The other day, on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (I believe), Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was discussing the ongoing battles. He was fine on that. I felt he had a basic strategic grasp of the situation, and a basic understanding of the nature of the battle.
(I just worry that he doesn’t have the capacity to dramatize this understanding powerfully enough to capture the public. And I have the same concern about Nancy Pelosi. I’d give them maybe a B.)
I like what Schumer says, but he does not spark a deep emotional response in me when he talks about these things. He’s playing forte when what we need is fortissimo, need to take the moral passion up a level.
Then, as a very last add-on piece at the close of the interview, Chuck Schumer let us see deeper into his heart for a moment when he said that what really disturbs and mystifies him is that so many Americans can look upon this grotesque presidency — a presidency working for evil in all the ways shown earlier in the interview — and give their approval and support.
You could tell that it pained Senator Schumer that so many of our fellow citizens have descended to a place in their consciousness that enables them to look upon a lawless president — who has precisely the set of character traits one would LEAST like to have in a President, and who invariably chooses a side on each issue that makes things worse– and like what they saw!
You could tell also that part of the discomfort was that he finds it mystifying just how such a thing could happen. After all, never in our lifetime — and perhaps even in American history– have we seen anything like Trump get this kind of support.
(And perhaps even in the history of Western democracies. What happened in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s was in a time far fuller of real traumas, and having only begun to develop a democratic culture, whereas we Americans have had a pretty healthy democratic culture develop over centuries. No Kaiser, no medieval feudalism, in our history.)
How could this happen in a society moving along as well as American society has been over the years, and in which “freedom of the Press” assures that the public can be educated with the truth. The lie should never be able to succeed like this. But it has! How?
In our system, the truth was supposed to be able to defeat the lie. But that requires that the truth is wielded as powerfully as the lie– that’s part of your answer, Senator Schumer. The truth needs to be wielded powerfully, so the lie does not prevail.
Where was that powerful wielding of the truth during all those years the people on the right were being led into a place where the lie defeats the truth? While they were being led into that place, where was your rhetoric to make sure they would not choose to buy that pattern of brokenness?
Schumer showed his heart for that moment when he expressed anguish and confusion over how 40% of Americans could support the ugliness and destructiveness that is on such conspicuous display.
And my heart connected with him because I, too, feel that pain and confusion.
For me, the mystification exists despite my having a really fleshed out image of the people in question– or at least some of them. Doing hundreds of hours of radio conversations with these people during the 1990s gave me a rich image of the people (and one I appreciated and respected). Having known fairly well who they were, I still have difficulty grasping who they are now.
Part of the pain is feeling disturbed that such a thing is possible to happen with otherwise “good” people, who are otherwise reasonably well-grounded in their lives. It is seeing a big chunk of humanity go off the rails, be captured by the force of brokenness, that damages one’s sense of humankind.
There’s a big uncertainty about the psychology of it. But there’s no ambiguity about the morality of it. What these people are supporting is a political force that consistently advances brokenness, makes things worse, embodies the very worst of human character structures.
Consider the contrast between Lindsey Graham and James Baker, former high-ranking official in the FBI interviewed by Rachel Maddow, whose introduction showed him to be a long-time stalwart defender of American justice.
Lindsey Graham, who leveled strong criticisms against Trump, now seeks to persecute others for having believed the same thing. All part of his having sold out completely to a President he said was a “kook,” “unfit for office.” All to save his own seat: criticizing Trump brought his approval levels down to where he’d likely be primaried from the right, and so he’s become Trump’s lap-dog for which the Republicans of South Carolina have rewarded him with a 20-point boost in support.
Meanwhile, on the Rachel Maddow Show, former high FBI official James Baker — who has suffered for doing his job in the face of Trump’s coordinating with the Russians — spoke of how he sees his duty as requiring that he be willing to lose his job if that’s the cost of doing the job the American people expect him to do.
Which of these — the man who sells his soul to hold onto his seat, or the man who does his duty even if it costs him his job — enjoys good standing among the Republicans of today?
How has that happened?