Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

Until now, I haven’t been report­ing on the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the Unit­ed States because news on the sub­ject has been ubiq­ui­tous, and many tal­ent­ed indi­vid­u­als and media out­lets have been call­ing the sit­u­a­tion for what it is.

Today, this changes. I don’t feel it’s appro­pri­ate for a per­son to stand on the side­lines and wait for oth­ers to do one’s duty in the midst of a mat­ter this impor­tant. I’ve writ­ten on Cana­di­an pol­i­tics on this site in the past, and arguably US pol­i­tics can have just as sig­nif­i­cant an impact on any­one liv­ing north of the bor­der due to wide­spread export of Amer­i­can cul­ture, val­ues, and geopo­lit­i­cal influ­ence.

At the same time, lin­ger­ing con­cerns remain on the polit­i­cal and finan­cial affil­i­a­tions of some media out­lets, the impact of com­pro­mised jour­nal­ism in an infor­ma­tion dri­ven soci­ety, and the pit­falls of the rat­ings-dri­ven sys­tem hold­ing sway on most TV-based media deliv­ery plat­forms which tends to cap­i­tal­ize on dra­ma and suf­fer­ing while often fail­ing to deliv­er con­text and his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive.

While there are many media groups who are doing high qual­i­ty work and pro­vid­ing in-depth jour­nal­ism, the mixed nature of tech­nol­o­gy and its use (or mis­use at times) means it’s wise to ensure infor­ma­tion is reg­u­lar­ly fact-checked and fur­ther research is con­duct­ed to under­stand con­text and estab­lish a broad­er per­spec­tive of cur­rent events.

The unfor­tu­nate thing about pol­i­tics is that despite hav­ing great impor­tance in dai­ly life, it fre­quent­ly tends to be treat­ed as a spec­ta­tor sport. Media com­pa­nies run round-the-clock news cycles and make mon­ey from it, peo­ple talk to fam­i­ly and friends about what’s going on in the world, some offices run pools on what they think the next big change might be, but how many of us are actu­al­ly will­ing to roll up our sleeves and get involved?

When was the last time you talked with a Con­gressper­son, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, or MLA? Have you ever read leg­isla­tive doc­u­men­ta­tion to learn the issues? When was the last time you fact checked a polit­i­cal state­ment? Ever been part of a pub­lic com­men­tary hear­ing? Heck, when was the last time you vot­ed?

Here’s why polit­i­cal engage­ment mat­ters:

The media is skilled in echo­ing our revul­sion at wit­ness­ing injus­tice, but this in itself doesn’t equal change. Our col­lec­tive sense of dis­gust only has the pow­er to make some sort of dif­fer­ence if it’s tapped to cre­ate last­ing action.

And indeed, action is in short sup­ply, or at least the right kind of action. The world seems to be going through the stages of grief as it comes to grips with the takeover of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics by far-right pop­ulist, reli­gious extrem­ist, and cor­po­rate financed influ­ences.

The cur­rent stage of grief? Denial.

On the road that got us where we are today, most peo­ple put their heads down, didn’t ask the right ques­tions, put trust in the wrong peo­ple, and said ‘it can’t hap­pen here.’ After all, how could a far-right takeover ever hap­pen in the placid back­yard of the Unit­ed States, land of the free and last remain­ing glob­al super­pow­er?

I’d bet Ger­mans asked the same ques­tion about their own coun­try in the 1930s as polit­i­cal alliances changed and irra­tional state actors became the new norm.

Last year, many peo­ple said a Trump pres­i­den­cy was impos­si­ble, yet here we now stand on day 100 of a Trump pres­i­den­cy, star­ing down the bar­rel of con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis after con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis, vio­la­tion after ugly vio­la­tion. Many remain obliv­i­ous to what is hap­pen­ing, whether by choice or per­son­al cir­cum­stances, and ulti­mate­ly stand to make the prob­lem worse through their lack of aware­ness.

Thanks to the media report­ing on scan­dals and failed elec­tion promis­es, some have man­aged to break their lack of aware­ness of the polit­i­cal sys­tem and at least real­ize there is an emo­tion­al­ly unsta­ble man with a shrink­ing vocab­u­lary in office as sit­ting Pres­i­dent — a man boost­ed by a par­ty whose ten­u­ous loy­al­ties are only upstaged by its laugh­ably unsus­tain­able pol­i­cy, a man opposed by a par­ty whose com­pro­mised ethics and utter indif­fer­ence to con­stituents were the final straws that jump-start­ed this Kafkaesque shit show in the first place.

Don­ald Trump’s suc­cess has again high­light­ed some of the most impor­tant sys­temic issues in pol­i­tics today: dis­en­fran­chise­ment, dis­trust of author­i­ty, income inequal­i­ty, mon­ey in pol­i­tics, mil­i­tary adven­tur­ism, and the fail­ure of the polit­i­cal sta­tus quo to present a like­able and elec­table alter­na­tive. With these issues loom­ing, the ground­work was in place for a dem­a­gogue pos­sessed of extreme view­points to project a bit of super­fi­cial empa­thy for our woes and go on to score large num­bers of believ­ers.

Call it ‘any port in a storm.’

The world has been here before: demor­al­ized by mul­ti­ple crises, we give in to des­per­a­tion and do irra­tional things. Each time these con­di­tions have reared their heads in world his­to­ry, it’s led to chaot­ic results and fre­quent­ly hasn’t end­ed well for sta­ble gov­ern­ments. The rise of pop­ulism in the west isn’t unique to the US, and it’s been dis­cussed at great length pri­or to 2016 owing to a diverse vari­ety of reac­tionary, xeno­pho­bic, and vio­lent influ­ences sweep­ing across Europe.

With the glob­al stage set thus, with Trump skilled at pan­der­ing to a mob, and with Con­gress par­a­lyzed by strife and spe­cial inter­ests to the point it now seems extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to advance a pro­gres­sive agen­da (xeno­phobes and extrem­ists flour­ish in volatile times), it’s not sur­pris­ing Trump was able to ride the coat­tails of vot­er rage all the way to the fin­ish line. His pow­er base hasn’t wavered, as despite his bizarre behav­iour, inex­pe­ri­ence with pol­i­tics, and repet­i­tive flip-flop­ping on pol­i­cy issues, he still enjoys sol­id sup­port among his vot­ers, regard­less of whether those sup­port­ers rep­re­sent a vote for Trump or a vote against the Democ­rats. That last detail is espe­cial­ly impor­tant to address, as it demon­strates both the con­tempt for the sta­tus quo and the major pit­fall of hav­ing a de fac­to two-par­ty sys­tem.

There’s no short­age of news out­lets crit­i­ciz­ing Trump’s pol­i­cy deci­sions and tem­pera­ment, which is par for the course giv­en the 24-hour TV news cycle has a need for dra­ma and rat­ings if it wish­es to sus­tain itself. Some of this, par­tic­u­lar­ly the con­tent being put out by MSNBC, CNN, and oth­er large cor­po­rate media out­lets, comes across as exces­sive­ly man­u­fac­tured since, at bare min­i­mum, the lev­el of out­rage on TV doesn’t trans­late to the lev­el of out­rage occur­ring off-air at the vot­er lev­el.

Yes, there are a lot of peo­ple who’ve become upset at the change in the wind, but it hasn’t hit the kind of tip­ping point need­ed to effect major change. At least, not yet.

If sup­port for irra­tional, right-wing lead­er­ship was real­ly as weak as is being por­trayed, we might have seen a very dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive and set of events lead­ing up to the 2016 US elec­tion, fol­lowed by the instal­la­tion of mod­er­ate politi­cians and a pro­gres­sive agen­da at both state and nation­al lev­els. Again, that sim­ply hasn’t hap­pened. To quote one news com­men­ta­tor, the Democ­rats have ‘had their ass­es hand­ed to them again, and again, and again.’

There’s more to the sit­u­a­tion than is eas­i­ly vis­i­ble on the sur­face, and that’s often one rea­son why many peo­ple don’t like the idea of get­ting into pol­i­tics. It takes an incred­i­ble tal­ent to sift through infor­ma­tion in order to read between the lines. If one con­sumes only main­stream media news, for exam­ple, it’s all too easy to miss the deep­er under­cur­rents as well as the his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive required to under­stand what’s hap­pen­ing.

This is why I’ll be doing peri­od­ic cov­er­age of US pol­i­tics going for­ward.

The fate of the future is too impor­tant for each of us to sit by, and I rec­om­mend to read­ers that you get involved to the great­est extent pos­si­ble in your own lives. None of us is as smart or strong as all of us.

Take time to fact-check sto­ries, find sources, and relay infor­ma­tion from qual­i­fied per­sons … some exam­ples that fall with­in the scope of this arti­cle are the human rights and civ­il rights groups speak­ing on pol­i­cy mat­ters, the mem­bers of the legal com­mu­ni­ty who are address­ing Trump’s attempts at cir­cum­vent­ing egal­i­tar­i­an­ism and abro­gat­ing effec­tive rule of law, and the mem­bers of the med­ical com­mu­ni­ty who have been repeat­ed­ly voic­ing con­cerns about Trump’s fit­ness to be in office.

In terms of polit­i­cal report­ing on this site, I’ll be putting in the time as usu­al to vet links and sources pri­or to post­ing, and will update with fur­ther infor­ma­tion as need­ed. Each arti­cle will be issue-focused and self-con­tained, intend­ed to explore top­ics in greater depth than we’re accus­tomed to see­ing on a day-to-day basis. It’s not a new idea, but it’s some­thing I dear­ly wish news out­lets would try to do more often.

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