Ode to the Past

This year has been a gift to journalists, and for that we must thank the president.

The man has a preternatural knack for judging the weight of a message, and adjusting it on the fly. He figured he could win a contest between border security and a shutdown, and said so.

But in his first dust-up with the incoming House Democrats, he was unwilling to bet his chips on that confrontation.

As we look back over the year, it has been one shock after another masked by one Trump-made circus after another.

He denied making payoffs to former mistresses and then said it was not a criminal violation, in any case.

He became friends with North Korea’s president, and in fact ratcheted down tensions on the Korean peninsula, while North Korea continued to build its nuclear arsenal.

He pushed almost every international ally away, provoking Germany, France and Canada. But somehow ended up in an economic stand-still with everybody but China.

He has run his office with what can fairly be called wholesale incompetence but he and the office somehow carry on.

In the last year, he lost the House in a rout but flipped Senate seats in his favor.

He has labored on, mired in a reality TV presidency, and has appointed a long list of federal judges who have been pushed through the Senate.

His agency appointees, like him, have, with their showboating and conflicts of interest, masked dark machinations by their underlings, sabotaging a web of protection for old people, workers and critters.

As the globe slides toward catastrophic warming, he and his agency heads have actually actively worked to increase carbon emissions. Lowering the mileage requirements for cars even now, even in the ever-changing, daily chaos of his administration, still shocks.

In all things environmental, his government has fought to make the nation and the planet less varied, less beautiful, less the glorious creation that it is. Just this week, our page carried a story about the federal government’s denial of protection to 13 rare and threatened species, including a crane, a songbird and the Tippecanoe darter.

His administration and his party have fought to take votes away from minorities, something I thought federal courts would never countenance. His Commerce secretary added a citizenship question to the census with the inevitable effect of reducing the count in Democratic strongholds.

The grand anti-democracy trifecta, reducing the count for minority areas, designing districts to surgically remove the power of black voters, and requiring photo ID’s, all worked to reduce voter participation, to “rig the system,” as he would say, in favor of his party.

He has pushed religion into government, working against a founding principle of our nation.

Outside of those machinations, his overt legislative accomplishments amount to reducing taxes for the rich and almost undoing the health care act.

The one good thing he did last year was confront China, whose power grows by the year in almost inverse relation to its repression at home, as artists and writers are disappeared by the state, while male members of the Uighur minority are pressed into mass prison camps and forced labor.

But he has failed to control the Saudi client wreaking genocide in Yemen.

Trump can be seen as a herald. But not of the future, rather of the death of the past. His supporters are the voices of reaction, of protest against change that has taken away many of the comforts and stability of past times, reaction against, and maybe a sadness about, the crumbling of an old order.

It is entirely understandable that union members would abandon the Democrats who haven’t done much for them, as their jobs are shipped abroad to be performed by workers paid at a fraction of the rate, a slow-motion process I have witnessed through my own nephew whose plant was moved to Mexico.

But inevitably old orders change and come to an end. Like this year. And one can hope that the beginnings of a better and more just time will start to be seen in the New Year.

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