As a candidate and as president, Donald Trump has certainly deviated from norms of acceptable public behavior, but how much does that really matter?
Trump’s latest social media tirades do stand out in comparison to other politicians and heads of state. But when one considers what this country is like, the outrage over comportment doesn’t amount to very much.
Consider that America has the world’s largest prison population, more than two million people.
Consider again that this mass incarceration system has been targeted specifically against Black people, and that one-eighth of all imprisoned people on the planet are Black Americans.
The atrocities of the law enforcement system don’t stop there. Death at the hands of police is the fate of an average of three people every day in the United States. Those deaths are rarely punished and are accepted as collateral damage for the maintenance of White supremacy.
Many Americans love to brag that theirs is “the richest country in the world.”
There are certainly big banks, rich individuals and trillions of dollars in the treasury but the masses of people rarely benefit from this wealth.
But America routinely ranks near the bottom when compared to other “developed” nations in any measure of how it treats its people. It is now considered a “second tier” nation in terms of the wellbeing of its citizens.
Easy to criticize
It is certainly unusual to have such a decidedly boorish president. Trump literally pushes other presidents aside, engages in public feuds with celebrities and makes anyone an enemy who dares to oppose him or his policies. He makes up terms like “bigly” and “modern presidential” and excoriates the press when they criticize him. Condemning this kind of behavior is the lowest-hanging fruit.
Before Trump became president, bad behavior at the top was usually sanitized with public relations. The corporate media and others among the ruling elites hid atrocities in plain sight with appealing narratives and good photo opportunities. They excused politicians who routinely benefited the 1 percent and disadvantaged everyone else. The result is an ugly system made to look pretty with the right marketing.
This phenomenon was especially true during the Obama administration. He had the all-important buy-in from corporate media. They turned the Obamas into an American version of a royal family, then used his personal popularity to make the case for war crimes and bank bailouts. They worked together to make dirty deeds look clean.
Obama and his predecessors undermined climate change agreements and made them toothless. Trump did one better by opting out, but tremendous damage was done by a president who was called “an environmentalist.”
Obama was called the peace candidate when he expanded wars. He fought hard to ratify the undemocratic, job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that was stopped only by Trump’s White nationalist ideology.
Trump can be blamed for much during his first six months in office. His travel ban against citizens of seven nations is an unconstitutional exercise in Islamophobia and has been struck down by federal judges. He bans Libyans from traveling to the United States after Obama destroyed that country and created an ongoing humanitarian disaster.
Let us condemn Trump for the right reasons.
Just a few months ago, his administration stated that regime change in Syria was no longer American policy. Now he uses his incompetent press secretary to announce that there will almost certainly be future “false flag” attacks against the Syrian government.
The secretary of state and the National Security Council were unaware of this pronouncement, and that is more dangerous than the president making personal attacks against media figures who fall out of his favor.
Trump is putting into practice Republican Party voter suppression schemes. He has established what he calls an ‘Election Integrity Commission’ and asked every state to provide names, Social Security numbers and party affiliation of their voters. The inevitable result will be the removal of Black people from voter rolls.
But the Democratic Party, which quite literally depends on Black people to win elections, has demonstrated little ability to forcefully push back. Bland pronouncements are all they can muster when they should be in court filing lawsuits to protect the people they depend upon.
The list of reasons to be embarrassed about America is very long. It existed before Trump was inaugurated. He has added to that ledger, but legitimate cause for concern shouldn’t be pushed aside in favor of phony outrage about optics.
President Trump is an ill-mannered, impulsive, happily uninformed bigot. Most of his predecessors were better behaved and followed rules of public relations. But they filled the jails, ended the right to public assistance, killed millions of people abroad, kept wages low and used a variety of schemes to make the rich even richer.
Trump is not the worst among them. And that is the most embarrassing fact of all.
Margaret Kimberley’s column appears weekly in BlackAgendaReport.com.