I read down the list of headlines on the newspaper’s website until I came to one that read: Trump’s inaugural address echoes anti-Semitic isolationists and a Batman villain.
Fact, I wondered. Or opinion?
According to the newspaper it was fact. Hard news. When Donald Trump said his inauguration was about taking power away from Washington Politicians and giving it back to the people he was echoing words of the villain in The Dark Knight Rises.
Even worse, when Trump said “America First” he was repeating the words of an anti-Semitic group that, before Pearl Harbor, opposed the U.S. entering World War II.
Those two ‘facts’ didn’t sail onto the internet from an obscure political website, masquerading as news – they were published as real news by a media company that owns newspapers across the nation, including the two biggest papers in NC.
There are many reasons to criticize Donald Trump but turning him into a villain from a Batman movie and calling it ‘news’ – who gains from that? The only answer I can come up with is it happens so a newspaper can get more ‘clicks’ from hyper-stressed anti-Trump activists –and sell more ads on its website.
Donald Trump didn’t mince words: “We are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another,” he said, “we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to the people.”
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost… Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed.”
“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”
Having succinctly explained the reason he won the election, Trump then headed for lunch with members of the House and Senate where he sat listening to longwinded speeches by Washington politicians who didn’t seem the least bit worried.
Meantime, the media pundits began commenting:
It was too dark, one said about Trump’s speech.
I was disappointed, another said.
Trump doesn’t understand. He needs Congress, another added.
In Congress, the same old politicians said the same old things. And, blind to the gulf between Washington and the rest of the country, the pundits missed that Trump had drawn a line in the sand: It’s Washington versus the rest of the country. It’s the Washington politicians versus working people.
And make no mistake: That’s a fight Donald Trump can win.
A year and a half ago – when the election began – the Democrat Washington Politicians battled the Democratic Outsiders and the Republican Washington Politicians fought the Republican Outsiders.
So where are the four tribes now?
Hillary’s gone. But both the Democratic Washington Politicians and the Democratic Outsiders are carefully watching Trump waiting for him to stumble.
The Republican Washington Politicians have pledged allegiance to Trump – an alliance that is sure to survive as long as Trump remains popular (or, at least, remains popular with Republican voters).
And Trump, himself?
As a candidate Donald Trump played by a new set of rules. He was smart and strong and ruthless – but also vain and vulgar. And it worked. He won. And now in Washington – determined to drain the swamp – he still plays by his new rules.
But when Trump took the oath of office he inherited an old rule: In Washington, power is divided. And limited. No one has the power to run the government alone.
Time will tell… but the next fight between Trump and the other Three Tribes may be about power.
Back in 1789 there was nothing in the federal Treasury worth stealing but Thomas Jefferson wrote John Adams it was only a matter of time: He didn’t see, he said, how the Constitution would stop a scoundrel (or a group of scoundrels) clever enough and ruthless enough to cajole (or buy) 51% of the votes in Congress from reaching into the Treasury to take other people’s money.
Time made Jefferson a prophet: After he was President, Congress passed tariffs to protect New England manufacturers from British imports.
Later, in the Gilded Age, Congress gave railroad tycoons land grants as subsidies (in all Congress gave the tycoons more Western land than there was the entire nation of Germany).
Then as cold hard cash rolled in over the next century the system evolved – as Congress passed out loopholes, tax breaks, government contracts and bailouts for corporations ‘too big to fail’ – into a near perfect system of plunder.
Then, last election, disgust with Washington politicians left hard-pressed Millennials voting for a socialist leveler and working class families cheering for Donald Trump to drain the swamp – and Trump landed in the White House, rocking the Old World to its foundations.
But the same Old World that gave us plunder had virtues too: Power was divided. And limited. No politician had enough power to run the government alone.
And Trump, heading to Washington to drain the swamp, is about to come face to face with those limits.
There’s a lot to talk about as Trump takes office.
An “illegitimate” President?
Congressman/civil rights hero John Lewis touched a nerve here. Trump & Co. went nuclear. But the Russian hacking stories will persist. As will the golden-showers stain.
Trump supporters say, “Get over it. He won. He’s President. Show him some respect.”
This from the people who questioned Obama’s legitimacy for eight years? Who insisted he was born in Kenya? Who said ACORN stole the 2008 and 2012 elections? Who said the 2016 election was “rigged” (at least, they did before the election)?
The same Republicans who got together after Obama’s inauguration to make sure he failed? Who scuttled any pretense of bipartisanship? Who yelled “You lie” when he addressed Congress?
Now you want respect and deference for the new President?
We elect opposites
The contrast between the incoming and outgoing Presidents is breath-taking. But we always elect a President who is the opposite of the incumbent.
Ike was old, JFK was young. Nixon was a crook, Carter was honest. Carter was weak, Reagan was strong. Reagan was a hard-liner, Bush was kinder and gentler. Bush was out of touch, Clinton felt your pain. Clinton dallied with Monica, W wouldn’t. W was clueless, Obama was smart. Obama was smart, black, cerebral, measured, eloquent. Trump…well, he’s not.
(Also, by the way, Obama’s approval rating is 60 percent. Trump’s is 40.)
The next President, it’s safe to predict, will be Trump’s opposite. Unless it’s Pence.
Will Trump give up Twitter?
Why would he? It’s how he got elected.
Another rule about electing Presidents is that we always elect the one who masters the new, dominant form of communication.
Think FDR and radio, JFK and TV, Nixon and staged TV (by Roger Ailes), Reagan and stagecraft, Bush and negative ads, Clinton and late-night TV, Obama and social media/digital data.
Trump mastered the era of reality-TV, the smart-phone and Twitter. He has something like 46 million followers. He knows how to keep his message simple and punchy. Why stop?
Democrats should stop whining about it and start mastering what’s next. Because there’s always something next.
Is Trump Nixon Redux?
In 1968, Robert Kennedy said, “Richard Nixon represents the dark side of the American spirit.”
What would he say about Trump?
Trump has a lot of Nixon about him. He’s thin-skinned. He’s obsessed with his enemies. He hates the press. He’s on the side of the Silent Majority against the Establishment. He has testy relations with African-Americans and other minorities. He meddled in foreign affairs before he took office. He has a distant and even hostile relationship with his own Republican Party.
Nixon gave us six more years of war in Vietnam, an economic recession AND inflation, gas lines, an Enemies List, Watergate, impeachment and a constitutional crisis.
He also nearly wrecked the Republican Party in the 1974 mid-term elections. In North Carolina, there was one Republican left in the 50-member Senate. Democrats got a new lease on life. Jimmy Carter squandered his opportunity, but Jim Hunt, Bill Clinton and a whole new generation of Democrats across the country made the most of it.
This should be interesting.
When the election began Millennials trapped in dead-end jobs faced a choice between a Democrat Washington Politician and a Socialist (who could only come from Vermont) and the Millennials chose the Socialist.
On the other side of the aisle working class families sitting at kitchen tables in small towns staring at stacks of bills faced a choice between a dozen Republican Washington Politicians and Donald Trump and chose Trump.
And that was it: Two tribes of Outsiders fighting two tribes of Washington Politicians.
A year and a half later Trump won, rocking the Old World of Washington Politics to its foundations.
But, for all their flaws, the Washington Politicians did abide by one rule they’d inherited: Power was divided. And limited. No one man had the power to run the government alone.
Now Trump, heading for Washington to drain the swamp, inherits the same rule. And sharing power with the politicians he defeated may turn out to be his next test.
‘Sallie told David who told Harry who told Joe that Sergie said’…
It sounds like gossip flying around a sewing circle of old women but it wasn’t – it was a story about Donald Trump and the Russians told by a former MI6 agent in a ‘report’ that caught fire (on one website) then rolled through the media across the land.
Our hometown newspaper posted two articles about the MI6 agent’s ‘report’ then posted an op-ed saying there was not one proven fact in it but, nonetheless, the report’s conclusion was true.
Politics and tall tales are old stories that go hand in glove but there is a new wrinkle: Passion has vanquished discernment: Hardly a soul condemns a tall tale when it hurts someone he dislikes – instead he repeats it.
Studies say the most depressing day of the year is today – the third Monday in January. The holidays are over, winter has set in and it’s, well, Monday.
But this year many, and maybe most, Americans say the most depressing day will be the third Friday, when Trump is inaugurated.
Both days come this week. So both the Depression Meter and the Fear and Loathing Meter are at all-time highs.
The week starts with honoring Martin Luther King and ends with swearing in, or swearing at, Trump.
(Trump celebrated MLK Day by attacking John Lewis as “all talk.” When Trump gets brutally beaten for standing up for civil rights, he can talk about John Lewis.)
Trump is a fraud, but he’s a good one. He has defrauded people throughout his business career, and now he has defrauded Americans into electing him President.
A lot of good people who knew his faults voted for him because they want change or more jobs or to be safe from terrorists. A lot of bad people voted for him because they don’t like certain other people or because they just wanted to give the finger to whatever “elites” and “establishment” they hate: politicians, big business, academics, the media, whomever.
Think of Trump as a great big middle finger to half of America. (Or, maybe, a little-bitty middle finger.)
You try to be optimistic. Maybe all the billionaires and Goldman Sachs big shots he appointed will keep him from wrecking the economy and our IRAs. Maybe all his generals will keep us out of a war and protect us from Putin.
You can let it drive you crazy. You can watch cable news all day, get jacked up with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, and drive your blood pressure sky-high by following every Trump tweet.
Or you can tune him out, turn off the news and try the Zen approach one wise friend recommends. He says, “In the Universe, all things are always in motion. Nothing stays the same. This, too, shall pass.”
You can wait for the pendulum to swing. It always does in politics.
On October 10, a month before the election, another wise friend, D.G. Martin, wrote this at a time when Trump’s election looked impossible:
“Most Democrats are happy that Donald Trump’s campaign is stumbling.
“But some, looking at the long term, might think that a Trump win next month would be a good thing. Not for the country, they would explain, but for the future of the Democratic Party….
“If Trump were to win and become president, he would provoke anti-Trump and anti-Republican voters in the 2018 and 2020 elections, which would be monumental, surpassing even the anti-Obama reaction in 2010.”
Keep hope alive. And pray for our country.
That’s how much Governor Cooper’s campaign spent.
$16.8 million. That’s how much Pat McCrory’s campaign spent.
$7.5 million. That’s how much more Cooper’s campaign spent than McCrory’s.
44.6 percent. That’s how much more Cooper spent by percentage. Nearly half again what McCrory spent.
These are astounding numbers. And they should give heart to Democrats looking at legislative races in 2017 or 2018.
It’s an astounding achievement, to begin with, for a challenger to outraise an incumbent governor by that much. Normally, the numbers are reversed.
There are three takeaways.
First, the candidate who spends the most money usually wins. And Democrats can outraise Republicans.
Second, if Cooper raised that much as a challenger, what will he raise as an incumbent in 2020? He’ll be tough to beat.
Third, if Team Cooper puts its shoulder to the fundraising wheel for legislative candidates, Democrats’ chances of breaking the supermajority – and eventually becoming the majority – increase exponentially.
I have a simple way of judging a political event. If I know most everybody there, and they’re my age, it’s a flop. If I don’t know many people, and they’re young, it’s a success.
Governor Cooper’s Inaugural SnowBall was a huge winner.
It was jammed with smart, interesting, idealistic, funny, charming and hard-working young people in their 20s and 30s. Men and women, black and white, straight and gay. Also, good-looking, good dancers and dressed to impress.
They are the Obama Generation.
In 2008 and 2012, Obama inspired them. In his farewell address this week, he said this about them:
“Let me tell you, this generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, and just, and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace, you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands.”
He’s right. And North Carolina Democrats, including Governor Cooper and the next state party chair, need to harness their talents, keep them involved and give them their shot at moving North Carolina forward.
Those of us in the Kennedy Generation and the Clinton Generation need to step up for this generation. Not step aside, because we still have a lot to give them (money, references and jobs) and a lot to teach them (like learning from our mistakes).
But it’s time to make room for them, give them a hand up and put their hands on the wheel of history.
If we do, the future of North Carolina will be in good hands.
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce
don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina
and know its politics inside and out.”
Carter is a Republican.
Gary is a Democrat.
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle
between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary,
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005.
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
Order The Book
Purchase Carter's Book:
Spirits of the Air