Not So Great Gatsby: Welcome to the Terrordome

Dear Nick,

It’s been a tough few months for me since the election. To pretend otherwise would be dishonest. I don’t know what to say, how to express what is in my heart, but it is also painful to remain silent, so I am back channeling Chuck D who said, “When I get mad, I put it down on a pad, give you somethin’ that you never had.” Appropriately his song was called, “Welcome to the Terrordome.” We’ve entered an historically un-American time, that we will look back upon in embarrassment and shame. How did we get to this point? Where do we go from here? What can we do to resist? I have more questions than I do answers. But in the coming weeks and months I will try to work through some of this with you, old sport. The work begins today.

How did this happen? How did a man who seems to be the embodiment of everything America despises write an underdog narrative and become the leader of the free world? Well, I have a theory, but you are not going to like it.  We are stupid. HL Mencken said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” The time of American exceptionalism is past. We are now a nation of sheep being led to slaughter, and we just elected the big bad wolf Commander in Chief.

Let’s examine some of the reasons dummies voted for 45. Let’s look, like a Monday morning quarterback, and break down the thought process. Again, I am not looking for sympathy or common ground, I just want to point out some fatal flaws with some of the reasoning so when four years mercifully pass we will make like The Who and “Won’t get fooled again.” We can learn from our terrible, terrible mistakes. Or if you think, two weeks in, that he is doing a “bang up job” and things couldn’t be better, you can take your pills and stop reading here.

Reason one: He’s a successful business man, and the country is just a big business. No and no. While he has accumulated what appears to be quite a bit of money, calling him a successful business man is a bit of an exaggeration. He inherited over $100 million from his father. So, he had quite the head start on other self-made men. His Horatio Alger story is a lie. He is the epitome of someone born on third base bragging about his game changing triple. To put it in perspective, if he had simply taken the money his father gave him and put it in the S&P 500 stock index fund, his net worth would be about $9 billion dollars. Liquid. By all accounts he is worth around $2 billion, so he could have been 4.5 times richer if he had done nothing. Not exactly awe-inspiring business acumen.

So let’s not talk about the many, many bankruptcies. Let’s not talk about how someone who is indisputably a braggart is unwilling to show his potentially embarrassing tax returns. Let’s not mention that much of his wealth is derived at this point by licensing deals where he whores out his name and shills for the real developer and receives a percentage of the profits. He is basically the Ronald McDonald of real estate. A clown who shows up at parties and a sad, anachronistic symbol for an industry with which he no longer has any real involvement. He is not successful.  Not in any real measurable context with actual verifiable numbers. The 2 billion I conceded was based on Forbes’ list of the richest people. But unlike most of the other people on the list, he tells Forbes what number to use. They can’t verify the number with actual documentation. Let me conclude this point with a question. If you did absolutely nothing for the last 40 years, would you be 4.5 times richer than you are now? Maybe you are a great business person too!

Reason two: He will surround himself with great people, drain the swamp, make America great. These are all abstract conservative concepts that mirror Obama’s “Hope and Change.” So even if 45 succeeds in making America great again to his satisfaction, there is a large fraction of the country that might not see eye to eye on a spoiled billionaire’s definition of “great again.” For some, disenfranchised America has not been great to them. You hear increasingly of these people who have been marginalized by our current policies and yet served a country that didn’t have policies in place to serve them. Some people think America will be great again when there are more jobs. Nick, this is something no person could debate. When we all do well, we all do well. But the jobs that Trump is bringing back are short-sighted and nearly obsolete. Does anyone want to be a coal miner? With some retraining, that same person could forego the black lung and daily hazards of mining and become a laborer installing sustainable energy sources like solar or geothermal. The factory jobs will be more difficult, as most assembly folks will be replaced by robots in the coming years, regardless of in which country the factory is located. I wish I had a solution for this.  Maybe someone will need to build the robots. I don’t necessarily think it’s the president’s responsibility to create jobs, so 45, in fairness, should be given a pass on this. It is his responsibility to create an environment where people are prepared to take on the jobs that present themselves.

As for draining the swamp and selecting a Lincoln-esque brilliant “team of rivals,” the president has failed miserably, instead selecting a billionaire boys and girls club of mostly unqualified major campaign donors and cronies who have an infuriating mountain of conflicts of interest and undisclosed dealings that seem to teeter on the line of illegality.  It’s as if his goal is to insert some of his cabinet picks like anti-matter into each agency so the agency will implode and destroy itself.

Reason three: He will “shake things up!” This is one of the most popular reasons I heard for why people voted for our current president. It is also the stupidest. I can’t think of anything or anyone with whom I would choose to do anything with my primary reason being, “He’s a wild card!” Maybe invite a crazy relative to Thanksgiving, or hire a mariachi band to play at a birthday party. But being unpredictable, a walking “pull my finger” joke, is not a characteristic I want in the White House. If you voted for this reason, you should be deported back to your home on Idiot Island.

Reason four: He embodies the rage of the white middle class. This might be the most depressing. The young idealists of the flower power ’60s have become the current status quo that seems hell bent on systemic marginalization of women and people of color. In this new White House, women, blacks, Mexicans, gays and especially Muslims must remain vigilant to not lose any of the small human rights victories they earned during the Obama and even George W administrations. And I don’t blame Trump for this. He has always pandered to the lowest common denominator. He has always been a short-fused, small-handed bully. I blame us. I blame white middle class Americans who, when given a choice of agreeing to a level playing field for all and the prospect of a true meritocracy at the dawn of this century, instead decided to vote for hate, keeping the deck stacked in favor of themselves. But their time is also ending. Within a generation, whites could very well be a minority in the US as we become a beautiful multicultural tapestry that matches what poets romanticized for generations. So Trump has filled the void created by the rage of the dying white middle class. A rage that is misdirected at those less entitled than them, perhaps because these baby boomers know they had an advantage, they knew it was morally wrong, and they squandered an opportunity to use that power to make the world better for everyone.

Before the election, people were asked why they support 45. One man, citing this white anger of the privileged class, answered, “This is a guy who isn’t afraid to abuse the abuser. He has and will continue to humiliate the establishment politicians who try to stand up to him by exposing them for who they are. He will lash out at reporters and media crudely and without tact simply because he can. His supporters feel vindicated when he attacks those people who have misled them, a small satisfaction when your way of life is fading away.

“I can’t disagree that he is just like them and that he is pandering to that base I just mentioned. I doubt he will win, but I don’t doubt that watching him lose will be entertaining and satisfying.”

You know something, old sport? You can vote for whomever you like. That is your right. But do so knowing that if your candidate wins, you are not smarter, or even on the side of the majority. And in this case I doubt you will be better off. You voted for a selfish, self-centered asshole, but because he has money you projected a largesse onto him that he never possessed. He doesn’t even donate to his own foundation. But your logic is that now that he has absolute power, he will turn away from corrupting forces and care about you? About your family and friends? If that is the case, then PT Barnum didn’t have shit on Donald J Trump.

Nevertheless, she persisted,

Gatsby

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