looking for someone who can challenge Mayor Johnston in the next election. The town does have a rising political star. Call him Manny Trawler. He, too, is a first-term office holder. He’s on the town council. He’s bright, young, ambitious, creative. He’s got a reputation for listening to his constituents. Political insiders as well as wags are whispering to each other that Trawler ought to run against Mayor Johnston in the next election.
Let’s say Mayor Johnston catches wind of the whispering. What might her response be? Let’s consider a few of her options, some of which may be smart, some dumb, some downright abhorrent. Here they are:
- Ignore the whispering
- Gear up for a possible primary battle against Manny Trawler, while keeping the effort very quiet
- Work to correct her own weaknesses that have alienated so many people
- Start a whispering campaign of her own, impugning Trawler’s character
- Launch a public education effort to explain to the citizenry how imperative it is for the town to do certain unpopular things
- Lobby local and state party officials to reject any possible run by Trawler, and work extra hard for the reelection of the incumbent
- Decide not to run
See, there are plenty of roads Mayor Johnston may take, especially since it’s a good bet she sees the mayor’s office as but a stepping stone to higher office. Ambition can make a person do things s/he’d never imagined before. Then again, some politicians have the depth of character, the inner strength, to act honestly and fairly even when under assault from a potential challenger.
The coming few months for Mayor Johnston will reveal exactly what kind of person she is.
Let’s imagine, for the moment, that the first thing Mayor Johnston decides to do is make a phone call to Manny Trawler. “Manny,” the mayor asks, “what’s this I hear about you wanting to run for mayor?”
Let’s imagine further that Manny Trawler, despite being a political neophyte, is a quick thinker and possesses good instincts.
“Mayor,” Manny says, “I haven’t started any campaign. I haven’t made any decision. There’s nothing, really, for me to say.”
In our imaginations, we can conclude that Mayor Johnston has committed a blunder. She has revealed to a potential rival, Manny Trawler, that she’s at least thinking about him. Manny Trawler might even come to the conclusion Mayor Johnston is…, well, nervous.
In a street fight, the person who shows fear first is usually the loser.
The imaginary citizens of this imaginary town would hope Mayor Johnston’s phone blunder is the low point of the story.
Chris Hedges, whom I like a lot, but also, on rare occasions, find annoyingly righteous, has written another of his apocalyptic analyses of our holy land’s political prospects. It’s on the site, Common Dreams, and it appeared last month. It’s entitled, “The Coming Collapse.” Hedges again has struck true, this time characterizing both our current president and the people, nearly 63 million of them, who were moved to vote for him.
Trump has tapped into the hatred that huge segments of the American public have for a political and economic system that has betrayed them. He may be inept, degenerate, dishonest and a narcissist, but he adeptly ridicules the system they despise. His cruel and demeaning taunts directed at government agencies, laws and the established elites resonate with people for whom these agencies, laws and elites have become hostile forces. And for many who see no shift in the political landscape to alleviate their suffering, Trump’s cruelty and invective are at least cathartic.
Which leads us to the next entry.
Department Of Unintended Consequences
With just a few weeks to go before his wholly unexpected (technical) victory in the 2016 presidential race, candidate Li’l Duce spoke out against AT&T’s offer to purchase Time-Warner. The companies announced their engagement that October, a putative marriage of telecom titans that would create the globe’s largest communications empire. Hell, AT&T already was the world’s largest telecom, meaning the deal would only make the ultra-rich that much richer.
The future President Gag said this of the proposed merger:
It’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.
Wow. Sounds like something right out of Bernie Sanders’ mouth. In fact, Democratic-Socialist Sanders at the same time said whoever should win the election had better “kill” the deal because, basically, it’d hurt consumers.
Disappointingly — and wholly expectedly — Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton remained tight-lipped about the deal. One of her spokesbeings told a TV interviewer: “There’s still a lot of information that needs to come out before any conclusions should be reached.” In other words, We’re scared to death to say anything.
You want Reason # 62,472 why Li’l Duce was able to swipe the election from H. Clinton? There it is, in B & W.
And, make no mistake, P. Gag is no Democratic-Socialist. But he was savvy enough to know the people of this nation are sick to death of the ultra-rich, the wealth gap, the stagnation of wages, the shrinking of the middle class, and the end of “the American Dream.” The average person is going nowhere and her/his kids have even less reason to be optimistic about the future. As Hedges writes, above, Trump has tapped into the hatred that huge segments of the American public have for a political and economic system that has betrayed them.
The nauseating irony is Donald J. Trump is ultra-rich and benefits immeasurably from the wealth gap, the stagnation of wages, the shrinking of the middle class, and the end of “the American Dream.”
Those realities meant nothing to the people who, as Hedges asserted, see no shift in the political landscape to alleviate their suffering, and for whom Trump’s cruelty and invective are at least cathartic
P. Gag made good on his campaign promise when he directed his Justice Dept. to file suit in federal court against the proposed merger. Yesterday, US District Court Judge Richard Leon threw the Justice Dept.’s lawsuit out, saying, essentially, it was groundless and poorly constructed.
Further proof P. Gag will say anything — even something he disbelieves with all his heart and soul — to connect with the disaffected, the aggrieved, in America. He’s no white knight protecting us against big, mean, powerful corporate monoliths; he just hates the shit out of CNN and would do anything to screw the Time-Warner-owned cable news outlet over, up to and including kill a deal that might pump big money into the operation.
One more thing: Judge Leon doesn’t get a pass here. Buried somewhere in his nearly-book-length decision is the assertion that, golly gee, a big operator like the proposed AT&T/Time-Warner would never, ever, do anything to fleece or harm its customers, or at very least squeeze every possible nickel & dime out of them.
Dang, mang, there aren’t any heroes in this story. There haven’t been any heroes in many stories for the last few years in this country. Hell, in this world.
Yeah, guys like Chris Hedges may occasionally indulge in the apocalyptic but can you blame them?