There was a program on ABC Radio National's 'The Minefield' last week¹ about the question of whether or not it would be good for democracy if Donald Trump was impeached from the office of the Presidency. There is a link to that program as a footnote at the bottom of this post (always read footnotes (they are sometimes amusing (though three layers of parenthetical comment are hilarious))) but perhaps the more important question is whether or not the United States of America actually deserves Donald Trump. I would argue, yes.
Everyone in the world by virtue of being able to view the world through only one perspective, invariably becomes the hero of their own narrative. Even if you have an extremely pessimistic view of yourself and even if that view crosses over the line into full on self-loathing which may or may not be symptomatic of some deeper psychological issue, I think that it is impossible to have a majority of viewpoint which isn't founded in first person narrative. This is reflected in the anecdotal saw that the most common spoken word is 'I'. It is really hard to outrun the beast that shouted 'I' at the heart of the world.
If we extend that out to the life of a nation, then the grand collective that is either a public matter in the republic (res publica), or perhaps as constituted as a Commonwealth, is still a mostly first person narrative. If you turn on your television of an evening, the vast majority of the news at 6 will be concerning the internal issues and selfishness of the nation.
Including if you include the Soviet Union, China, and each of the nations which were on the dismal side behind the Iron Curtain, what you still get is nation states acting in their own self interest (which may or may not be rational).
To that end, the United States is just as guilty as any other nation of national selfishness and as soon as that happens, it is going to come into conflict with other self interested nations.
Haven't there been a lot of them? In just my lifetime, the United States has been at war with at least 14 countries on a hot basis and at least 11 countries on a cold basis. That's a lot of countries who the United States has had its own hand in tilting the fate of. There is also the kind of mostly unknowable question of what kind of meddling has been done by American business interests abroad, which is perhaps most visible by News Corp.
With that much fiddling and agitation being carried out by the United States and its affiliates, it seems inevitable to me that the sins of the nation which it perpetrates abroad should revisit it at home. If you go around punching other people's noses, it seems that at some point, someone is going to want to punch you back. On that note, the principle of exact retribution looks reasonably fair if not just, albeit unkind.
It must be said however that the United States has not ever suffered the full brunt of its sins abroad. It can be very much argued that the biggest conflicts which the United States has been involved in, have been on their own doorstep; with the wars with Mexico and Spain, the wars with Britain and France, and the war with itself, all taking place on the North American continent. The messes that have caused the most strife have always been within its own border.
Having said all of that, the question about whether or not the United States deserves Donald Trump as President is still not immediately resolvable. Conflict without and conflict within will give you the necessary conditions which will make someone like Donald Trump inevitable but even all of that fails to address whether or not the United States of America deserves Trump, considering that the decisions of government and business is largely out of control of normal people who are carried along by the river of history.
I argue that the reason why the United States of America deserves Donald Trump as the President isn't because of some divine notion of providence and justice paying back with exact retribution for the things that America has done both to the world and indeed to its own people but because of who Trump is. Trump is finally a good representation of America. Forget Columbia, Lady Liberty, Uncle Sam or Joe The Plumber, Donald Trump is America personified.
If there is one thing that you can learn about the United States, which constantly repeats itself throughout its history, it is that it is the concept of the individual which is set at the heart of the nation. Almost all political discussions at some point touch on the question of individual rights and virtually all of the nation's woes centre around individual freedoms and liberties. In contrast, the idea of a collective endeavour (which is perhaps the best reason why nationhood exists as a concept), has been neglected from July 2nd 1776.
The Declaration of Independence which I have no doubt was never intended to be anything but a piece of self generated propaganda for America, lays the blame for the then present conflict between the thirteen colonies and England in the metonymic sense, squarely on the head of the King. 'He has' done X, is oft repeated throughout the document as though King George was personally the cause. This rather conveniently ignores the fact that after 1689, the monarch had their power dramatically clipped and the seat of government and the power therein vested with the parliament. The Declaration of Independence is a misguided accusation against an individual rather than the correct accusation of parliament which had as a collective and through the instruments of charter corporations, hurt America. That lesson has never been learned.
The Bill of Rights is mostly seen as a limit on government against the rights of the individual. When it comes to other rights like voting rights with respect to race or gender, or reproductive rights, they are always framed as the claims of the individual as opposed to the collective responsibility and duties of the nation.
The real irony of course is that the biggest and most powerful oligarchs in the United States, are not found in the halls of legislatures but the boardrooms of corporations which themselves are corporate collective endeavours. When they collapse, quite often the individuals who were at the helm, escape any kind of prosecution. In the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and its aftermath, not one individual was brought to trial for monumentally destroying and degrading the economy.
I think it telling that World War Two gave the economies of Europe a chance to reset and the institutions which followed immediately afterwards, all tended to be far more collective endeavours than the United States. In fact, the Second Bill of Rights as proposed by FDR in his 1944 State Of The Union address, which looked at collective means to build people's lives, was never put to the Congress and his successor Harry Truman, would never dare to.
The machinery of the Federal Government of the United States of America is constituted through that same paradigm. It is probably the first nation to have a Constitution and in doing so, the nation is incorporated as a three ring circus that resembles a corporation more than a parliamentary democracy.
The current government as defined by the US Constitution is actually the second attempt at organising the civil administration of the nation. The Continental Congress which had seven presidents, was by design so impotent that it really only had the power to engage in an declare war. It was so successful in its impotency that nobody remembers the names of any of its presidents, and so brilliant at being unworkable that it necessitated its own replacement.
The current US Constitution which dates from 1789, some thirteen years after the Declaration of Independence, was mostly the work of Alexander Hamilton and the government form that it dreamed up², is explained via a series of checks and balances of power against each other but actually vests an incredible amount of power in the office of the President who sits outside the legislature. On a day to day basis, the President is answerable to nobody and can direct the executive of the nation virtually at will. I think that Hamilton conceived the office of the President for his mate George Washington and never looked any further into the future at all.
It makes perfect sense that Donald Trump who is a businessman should see the office of the President exactly like he saw his own business because I think that that's not terribly that far away from the design of the office in the first place.
Trump who never held any public service office before becoming President, kind of almost still doesn't hold a public service office. Trump was appointed to be Chairman of the Board directly by the shareholders through an arcane election system which has been copied exactly zero times.
Trump's installation as President (in the same way that someone gets a hot water heater installed in their house), might have benefited from interference from the Russian Government but it still took more than 60 million votes to put him there. While the man has proven to be a bad President and generally incompetent at doing the job, he did prove himself masterly at playing the game which was necessary to get that job. As an 'all means necessary' President, which came from the board rooms of New York City, Trump is a symptom of a system which was broken since before its inception, rather than a supervillain.
In essence, Trump is the King of the chessboard and not the chess master. A chess master has an idea of the rules of the game and a strategy for winning it to completion. I doubt that Trump had any plans beyond November 9th 2016. As the King of the board, he is the most visible piece and that's about it.
The question of whether or not the United States of America deserves Donald Trump as President needs to be viewed through that lens, I think. In blaming Trump for bringing politics itself into disrepute, it yet again makes the same mistake that has been repeated throughout the history of the United States. That mistake is laying the blame at the feet of the individual rather than the people; which as the grand collective called 'the republic', is the root of the problem.
All of the symptoms of bad legislation and bad government, all stem from that same root. Whether it's people having to yell for their individual rights because other individuals feel that have no responsibility to the nation, or if it is a failure to enact collective action solutions (on matters of health care, education, water infrastructure, roads, the internet) because the individuals who control those things feel that they have no responsibility to the nation, the cause is identical.
The United States of America deserves Donald Trump as President because it secretly³ loves the beast that shouted 'I' at the heart of the world. The same song has been on repeat from day one.
²I also think that the villain of the musical 'Hamilton' is none other than Alexander Hamilton. It is properly a tragedy in the classical sense, too.
³actually quite often not even secretly.