I’ve made no secret of my disillusionment with the Trump administration.
It started with the disavowal of the Alt-Right on November 22. There were many who tried to blame that on Richard Spencer. I was skeptical of that narrative. The Alt-Lite’s naked attempt to hijack the Alt-Right and transform it into a Trump personality cult looked too well organized to me.
The next step was the transition team when Anthony Scaramucci popped up at Trump Tower. I saw that as a red flag. It was shortly followed by the announcement of Cabinet picks like Gary Cohn and Andrew Puzder. This created cognitive dissonance with me. In theory, the “forgotten man” had just had this “populist nationalist” revolution against Wall Street and the Washington establishment. The fate of civilization hung in the balance. Then Trump hired the President of Goldman Sachs as his top economic adviser and brought The Mooch into his inner circle. It was an ominous sign.
The Deploraball controversy and the falling out with Bill Mitchell in January telegraphed the boundaries of Trumpism in the years ahead. It established that the Alt-Lite was going to have some relationship with the Trump administration, the Alt-Right was going to be excluded from power and that all the dominant taboos were going to remain in place except the taboo on homosexuality. This was how the Overton Window was going to shift as a result of the 2016 election.
My assessment in January was that the Trump administration wasn’t looking good. Still, it made no sense to write Donald Trump off before giving him his First 100 Days. It was reasonable to give Trump a chance because he had at least surrounded himself with men like Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions. There were too many establishment types, big donors, generals and mainstream conservatives in the Cabinet, but at least we had confidence that our views were represented.
The first few weeks of the Trump administration seemed to go well. I was more concerned with Congress at the time. I was irritated that the Republican Congress was pushing the Ryan agenda – deregulation, tax cuts, healthcare, etc. – and putting trade, immigration and foreign policy on the backburner. The Trump administration rolled out some sweeping executive orders which was about as best as could be expected given the determination of Paul Ryan to plunge into the healthcare quagmire.
The federal court rulings on the travel ban, refugee program and sanctuary cities were a disappointing setback, but they weren’t an unanticipated one given it was the Ninth Circuit we were dealing with. It was obvious at least to me that this was going to be fought out in the lower federal courts before going to the Supreme Court. Eventually, I figured that with Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and possibly Anthony Kennedy gone by the fall that the Trump administration would win on these issues.
The month of April brought a sea change in my attitude toward the Trump administration. It started when he rushed into committing an act of war against Syria over “human rights” and allegations against Assad which were never proven. It was a 180 degree turn from the “America First” foreign policy which I had supported. This was swiftly followed by the whiplash of his reversals on half a dozen policy issues.
The attack on Syria was followed by the ascendancy of Ivanka and Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn and their attempt to destroy and push Steve Bannon out of the Trump administration. We had already seen how Donald Trump had thrown Michael Flynn under the bus. He savagely attacked and diminished Bannon in the media because he was upset about Bannon appearing on a Time magazine cover. Then he denounced the Holocaust, pledged to crusade against anti-Semitism like three times, flew to Israel and prostrated himself before Bibi Netanyahu at the Western Wall.
By May, I had turned my attention back to activism and culture. I felt it was clear at that point that we needed to move on and find another productive outlet for our energies. After all, we were shut out of the Trump administration anyway which was careering from crisis to crisis – the firing of Comey took place in this period and it was followed by Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller as the special prosecutor. This was a Jared Kushner fuck up which fueled the Russia Narrative.
As if on queue, Trump began his first volley of attacks on Jeff Sessions around the beginning of June. He drove Sean Spicer into quitting and brought Anthony Scaramucci, the embodiment of the Wall Street hedge fund guys, into the administration. This was yet another Jared Kushner project. By this point, you have Ivanka, Kushner, Cohn and Scaramucci all whispering in Trump’s ear.
I don’t have much to say about Donald Trump dumping all over Jeff Sessions in the media. The optics of bringing Scaramucci into the administration while pushing Jeff Sessions out and having shills on Twitter trying to destroy his reputation speaks for itself. It seems like we are rapidly going from bad to worse and whatever hopes we had for “populist nationalism” are gone. It is impossible to square Trump having a genuine belief in “populist nationalism” with what we are seeing.
We’re seeing Trump’s erratic temperament and lack of an ideological core on full public display. It is cringeworthy too to watch the president getting unhorsed by Morning Joe. I fear these mounting crises might drag us into another foreign war. Is there anything else at this point which could create a big enough distraction to arrest this slide?