‘Try To Deserve This’

That message to our new president, on a handmade sign in yesterday’s Inaugural Parade, gets at it for me. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But what else is there, if the country is to survive this.

President Trump’s Inaugural Address, pedestrian and accessible, clearly was pitched to his tea party constituency. It struck me as a smart move to show them he won’t abandon them upon gaining office. He pointedly dissed politicians of all stripes.

The question is how he uses this reinforced bond with his supporters. He clearly has the power to unleash them on Congress to achieve his agenda.

What is that agenda? Republicans might not be pleased if he rallies these forces for Democratic purposes such as massive infrastructure spending, which he specifically iterated in his Inaugural Address. He has recently said “everybody will get health insurance.” He has said Medicare ought to be able to negotiate drug prices. That’s not Republican orthodoxy. That’s Democratic orthodoxy.

The thing about this guy is that he is a post-partisan populist, despite his wealth, and I suspect Republicans have more to worry about. He’s not really one of them, and might use his leverage to upend their world. Even if these views started out as manipulative strategy, I’m convinced he believes it. If nothing else because he knows his success going forward depends on it.

But that might be wishful thinking.

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It’s Really Happening

Like it, love it, hate it, or deny it, Donald J. Trump becomes president today. Here’s your thread for Inauguration Day.

Last night, for the grinding garage band concert at the Lincoln Memorial you had to wonder if Abraham was wishing he had never left Springfield.

Nevertheless, here we are. For the sake of America here’s hoping Trump is not the stark raving lunatic he has (hopefully) pretended to be to get elected.

The peaceful transfer of office, even if to someone you despise, is the higher ideal worth honoring this day in the long run.

Dismissing, dishonoring or ignoring this day because you don’t like the outcome is a rejection of our Democracy, which might be a valid choice.

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Obama’s Next Chapter: Voting Rights

President Obama, in his final press conference today, made very clear what he has telegraphed for days now, that a main focus for him going forward will be the sorry state of our nation’s voting rights:

“We are the only country in the advanced world that makes it harder to vote. … There’s an ugly history to that. … The reason that we are the only country among advanced countries that makes it harder to vote traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery. It became sort of acceptable to restrict the franchise. And that’s not who we are, not who we should be, that’s not when America works best. So that I hope everybody pays attention to making sure everybody has a chance to vote. Make it easier, not harder. This whole notion of voting fraud, this is something that has constantly been disproved. This is fake news. The notion that there are a whole bunch of people out there who are going out there and are not eligible to vote and want to vote. We have the opposite problem. We have a whole bunch of people who are eligible to vote who don’t vote. And so the idea that we put into place a whole bunch of barriers to people voting doesn’t makes sense. And then the political gerrymandering that makes your vote matter less because politicians have decided you live in a district where everybody votes the same way you do, so that these are not competitive races, and we get 90% Democratic districts and 90% Republican districts, that’s bad for our Democracy too. I worry about that.”

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Transactional Justification Of Selfish Ideals

Two very different TV shows I watched over the recent long weekend connected a couple of dots for me.

First, WSJ’s Gerald Seib on “Charlie Rose” (PBS), talking about his recent interview with Donald Trump, repeatedly used the word “transactional” to describe the president-elect’s world view, insisting that Trump is not ideological, instead believing that mutual self-interest makes deals for a better world.

Second, a line in one of my surprisingly favorite shows, “Madam Secretary” (CBS): “Idealism kills mutual interest to save lives,” said one character. Another responded: “For starters, mutual interests aren’t always the same as equal ones, so that statement is just an ideal used to justify self interest.”

This line of thought can yield different conclusions (and disagreements), but for me it suggests that Trump’s thinking is simply about justifying selfishness. Ideals should matter.

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