Donald Trump's election was a national disgrace. I won't go through the list; his terrifying inadequacies as a leader, public servant and human being are all well documented. You don't have to be a student of history to know that he is dangerously out of his depth. But America has seen worse, and I am confident we will survive Trump in one form or another. However, I cannot ignore this sinking feeling that his election was inevitable. That he is the president America deserves right now.
America 2016 is a nation willfully distracted and divided. Our time is spent in bubbles, focused on entertainment, scandal and a steady diet of bad news. Negativity rules the day. Intellectualism = TL;DR. Public education is in shambles. Resources and human capital are wasted on the technology of communication at the expense of securing world peace and a livable planet for future generations. We expect everything and are disappointed when we never get it. And the worst part? This is all common knowledge. We are wise enough to see the error of our ways yet foolish enough to persist in them.
Our current, pathetic state of affairs is no accident. The American people and their elected officials have gradually ceded decision making authority to an increasingly influential group of private corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of the public interest. This concept is nothing new- wealth and power have gone hand in hand for pretty much all of human history. But the level of private control in America and around the world today is unprecedented by any stretch of the imagination. Beginning in the postwar era with an overtly pro-industry approach to foreign policy and bolstered by the trickle-down, supply-side economics of the Reagan era, America has witnessed a massive transfer of wealth from the working and middle classes to the very top of the top.
We are truly living in a Second Gilded Age. In the latter part of the 19th century, America was a wildly unequal place. Concentrated corporate greed and a complete lack of regulation (or a middle class) came close to creating a permanent American caste system. Millions of workers toiled in sub-standard conditions for meager pay, while the super-rich flaunted their obscene wealth with reckless disregard. Were it not for federal intervention by a strong president voicing the will of the people in the name of parity, America might not have experienced the prosperity boom and birth of the middle class in the 20th century. Today's America has much in common with this prewar era of corporate excess and global tension, save for one major distinction.
Today's corporations have learned to insulate themselves from such nuisances as public opinion and government oversight. This time, the game is rigged and rigged better. The corporate elite, through political marketing and their elected mouthpieces, have managed to do the seemingly impossible- convince rural America that their interests are intertwined. THIS is the greatest trick the devil ever pulled. And even when public opinion is stacked against them, corporate interests still seem to win out with a mixture of aggressive lobbying, targeted advertising and gerrymandering. Despite his anti-establishment rhetoric, make no mistake- Trump's election signifies the dawning of a new era of corporate welfare in America. He may not have been their first choice, but Wall Street, K Street and big business everywhere have quickly come around to the fact that they now have a true friend in the White House. Look no further than his cabinet appointees. The only questions remaining are how much systemic damage can be done and the scope of its lasting effects.
What we lack and sorely need are courageous leaders. True representatives willing to stand up to special interests and speak out on behalf of the American people, all of the people, even when inconvenient and uncomfortable. Especially when inconvenient and uncomfortable. I don't blame corporations for putting profit over social responsibility or taking advantage of an easily corruptible system. But we should expect more from our elected officials. The private sector exists to give people what they want. Government exists to give people what they need. The interests of capitalism and democracy align in many places, but they are not the same. If government ceases to reign in the worst excesses of capitalism and ensure equality of opportunity for all, then it ceases to be a democracy. And in a world where money is everything, its distribution, or lack thereof, is the bedrock of equality.
When the Roosevelts took on big money interests, class wasn't a dirty word. It shouldn't be one today. Regardless of personal politics, our elected representatives have a duty to ensure that the core functions of our government and economy work for everyone and not just a select few at the top.