Between Donald Trump’s election and his inauguration in front of that itty-bitty little crowd, I observed similarities in deportment between him and Andrew Jackson, as described by Alexis De Tocqueville in “Democracy in America.” I pointed out De Toqueville’s assessment of Jackson – considered then and now as a strong, vigorous president – as “the spokesman of provincial jealousies; it was decentralizing passions (if I may put it so) that brought him to sovereign power. He keeps his position and his popularity by daily flattery of those passions. General Jackson is the majority’s slave; he yields to its intentions, desires and half-revealed instincts, or rather he anticipates and forestalls them.”
I wondered about the tone of Mr. Trump’s presidency – “whether we will see a free-wheeling, bold Trump presidency or one that is all hot air. We really don’t know what he stands for besides personal greed and self-aggrandizement.” Events of the past few weeks tend to tip the scales toward the self-aggrandizing hot air category.
Unable to accomplish much in Washington, our president makes frequent campaign sorties into friendly territory to hear the applause from the 30 percent of Americans who support his racist, pro-rich agenda. (And most of these supporters are not rich.) Running out to Arizona to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio before the legal process had been finalized gave him a chance to assure his racist base that racial profiling and discrimination are dear to his heart – “the daily flattery of those passions” – and he received their cheers as his reward. But, then Mr. Trump crossed up his base and surprised Congressional Republicans by striking a deal with Democrats to fund hurricane relief and increase the debt ceiling.
(Our Sen. James Lankford offered hurricane victims his prayers – which were answered when others voted for the relief package. He didn’t.) It was telling of that the president’s primary reaction to the deal was to revel in the good publicity that doing the right thing brought him. The president’s susceptibility to flattery and applause raised the possibility of flattering him toward other sensible actions.
Then, after putting 800,000 Dreamers at risk by voiding DACA – to the cheers of the racists – the president evidently found more common ground with Democrats to come up with an outline to preserve their residency in the only country they have ever known. But, the approval from sensible people was drowned out by outraged cries of “Amnesty Don” from his racist base. So, wafting on the wind of public opinion, he denied any DACA deal. At the same time, he again tried to divert attention from the murderous nazis, klansmen and free-lance white supremacists who invaded Charlottesville under banners of the Third Reich.
While De Tocqueville called Jackson “the majority’s slave,” it is apparent that Trump is beholden to that racist minority which he led into the mainstream – and which he threatens to unleash in primaries upon any Republicans who oppose him. He uses these happy haters to keep others in line. Looks like they’re keeping him line as well.
(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)