I’m suffering from Information Overload, or maybe Outrage Overload, or just plain Trump Overload. I suspect we all are. And that’s a problem. It drains us, saps our civic energy and leaves us exhausted.
I’ve written about this before, but the last month has been extraordinary. The pace of the current president’s tweets has increased, along with his curbside press conferences where he is free to say whatever he likes, make outlandish claims, fabricate facts and ignore challenges when his statements are incorrect or simply lies.
In the past month his behavior, his outbursts, his distortions, his blustering have become more extreme. His suggestions to his “base” that he is the victim of a vast conspiracy to thwart the popular will comes with an undertone–and sometimes an overtone–of appeals to violence.
His grip on reality seems to be slipping, or perhaps his lies are simply becoming more elaborate and more radical.
The plain thrust of his appeal from the beginning, which has become more blatant in recent days, is not to nationalism or patriotism—although he uses those words—but to the idea that he somehow embodies the will of the people. “I am your voice,” he proclaimed at the Republican Convention. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” he said. He is not only their “voice” but also the indispensable man.
It has been some time since a personality on the American political stage has arrogated to himself such power and responsibility. We are in the presence of a nascent fascist movement led by a skillful demagogue who in reality cares for very little other than his own aggrandizement.
For those who find it convenient to support him, however distasteful they find him to be, because they like what they believe he has accomplished—a tax cut for the rich, appointing supposedly conservative judges in large numbers for instance—they have chosen to ignore the very real damage he has done and threatens to do to our republic. Or they’re just too cowardly to speak up. They are playing with fire.
Forty-five years ago, responsible public officials came to a recognition of the danger that Richard Nixon posed to our civic enterprise. Some Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to impeach him, and a small delegation of Republican senators carried a message to him that he would not survive a vote in their chamber.
These are different times. We hear reports that some Republican senators are not entirely comfortable with Trump’s actions and statements, that they don’t particularly like him.
But we hear very little publicly about their discomfort or disapproval. They appear before television cameras, smiling smugly, offering partisan defenses for the indefensible.
Meanwhile, he continues to inflame his base, leaving it to the opposition party – predictably in the view of the men and women who continue to support him—to warn of the danger he poses.
And the Republican leadership remains mute, out of fear or approval?