99 weeks in and we stand on the precipice of a century mark we might not have thought we’d ever see. I’m speaking, of course, of both the Trump era and the ongoing debauchery of This Week in the Narrative.
99 weeks in and we stand like Jay-Z, with 99 problems. I won’t fill in the rest of the line for fear you will think I mean Hillary.
But 99 weeks seems enough time, enough of a “sample size,” as they say in some fields, to now examine some of the earliest theories and predictions of This Week in the Narrative and see how they are working out.
For example: “The Gift of Trump.”
For those of you who have followed since the beginning, you will be well-versed in this theory. For those of you who haven’t and are unfamiliar, don’t panic!
“The Gift of Trump” is a bit like the dentist who hands out toothbrushes on Halloween instead of candy, it’s a bit like the friend of mine who gave his girlfriend a set of winter tires for Valentine’s Day. That is, it’s not really a gift you want, or like, but it is a gift nonetheless.
“The Gift of Trump” is simply this:
When Donald Trump does things that every President and presidential administration have done, he does so in such an ostentatiously belligerent, offensive way that it creates unprecedented public engagement, that it shines a spotlight on the gears of the system. That is to say, President Trump’s buffoonery means that when he does awful things which everyone has done, people actually care.
For example, the thought of Trump as Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military on earth, like an orange-faced Napoleon sitting atop a horse with his sword held to the sky, is somewhere between unsettling and terrifying for many. His record-setting military budgets, now soaring past $700 billion per year, have caused uproar, as has his saber–rattling, often through Twitter, toward any number of world leaders and so-called enemies.
Yet, when President Obama was revving up the mighty American military machine, spending more than W. Bush, overthrowing foreign leaders – “We came, we saw, he died.” – conducting a “war on whistleblowers,” and becoming the “Drone Ranger,” most people didn’t seem to mind much.
It’s fine to talk about, but the question is, how can we tangibly measure “The Gift of Trump”? That is, how can we see if the gift is, in fact, being received and used?
One way is by looking at the number of extremely progressive candidates who have won primaries and/or are poised to win in the general election later this year.
Back during the last election cycle, I wrote a piece entitled “The Top 12 Berniecrats Running in 2016.” The criteria for the people on this list was that they be wildly progressive and have a chance of winning, at least in the primary but perhaps in the general. I can tell you that finding 12 candidates who met these criteria was difficult.
This time around, there are so many candidates who meet the criteria that making a list of only 12 would be effectively impossible.
So why the change?
Look at it like this: When progressive positions are contrasted with the status quo, they can be painted as radical; when they are contrasted with Trump, they seem like the only logical option.
Look at candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, running for Congress in New York’s 14th district after defeating 10-term establishment incumbent Joseph Crowley in the primary. Ocasio-Cortez is, as a fundamental pillar of her platform and popularity, calling for the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Back when President Obama was deporting more people than any President ever, keeping children in cages at detention centers and private prisons, becoming known in the process as the “Deporter in Chief,” a candidate like Ocasio-Cortez might not have gained much traction on the Democratic ticket.
Now, with Trump’s grotesqueries, someone like Ocasio-Cortez seems like the only person in the room making sense.
Or look at candidates like Rashida Tlaib, bringing a “radical green vision” to her campaign for Michigan’s 13th district – her campaign logo literally has a tree in it – and likely to become the first Muslim and first Palestinian woman elected to Congress.
Back when President Obama was overseeing an unprecedented oil boom, talking big green words but never committing the U.S. to anything binding, a candidate like Tlaib might have been portrayed as the type of person marching at a rally in Seattle.
Back when Democrats produced the corporate giveaway known as Obamacare, the party line was that this was as good as it could get. As Hillary Clinton said barely two years ago about universal healthcare, it “will never, ever come to pass.”
But as Trump continues to make efforts to dismantle even the modest healthcare system as well as social programs, candidates like Fagan, who propose the novel idea that government should attempt to ensure the health of its citizens, are having Democrats yell “never, ever” at them less and less.
Or, consider all of the candidates who, through “Brand New Congress” or otherwise, have pledged not to accept corporate backing in their campaigns, and who rail constantly about the growing inequality between the 1% and the 99%.
Back when President Obama was bailing out the banks, letting lobbyists write the new legislation, and renewing and codifying the W. Bush tax cuts which were set to sunset, or back when President Bush was passing the tax cuts in the first place and deregulating the financial industry, or back when President Clinton was removing Glass-Steagall, these type of candidates would probably have been told to go sit in a dark corner with Bernie Sanders.
Now, as Trump unapologetically continues the transfer of wealth to the 1%, passing, with a smirk and without excuse, his tax cuts – the “biggest wealth grab in modern history” – candidates like those supported by Brand New Congress are becoming more norm than exception … oh, and Bernie Sanders, out of the shadows, is the most popular politician in the country.
Finally, what about candidates Ben Jealous in Maryland and Stacey Abrams in Georgia, two progressive African-Americans who have also earned the Democratic nomination for Governor and seek to become the first black holders of that office in their respective states, or Deb Haaland of New Mexico, who seeks to become the first Native American woman elected to the House, or Ilhan Omar, the former Somali refugee who, like the aforementioned Rashida Tlaib, seeks to become the first Muslim woman in Congress.
Only two years ago the Clinton political machine was moving around the country subverting progressive candidates of color in favor of more moderate, usually white, establishment candidates.
Little known historical fact: Donald Trump did not invent racism. But he is racist enough to make a diversity of views, let alone skin colors, more crucial and more desired than ever.
Here is what I am getting at.
Where Trump is taking the Republican Party, God only knows. But where “The Gift of Trump” is taking the so-called “left-wing” is perhaps becoming more clear.
“The Gift of Trump,” it seems, is shifting the liberal status quo towards progressives.