America is getting stranger by the second, and Trump is a big part of it. As Senator Chuck Schumer of New York noted: “President-elect Trump promised that he was going to clean up the swamp.” However, many are feeling like Trump is all swamp. Not only are his cabinet picks terrible and weird, but it’s hard to forget Trump’s campaign itself.
Obviously, there were those bizarre Presidential debates, where his ideas were delivered in a scatter brained, non-specific, almost stream-of-consciousness style. For example, he once mentioned banning all Muslims from entering the United States. Well, in addition to being unconstitutional and immoral, it was also unrealistic, inflammatory and dangerous. Later he amended his views, saying that what he actually wants is a severe vetting process. Of course, those are two very different ideas, whether one supports either approach or not.
And so, at least to many, Trump appears to (1) just say stuff, (2) apologize and “walk it back” a bit, then (3) test the waters a bit with something else inflammatory. Then, if he senses he has any support, he’ll try to double down on the new extremism — until it inevitably generates too much heat again. That’s it. Rinse and repeat.
That really has been Trump’s strategy, and his primary response to critics is to simply criticize them, like it’s a big schoolyard argument at recess. It makes one wonder if he’ll just be the Twitter President. Rather than actually trying to accomplish anything good, I predict him constantly adding to his Twitter feed, complaining about all the obstructionists and critics, and pulling as many Palin-esque “They’re all against me” moments as humanly possible. There’s this constant feel of “Hey, I’m just improvising this shit, man.” I guess it makes him seem more like “one of us,” but seemingly in the worst possible way.
A classic example of Trump’s sleazy, “off the cuff” style was to criticize the Democrats for recognizing the sacrifice of Humayun Khan, a fallen US soldier and Muslim. Jeet Heer, a senior editor at the New Republic, posted this Tweet about the scandal: “Trump is about a day away from demanding to see Humayun Khan’s birth certificate & military record.”
Of course, that’s an allusion to how Donald Trump treated President Obama years ago, where he argued that Obama wasn’t an American citizen, and was a “secret Muslim.” More recently, Trump claimed Obama was a co-founder of ISIS(!).
Still, miraculously, when Trump actually sat to meet with Obama before inauguration day, his tune was completely different. All these accusations just slithered back away — right back into the swamp. Again, this is how Trump operates, and a sizable chunk of the US population somehow sees nothing wrong with it.
I myself am weirded out by the Khan thing, and I’m not even a fan of the military. It just seemed like such a weird way to go about things, and what was to really be gained? Well, it appealed to rabidly anti-Muslim bigots, ultimately — those who don’t understand that not all Muslims are terrorists. This is something that some people accept and like. However, I feel the critiques of Obama were bad, even though I’m not a fan of Obama.
Truly, there were many legitimate critiques of Obama’s administration, but Donald Trump ignored most of those in favor of some made up bullshit. But again, it appeals to the unthinking bigots who will criticize Obama either just for being black, for being a Democrat, or both. But Trump walks away from such comments as nonchalantly as he made them, because he is cocky and confident. Why else would he have been on TV?
It’s only fitting that Trump’s cabinet would reflect similar bizarre values. For just one example, look at former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s choice for Secretary of Energy. In addition to previously wanting to abolish the Department of Energy, there’s no indication that he knows much about energy, the environment, or science in general. None.
So, why was he chosen? He’s comparable to Trump in at least some key respects. To state the obvious: Both are aging conservative white males. Both ran for President. And, interestingly enough, both have been on reality shows. Yes, Rick Perry was on “Dancing With the Stars,” of all things! Just think about that by itself — some Americans actually wanted to see Rick Perry dance on television, and actually did watch it. Some people probably actually enjoyed it.
Anyway, perhaps most important of all, both Trump and Perry seem cocksure and confused simultaneously, stating everything firmly on one hand, but willing to turn policy positions seemingly on a dime. This is important to the American public. We need confidence and cowardice rolled into one. We need our politicians to call the shots but still let us think they’re imperfect — that they don’t fully know what they are doing.. Then we can say, “Well, we elected idiots, but maybe in the next 4 years we’ll pick a new one out of the swamp who will fix things up better.” Look at George W. Bush’s charm. The fact that he seemed unintelligent, child-like and goofy made him seem like a regular guy. Also, it made his more serious speeches seem all the more serious. If that goofball can take a serious tone right now, he must mean business! It’s a winning strategy.
Back to the present: It’s stated that Rick Perry (who previously called Donald Trump’s candidacy a cancer on conservatism) now believes in man-made climate change. And, obviously, he now wishes to head the very department he previously wanted dismantled. The confusion is strong in this one, which is why — like Bush before him — he’ll accurately reflect American values. Perry used to be a Democrat, too, in case you hadn’t heard.
Think about why that works: As a whole, America wants to be both ultra-regressive while, in some minor ways, appearing progressive. One could hardly find a better reflection of that contradiction than Rick Perry.
Ultimately, America is Trump’s swamp. It’s experimental as hell, to be sure, but it’s a swamp full of surprises and incongruities. Not all voters wanted this, but they sort of asked for it by supporting the electoral process. And so, any opposition Trump faces along the way — and any strange, terrible business he carries out — will be ours. There’s no sign that we’re turning around, either, and the swamp fog thickens exponentially