It is fitting that the U.S. government shut down a year to the day of the inauguration of Donald Trump. The Trump administration and its Republican accomplices in Congress have been shutting down key parts of the government all along. Axed or radically downsized or declawed are components of the state that are inconvenient to business, to the rich, to those who traffic in discrimination and prejudice, and to those who want to remake this country—contra the Founding Fathers—as a more Christian nation, one where people with other beliefs, including Jews, Muslims, and atheists, will be made to feel as if they don’t belong.
Steve Bannon is gone from government, but his agenda of “deconstructing the administrative state”—a pseudo-academic way of saying to radically downsize everything except the functions of government that employ violence and enhance nationalism, such as the military and the agents of immigrant roundup and expulsion—is here more than ever.
Time magazine was right when it called Trump’s minions in the Cabinet and their high-ranking subordinates “the demolition crew.” But the wrecking is selective. Even in foreign policy, those agencies like the State Department that do dialogue and diplomacy are being shrunk dramatically. Those who represent muscle are growing and given a freer hand, for instance empowering the military to bomb more and with less concern for civilian casualties, instructing immigration enforcers to use a dragnet rather than a selective approach, and telling cops to be less concerned about abusing people in custody. If innocent civilians are killed, that’s the prize of being born in a shithole country. If the human rights of suspects are trampled upon or if the rights of immigrants are violated, families split, dreamers damaged: tough! Why did they enter illegally or drive while black in the first place?
I have been collecting news and opinion articles and reading relevant books over the year since the Trump administration took office, especially those that reflect the essential tone and tenor of this government. Below, I will share a small fraction of the headlines and excerpts I have collected. Lest someone might think this is an exercise in laziness, in fact it has been a year of endless reading, clipping, digital storage, of following the political talk shows, and of swallowing bile.
My data is not neatly stored in digitally or even in well-ordered paper files. Now I have the hardest task of all, choosing what to choose from a mountain of muck and the reactions it has generated. I have included a few that show the big picture, but I have written extensively about them here before. For that reason, I have looked at seemingly smaller stories and neglected opinion columns that reflect the nature of Trump and Trumpism in an oblique way or through especially bold and insightful analysis. I don’t need to add a word. The reporting and opinions below speak for themselves. The items below are not in chronological order, and I have edited excerpts, left out the dates and abbreviated sources for brevity.
Company Man in Washington
“Since its founding in 1970 under Republican President Richard Nixon, the agency’s primary task has been to keep people safe from toxic pollutants. [Scott] Pruitt has pioneered a radically different approach to environmental regulation…Pruitt’s work at the EPA is part of the Trump Administration’s larger project of rolling back decades of regulation across government…From the Departments of Education, to Energy to Housing and Urban Development, Trump has appointed Cabinet Secretaries who are openly skeptical of the mission of the departments they now control.”
Justin Worland, Time
The Political Mythbuster in Chief
“Donald Trump prides himself on destruction. He smashes conceptions and breaks traditions. In doing so without suffering any significant consequences, he has made it more difficult for Americans to continue to delude ourselves with fairy tales about our collective values and to indulge in comforting fictions about the fundamental decency of our politics.”
Jamil Smith, New York Times (NYT)
A Trump-Size Hole in Our Relationship
“This must be what it feels like to be the victim of a random attack: shock, disbelief, disorientation, confusion, distress. But I’m aware that I was not a target. I’m just in the wrong time in America…This president has disrupted my life—professionally and personally… Professionally, after more than thirty years in the Foreign Service, rising to serve as ambassador, I found myself working for someone who appeared not to understand or value the importance of diplomacy…Then in August, my dream assignment in the Office of Global Women’s Issues was withdrawn…I was told, ‘We don’t want leadership for that office.” … At home, the President has seriously disrupted my personal life. I learned shortly before the election that the woman nearest and dearest to me in life is a Trump supporter. The situation is so divisive that I cannot name her here.”
Gina Abercrombie Winstanley, NYT
The Truth About Trump
“He’s always been fearful where other cultures are concerned and always had anxiety about food and safety when he travels.”
Michael D’Antonio, book.
In Puerto Rico, 1.4 million Are Still Without Electricity
“For the first time in 100 days since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, the government finally knows how many people still don’t have power: about half.”
Frances Robles and Jess Bidgood, NYT
The Lowest White Man
“…Trump support isn’t philosophical but theological…Trumpism is a religion founded on patriarchy and white supremacy. It is the belief that even the least qualified man is a better choice than the most qualified woman and a belief that the most vile, anti-intellectual, scandal-plagued simpleton of a white man is sufficient to follow in the presidential footsteps of the best educated, most eloquent, most affable black man.”
Charles Blow, NYT