There’s no way around it. Trump fooled his voters.
In interviews around the country, people expressed a desire to shake things up, and viewed the reality star candidate as an outsider who could fill the white house with an anti-establishment spirit that would change the dynamic in business-as-usual Washington.
What they received instead was more of the same, with a large dosage of incompetence thrown in for added measure.
Trump’s cabinet is a walking contradiction. After calling Hillary Clinton too cozy with Wall Street to hold the presidency, he appointed Gary Cohn – president of Goldman Sachs – as his chief economic advisor.
Wilbur Ross, the billionaire energy tycoon whose criminal negligence overseeing the Sago Mine in Pennsylvania led to the deaths of 12 miners, has received the position of commerce secretary. Ross has earned the title “king of bankruptcy.” His business approach is to look for cheap companies to purchase, which he then closes, guts, and sells off. This parasitic form of business does not create jobs; it doesn’t even symbolize productive economic activity. It is rather a fitting example of how the highly stratified economy of the current moment is a self-perpetuating cycle that continuously benefits the best off while offering no meaningful solutions to the economic precariousness faced by much of the nation.
This appointment occurred after 76 percent of people from Upshur County – where the Sago Mine is located – voted for Trump.
Let’s pivot to the military muscle Trump is lining up for his cabinet. After taking credit for opposing the Iraq war (which was itself a lie), Trump has filled a number of high-level positions with hard-right hawks that position the United States closer to armed conflict.
Michael Flynn, the national security appointee, referred to Islamism as a “vicious cancer.” He also – in a lie extraordinary even by Trump’s standards – alleged that Florida Democrats voted to impose Sharia law on women. While this selection may play to the more virulently bigoted among Trump’s supporters, the fact is that such simplistic and reductive thinking is highly dangerous, especially coming from the individuals who make life and death military decisions.
Leveraging his anti-war, anti-globalization sentiment during the campaign, Trump ended up reversing course, appointing interventionist conspiracy theorists instead, yet again deceiving his voters by raising the specter of further unnecessary and costly armed conflict.
Even the most iconic component of the president-elect’s non-agenda during the campaign, “the wall,” has receded into the shadows. If this preposterous project was ever actually pursued, it would virtually bankrupt the country. Its towering infeasibility didn’t prevent the demagogic Trump from hanging it over his followers’ heads. Yet, with reality closing in, he has – of course – contradicted himself on this front as well, walking back his promise.
If Trump has offered nothing but disingenuous promises followed by hypocritical political maneuvers, what has he given us? Incompetence, plain and simple.
The “smart” Trump has turned down national security briefings. Glenn Carle, a CIA veteran, told Radio Boston that Trump’s cluelessness poses an incredible risk, breaking down the discord between the agency and the temperamental Trump:
There’s a rift [between the agency and Trump] flowing all across the headlines, the page and everyone’s consciousness. It’s tremendous. But it actually is only a secondary issue compared to the larger issue of the competence, or lack thereof, of the President-elect with regard to national security and international affairs. It’s stunning, and an existential moment for the United States…
In one of his first moves as president-elect, Trump threw decades of diplomatic normalcy out the window through a highly fraught phone call with Taiwan’s president. By interrupting nearly 40 years of relatively stable relations concerning the China-Taiwan conflict, Trump has infuriated China and has risked torpedoing important international standing for absolutely no benefit whatsoever.
Trump lied, voters were deceived. In Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, decent and well-meaning people – rightfully tired of Washington’s insider culture – fell for the rhetoric of change spouted by an absolute charlatan. Perhaps Trump’s growing list of conflicts of interest will lead to an impeachment. Perhaps, dazed and confused, he’ll step down. If neither of these happen, pro-social forces need to make the case to his supporters that they were lied to. Bernie Sanders, speaking out a town hall in Wisconsin, convinced a Trump supporter of her mistake in no time at all.
As Sanders has shown, reaching the hearts of Trump supports can – and must – be done.
Lynette Zimmerman is the president and CEO of Key Elements Group LLC and is an editor for Impact Tap. A development specialist with extensive experience helping blue chip arts, education, and human rights nonprofits along the East Coast, Zimmerman also writes on the nonprofit sector and hosts The Impact Lab, a podcast designed for nonprofit and social enterprise professionals. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.