The president who has done more than any other to polarize this already divided nation delivered his first State of the Union speech last week. The partisan chasm, one of many rifts in this country further widened by Trump and one-party Republican rule in Congress, pervaded the room.
Democrats withheld their applause, with rare exceptions. Republicans jumped to their feet up at every turn and applauded wildly. You would think they were listening to Abraham Lincoln.
The speech itself was undistinguished. Trump sounded most of his usual themes, including immigration. The characteristic venom was diluted but still there. The arrogance and distortion of reality too. He heaped high praise on himself and his administration, portraying its meager accomplishments as brilliant successes.
Indeed, this Administration has accomplished much. At the height of its power during the Cold War, the KGB never accomplished anything close to what Donald Trump and the radical Republicans have managed to do in one short year: Fracture the U.S., corrupt the republic, isolate it from the rest of the world.
Consider the state of the nation’s union.
Republicans in Congress wage an uncompromising war against Democrats and try to erase the entire legacy of their party. The GOP treat their adversaries in the other party as a fifth column of a defeated enemy state.
The president and Republicans in the House of Representatives attack and throw suspicion upon the entire intelligence community, starting with the FBI but including every other agency whose job is to ensure national security while obeying the Constitution and the rule of law. A house divided against itself cannot stand, Lincoln said. This administration has shaken the foundation of the house.
Trump’s words and deeds exacerbate class and racial polarization in a nation experiencing severe economic inequality and a wave of protests over police killing of black men under dubious circumstance. Trump becomes the Apologist-in-Chief after neo-Nazis, KKK members, neo-Confederates and other haters descend on the peaceful college town of Charlottesville, VA and wreak havoc, killing one young woman and injuring several other people.
The president adopts policies and make statements that enrage neighbors in this hemisphere and upset old friends in Europe and Asia. He insults the huge proportion of the world’s people who live in “shithole” nations. He contrasts these “outhouse” nations where 1 billion still live in extreme poverty nations with Norway, rich and overwhelmingly white. The Norwegians, occupied by the Nazis in World War II, familiar with virulent racism, were not pleased.
Back in Washington, government under Trump and the radical Republicans is characterized by repeated crises and permanent chaos. Partisanship, incompetence and infighting reign over professionalism and concern for the national and public interests. The wolves guard the sheep herd. The former chief lobbyist for the chemical industry is put in charge of policing against toxic pollution by the chemistry industry. An investor in tobacco companies is named to head the Centers for Disease Control. An EPA nemesis is appointed to run the agency into the ground.
The state of the nation is divided and dismal. A foreign adversary never would have been able to destabilize and divide this nation so quickly and so deeply. On his own, Vladimir Putin could never have engineered anything like this. Only this country’s one-party, extreme right political leadership, led by the deplorable-in-chief, could have pulled off such a subversion of American institutions and values.
The Irish poet William Butler Yeats’s wrote:
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere. The ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
This is the state of the union in 2018.
The most revolting spectacle of all is the army of apologists and enablers, sycophants, and bootlickers. Autocrats attract such people and cause others, who once had dignity, to lose it. The worst of the group, who are full of passionate intensity: Sean Hannity of False News, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Trump apologist extraordinaire Kelly Ann Conway. Sycophants, brownnosers by vocation and profession.
The best who lack all conviction: Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, who voted against repealing Obamacare but backed the horrible GOP tax bill and now goes around minimizing the importance of Trump’s attempts to subvert justice by trying to fire Special Counsel Bob Mueller, foiled only by a smart White House lawyer who realized that would only give additional credibility to an obvious truth: All of Trump’s actions regarding the Russia investigation have been a brazen attempt to obstruct justice.
And what to say about Devon Nunes, once a Trump critic who has become the point of the spear Trump is aiming at the FBI? Nunes is to Trump what the despicable Roy Cohn was to Joseph McCarthy, a specialist in sliming decent people for the benefit of his boss. And, as McCarthy was Cohn’s mentor, so Cohn’s was once Trump’s. Nunes might be careful. Joe McCarthy vilified and ran roughshod over the U.S. State Department, a soft target. But when he went after a hard target, the U.S. Army, he was crushed. Nunes is playing with fire by going after the FBI, a hard target, feared by much tougher actors than Nunes, like Mafia Dons, drug cartels and foreign spies.
Trump’s initial State of the Union address is a good point to assess the damage. The balance of Trump’s callous and chaotic reign is a giant leap toward the Disunited States of America.