These days I often fear for my country, our country, a country that is suffering attacks by its own president and his gang of adulating authoritarian a$$ ki$$ers. So, I was looking for something uplifting, or at least a unifying theme for a number of news stories appearing in the last few days about Trumpian deeds that I find deep down in my guts as somewhere between revolting and horrifying. Here’s a partial list.
The Faustian Bargain. The Republican Grovelling at the White House Was an Alarm Call for 2018. “The Republican congressional leadership is happy to feed the Napoleonic pretensions of a chronically insecure President in order to get its way… Congresswoman Diane Black, of Tennessee, put it … bluntly. “Thank you, President Trump, for allowing us to have you as our President,” she said … Trump, his ego as fragile as an eggshell, demands constant flattery. But this was cravenness of a level rare even for Washington … At an end-of-year Cabinet meeting that was held shortly before the celebration on the South Lawn, the Vice-President praised his boss fourteen times in three minutes—once every 12.5 seconds, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out …”. Allowing??? WTF? I think the word that describes all this in a monarchy is “genuflection.”
Remember in November: McSally sucks up … and other hypocrisies. Which Arizona lawmakers are President Donald Trump’s biggest supporters, opponents?. “U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican who also represents the Tucson area, ended the year as the state’s most reliable vote for Trump, siding with him 97 percent of the time … U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who is quitting next year after frequently locking horns with Trump, backed the president’s agenda 91 percent of the time … [Kyrsten] Sinema, who represents the north-central Phoenix area, scored 50 percent. That made her the third-most conservative Democrat in the House by that measure.” Like I said: genuflection.
The Russian Connection. Here’s what we know so far about Team Trump’s ties to Russian interests - it’s a great interactive graphic showing the myriad of connections between Russia and Trump, his family, and his suckers-up. Two former chief White House ethics lawyers (for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, respectively) describe The Four Threats to Robert Mueller and his Russia investigation.
The tax cue bill. Charles Blow rips into The Great American Tax Heist: “With their tax bill, Donald Trump and the Republicans are raiding the Treasury in plain sight, throwing crumbs to the masses as the millionaires and billionaires make off with the cake. America should be aghast not only at the looting but also at the brazenness of its execution. … The middle class and the poor were never at the heart of this heartless bill. They are simply a veneer behind which a crime is occurring: the great American tax heist.”
Destroying our country one agency at a time. EPA exemplifies the consequences of Trump’s X/Anti-X formula for tearing down government agencies that exits for the public good. E.P.A. Officials, Disheartened by Agency’s Direction, Are Leaving in Droves
“I’ve never loved my country more.”
In spite of all that, Ruth Marcus (Washington Post’s Deputy editorial page editor) explains why I’ve never loved my country more and thus she provides the theme I was seeking.
Here, for me at least, is the comforting paradox of the age of Trump: I have never respected a president less, nor loved my country more.
This sentiment may startle. It may rankle, even. It comes in a week that witnessed the passage of the worst domestic policy legislation of my lifetime, followed by the now ritual but always repulsive lauding of President Trump. First by the Cabinet courtiers summoned for that purpose; next by Republican lawmakers willing to lay it on just as thick — even more nauseating, because they know better than the servile flattery of their words and because they occupy, theoretically anyway, a coequal branch.
And this patriotic burst comes disconcertingly in a year that has seen the public display of the racist, xenophobic worst that America has to offer. These ugly impulses existed long before Donald Trump’s pursuit of the presidency and will, sadly, outlast him. [Scriber: Not incidentally that’s been my claim - that the real story of 2016 is not Trump but those who elected him.]
Moral Americans — and the Alabama Senate results suggest there remains, pardon the phrase, a moral majority — recoil at the president’s support for a candidate credibly accused of molesting a 14-year-old, at his incessant lies, at his (and his family’s) unabashed willingness to use government service as just another pocket-lining opportunity. This litany is made all the more disgusting by the complicity of so many members of his party.
And yet, I am thankful for Trump in this sense: He has unleashed my inner patriot. I love my country, for all its flaws and for all its flawed leader.
It is worth the fighting for. I knew this, always, on an intellectual level. The Trump presidency has made me feel it, viscerally and passionately. The ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and implemented through the careful structures and capacious phrases of the Constitution do not merely compel our respect. In the Trump era, they require our passionate defense.
Once we took for granted, as a given of American democracy, such fundamental values as freedom of the press, the rule of law, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary. Now we have a president who veers between failure to understand their importance and deliberate efforts to undermine them.
He is similarly heedless of the qualities that have always made America great, most notably its willingness not only to enshrine these values at home but also to play a leadership role in nurturing them abroad. Trump’s America is bristlingly insular and driven by zero-sum selfishness. Mine is welcoming, idealistic and generous — a shining city, not a walled fortress.
More than “no” - a beacon for 2018
Those of us on the more liberal side of the political spectrum have too often and too easily ceded the mantle of patriot to conservatives. Indeed, there can be an off-putting, chest-thumping aspect to traditional, bumper-sticker patriotism: “My country, right or wrong.” “America, love it or leave it.”
George Washington, in his farewell address, advised fellow citizens to “guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” It is hard not to recall that admonition when listening to Trump’s faux-patriotic posturing against kneeling NFL players and his demand that they show “total respect for our national anthem, for our flag, for our country.”
Real patriotism would be to recognize, as the Supreme Court did three decades ago in overturning a criminal conviction for burning the American flag, that “we do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”
Real patriotism would be not to denounce the “Russia hoax” but to insist that Congress — and for that matter, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — get to the bottom of what happened in the 2016 election and, even more imperative, that the United States strengthen its defenses to prevent future meddling.
That is the patriotism Trump has awoken, in me and so many others. Because our fundamental fight is not against Trump. It is for America.
Confronted with the Trumpian tragedy, the Trumpist travesties, I felt my love for America, the “welcoming, idealistic and generous shining city”, slipping. Marcus provides a defense against such depression.
And if America wins because of our efforts, one year from tomorrow we will celebrate a better holiday season.