why you never send an amateur to do an expert’s job, especially in government
Trump & Co. are showing us what happens when amateurs with huge chips on their shoulder take on jobs that require nuance and expertise.
Legend has it that the Chinese wish that you live in interesting times is a low key curse, and if that legend is right, holy shit do we live in interesting times right now. In the span of a week, we’re facing a trade war, giving China full economic reign of the Pacific Rim by rejecting the TPP outright and driving top EU economies to bypass their American partnerships, and bracing for all sorts of horribles for the digital economy. This was followed up with a badly botched executive order banning even legal residents of the US from certain countries from traveling back home in an attempt to prevent terrorists from landing on American soil, and Trump sidelining defense experts from some key meetings in favor of a loyal sycophant who demanded that the media is to cease questioning the president in an interview, pretending that the press hadn’t just snapped after a year of being yanked around and abused. Again, this was just the first week. Next week is about to bring its own set of seven or eight crises which really need some adults to step up and show a little bit of spine, but that’s been lacking for the last few months in Congress.
But before we continue with the onslaught of insanity, let’s pause for just a few minutes, literally, and take stock of what we can learn so far. For now, let’s put aside the yuge moral, legal, and ethical questions posed by Trump and his “advisors” to focus solely on the defining problem with him we saw during his candidacy which is now manifesting itself in this mess. There’s a great deal of merit in rethinking some free trade agreements, immigration reform, handling sanctuary cities, and retooling healthcare, and all of these things need to be done. However, they should be done after thorough study and debate, not by shooting from the hip based on what a Fox News pundit was talking about a few hours ago. Trump and his entire administration act before they think. His executive order banning travelers from “terror-prone” nations was likely not even reviewed by the vast army of lawyers who exist specifically to help review such actions. His vendetta against sanctuary cities ignores the crime problems created by indiscriminate deportation, scaring people out of reporting incidents and tips to police. And he still can’t decide if he wants to expand ACA into single-payer healthcare while his party votes to gut it and its most popular and beloved provisions.
You know that stereotype of the belligerent know-it-all who has a solution to all the world’s problems he’s more than thrilled to explain to you in real life equivalents of tweets because that’s pretty much all the thought he’s given to them, whether you want to hear it or not, at the backyard barbecue at which his appearance is an unpleasant surprise? That’s Trump in a nutshell. Now, it would be one thing if after weeks of deliberations he proposed a policy that heavily skews towards conservative ideas and the whole process was public, vetted by lawyers, and was played out in the media as it was formed. Much of the public would be able to deal with that, no problem. But that’s not the order of the day, which is knee-jerk executive orders and proclamations that were obviously written by someone whose grasp of law and trade is absent, and whose loathing for criticism and expertise is self-evident. We don’t have a conservative administration, we have the Keystone Kops who aren’t fond of anyone more brown or Jew-y than they are, acting almost exactly the way we would expect the aforementioned buzzed know-it-all cliche to act if they were actually allowed to drive policy and make binding decisions.
No matter how conservative you are or how long you’ve voted Republican, you have to recognize that this is not rule of law, this is not a doctrine, this is not an adjustment period, this is the Faux Gold Plated Clampetts take the White House, enabled and coddled by opportunistic cowards. Maybe one of these days we’ll look back at this and talk about the silver lining that within the span of just a few weeks, Trump managed to pull millions of Americans out of a two decade long bout of political stupor and got them talking about politics so much so that they’re now terrified to stop. They’ve learned their lesson. If they neglect their basic civic duties and treat politics the same way they treat sports and reality TV, people terrified of actual experts manage to throw the nation into a tailspin every few hours. But before we even think of reminiscing about these wild times, we have to survive them by using those checks and balances we always talk about when it comes to reigning in out of control politicians, and not letting up on civic participation. We made this very difficult on ourselves, so it’s not going to be easy to roll back the blatant and egregious violations of norms so common and basic, we’ve almost never even had to think about a president and his staff scoffing at them.
And no, this doesn’t just go for liberals upset by his antics. It goes double for conservatives who respect the rule of law and having actual policies, not a grab bag of knee-jerk nationalism and selective regulation that penalizes all sorts of successful companies for catching the Trumpists’ ire. Yes, the GOP’s victory in November put them in charge, but the way it got that victory was tainted with the loss of the popular vote, nationwide gerrymandering, and a years long voter suppression campaign in swing states. Instead of being firm voices for keeping the government in check and not tacking on a brand new agency to deal with another problem at great expense or fix problems which were caused by reams of red tape with even more red tape, Republicans are now synonymous with authoritarianism and anti-intellectualism. The people who vote for them are fond of voting Republican, but are definitely not crazy about their policies, which is why they turned on the experts who ran it and the party’s standard operating procedure has become ignoring the public ire and blowing off criticism voiced by their supporters about their new leader’s unbecoming antics, seemingly designed to get cheers from Twitter eggs that post almost exclusively about “loser libtard cucks” rather than govern.
If we look back at the very apt comparison of Trump to snake oil salesmen, it actually fits even better with what he’s doing in office. Just like quacks see their fans talking up a study with five people and no controls about a magic leaf or fruit that helps them lose weight and lower blood pressure, and jump into making a supplement to hawk while the demand is at its peak, Trump’s TV addiction gives him opportunities to plan his next act of political theater, the mechanics of which are outsourced to the Breitbart editorial board that acts as his right hand. He thinks of his new record fast 51% job disapproval rating the same way a social media troll measures his impact by how many people he’s ticked off, and he’s forcing the rest of the GOP to do the same by siccing his most vocal social media followers on any dissenting voices. After looking at what’s unfolding for the party in charge at breakneck pace, terms like Pyrrhic victory and Faustian bargain quickly come to mind.
America absolutely needs a strong pro-small government party to advocate for fiscal restraint and ruthless efficiency in how public agencies are ran. It does not need parasitic anti-intellectuals in office barely hiding their disdain of the views of those they govern. And this is exactly the path on which the Tea Party and Trump have dragged it. Before we can walk it back into some semblance on principled normalcy, we need to admit that serious, complex problems don’t always have simple solutions, and that governing by chasing after what a pundit said on TV last night with no legal review and throwing what can only be described as public temper tantrums is unbecoming of any elected official, much less a self-proclaimed 70 year old business genius. We need politicians with a backbone to stand up to knee-jerk populism for all of the people who voted against it, disapprove of it, and those who got swept up in it but now have a serious case of voter remorse. Unpopular presidents should not be operating unchecked and kowtowed to, especially by a party that used to pride itself on fighting authoritarianism across the world.