Granted, he’s like an appalling roadside accident from which it’s impossible to look away. But in the interest of choosing our battles and clarifying our targets, we need to look beyond Trump, even if the media doesn’t.
The Orange One is a ruthless lightweight. Those lurking behind his throne are ruthless heavyweights.
Consider the forces that sent the stock market soaring a few days after the Inauguration.
It wasn’t all those struggling Trump voters. This demographic, largely poor and rural, give him a pass on the matter of tax cuts for the rich; apparently in exchange for what they imagine to be his ideological agenda (which it isn’t: his brain is no more able to hold onto an ideology than a sieve can hold water). But they weren’t the ones who sent the Dow up to 20,000.
The source of Wall Street’s high spirits was the tiny slice of the population who will be getting ever tinier and more powerful under the new administration. (Right now, according to Oxfam, eight men — eight — own as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity).(1)
During the campaign, the hedge fund crowd was a tad nervous about Trump’s volatility; Wall Street doesn’t like unpredictable presidents. But their qualms were assuaged almost immediately. At Trump’s first meeting with Big Pharma, it didn’t take much arm-twisting for him to instantly renege on his campaign promise to bargain for lower drug prices.
These guys and their ilk, now happy as clams in anticipation of handouts and rolled-back regulations, are the ones we need to keep our eyes on. They pre-dated and will outlast the orange vial of weaponized testosterone now in the White House.(2)
President Tough Guy is too busy having his feelings hurt (Sam Bee) to throw any real weight around. The oafish incompetence (3) and paranoid rants of this chaotic man suggest not a leader, but somebody about to lose it — as the constraints of high office put more and more stress upon his already fragile grasp of reality. (4)
Meanwhile, those around him and behind him will be throwing some serious weight around. These include the old-school rightwing ideologues, the patrician sector of the GOP base. Quieter than their downmarket counterparts, these gents went through an evolution. At first, they were grossed out by the prospect of signing off on such an unsavory character, but they’ve gotten used to his boorishness. So long as he makes them richer, they’ll tolerate his un-presidentialness.
As for the deeply corrupt men (and a couple of token deeply corrupt women) inside the Beltway, career politicians like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, they too have calculated which side of their bread has the butter.
As Grover Norquist famously boasted in 2012, all the GOP needs in a president is someone “with enough working digits to handle a pen,” to sign the bills Congress sent to him.
Other éminences grises include Trump’s handlers and strategists.
Consider this governance-by-tweet business. Are these eruptions of misspelled verbiage really the unfiltered juvenile outbursts they seem, or are they part of an artful distraction campaign? Are they Machiavelli or Marx Brothers?
Doubtless they are both. The plan seems to be to keep up a steady stream of superficial nonsense, to keep the media’s — and our — attention from the foul deeds of the new appointees.
Freezing overtime pay for the working poor, rolling back EPA protections, amping up defense spending, threatening net neutrality and beefing up the coal industry while pulling funds for California’s electrified trains are eliciting a bare fraction of the fuss now being made over 3:00 a.m. snit fits.
The country’s moral meltdown is bigger and deeper than our candy corn dictator. To paraphrase Russell Brand, Trump is the toxic sprout erupting from a soil that has been years in the poisoning.
At last, what was happening to Americans in the de-industrialized heartlands could be borne no longer. What is remarkable is that their anger and misery went unnoticed as long as it did. We can chalk this up to a form of cultural denial unique to the USA: the myth of the classless society.
Trump was onto something when he wooed African-American voters with the tactless taunt, “What have you got to lose?” As it turned out, it was marginalized whites who were successfully wooed by this appeal. It is race that captures the headlines in the USA, but the key to this election was social class.
By those who detest him, Trump is often described as “vulgar” (rage against “the elites,” by which they mean not the white male billionaires who make up Trump’s posse, but professors, urbanites and experts — i.e. the worldly and highly educated.
This is not political language. It is the language of class.
Pluto and Uranus
Herr Trump is not a cause so much as a personification of a civilization in decline. He’s “Rome burning in man-form” (John Oliver).
Entities in decay are ugly. Whether it’s a slab of meat or a democracy, the least attractive aspects of a thing are exaggerated as it putrefies. Corruptions become too obvious to ignore.
Such is the logic of the transits upon us. Pluto (rot) in Capricorn (societal institutions) is making the toxicity of our hierarchical systems so glaring that the public is moved to act (Uranus in Aries). These are radical transits, meant to inspire radical thinkers.
Such as Stanford professor Walter Scheidel, who points out that the income disparity dividing the world today is too extreme to be solved by conventional policies (progressive taxes, labor reforms). Only major shocks (Uranus) to the system (Pluto) will do the job. Historically, says Scheidel,
Four different kinds of violent ruptures have flattened inequality: mass mobilization warfare, transformative revolution, state failure and lethal pandemics. I call these the Four Horsemen of Leveling.
Psycho-spiritually speaking, the way forward for each of us is to move more deeply than ever into our unique creative capacity.
The transits overhead (see recent Skywatches) support this work by reminding us of our instinct for the life-affirming, and our aversion to the destructive and disconnected. They inspire our innate ability to be called to necessity, and they nurture our scrupulously independent judgment.
Upcoming blogs will look at how we can use this collective emergency to wake up to our highest potentials.
1 This clique includes Zuckerberg, Gates, Bezos and the detestable Larry Ellison. So much for Silicon Valley’s fondest myth: that high tech will raise all the worlds’ boats.
2 Another fine Sam Bee insult.
3 See Adam Gopnik’s insightful essay.
4 Saturn is transiting his Moon-Sun opposition through much of 2017. See the Trump sidebar in The Mountain Astrologer, Feb/Mar ’17 issue.