Sep 16th 2017

Taking Supper with Trump – The Need for a Very Long Spoon

by David Coates

David Coates holds the Worrell Chair in Anglo-American Studies

The Democratic Party leadership in both the House and the Senate spent last week congratulating themselves on the deal they supposedly struck with the President on legislation to protect dreamers,[i] and presumably took some pleasure too from the adverse impact of that supposed deal on Trump’s relationship with Congressional Republicans and his base.

They should not do so.

They should spend their time worrying instead about the adverse effects on the electoral credibility of a Democratic Party that gets too close to this President, and on a leadership team that – by getting so close – erodes the distance between themselves and a president who is uniquely unsuited to the office.[ii]

I

Dining with the devil always requires the use of a long spoon;[iii] and it does so in this case for at least the following reasons.

Deals made with this President don’t last one tweet-cycle.[iv] He is not dealing honestly with the Democratic Leadership, he is playing them. It may be, on this issue at least, that the President finds himself more of a closet Democrat than he normally admits; but even so, through the specifics of the deal struck last week all the parties to it are taking DACA participants on yet another emotionally-charged roller-coaster ride, for no ultimate benefit to any one of them.

Even if the deal is genuine in Trump’s mind, the Democratic Leadership is in no position to deliver it. Power lies in both Houses of Congress with the Republican majority, and they will not automatically play ball. Paul Ryan is quite right.[v] Republicans, not Democrats, decide what policy initiatives come to the House for a vote. Republican legislators may yet reconstitute the Dream Act: but if they do so, it will be because of Republican Party concerns about a loss of electoral support, not because of any supper-deal struck between Trump, Schumer and Pelosi. Indeed, for some Republican lawmakers, that deal might very well get in the way.

·      The President is only dealing with Democrats in this supposedly bi-partisan manner because of divisions within the Republican Party that the deals serve only to hide. By making deals with a beleaguered president, the Democratic Leadership team is not only helping to restore the credibility of his leadership – something they need at all costs to avoid doing. They are also letting the Republicans off the hook – a hook of which the electorate need to remain fully aware as we move towards a mid-term election season in which Democratic Party candidates could prosper.

   While making deals that look mildly progressive, this President’s Administration is simultaneously planning or initiating a whole series of reactionary policies (in the Justice Department, at Education, and at the EPA) on which Democrats need to concentrate, and which night-time deal making can only help to obscure. This is an Administration working assiduously, for example, to allow oil drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.[vi] It is one whose Education Department is working to erode critical Title IX guidance on campus sexual misconduct,[vii] and whose Justice Department is currently overseeing the re-segregation of American schools.[viii] It is one set on rolling back hard-won LGBT rights; and it is one whose head is currently struggling to avoid the full exposure of his links to Putin and the Russian Intelligence Services. This is no time, therefore, for the throwing of any kind of Democratic life-line to a reactionary Administration in free-fall.

      Any notion that this President can be “turned” on DACA runs in the face of his persistent attacks on immigrants from the Middle East and on undocumented workers from Mexico, and runs entirely counter to his long-standing antipathy to anything initiated by Barack Obama. According to Trump the birther, his predecessor as president was an original Dreamer.[ix] Trading on DACA with Donald J. Trump, were it even politically viable, would involve – at the very least – concessions on the nonsense of the Wall, and indirect legitimation of his xenophobic immigration stance. An effective political opposition cannot simultaneously strike deals and strike poses – either this man and his policies are anathema, or they are not!


II

So far from joining this president in nightline soirees and backdoor dealing, the Democratic Party leadership in Congress would do better to take a leaf from the playbook which their Republican opponents used when Barack Obama was president: that of total and principled opposition. When the Republicans treated President Obama in that way, they showed themselves in their true colors – as reactionary, as residually racist, and as devoid of concern for the least advantaged among us. They set their face against a president who possessed moderately progressive values, in the process making crystal-clear to all the ultra-conservative nature of their own. We need that clarity of difference again. Faced with a president who is uniquely narcissistic, homophobic and racist,[x] a position of principled opposition to everything Donald J. Trump stands for will make crystal-clear that the Democratic Party is none of those things.

Playing the politics of theatre with a reactionary president in political trouble runs the danger of ruining the end of the play for those of us dedicated to seeing Trump gone, and better American values dominant again in both the White House and the Congress.

First posted, with full citations, at www.davidcoates.net




[i] Maggie Haberman and Yamiche Alcindor, “Pelosi and Schumer Say They Have Deal with Trump to Replace DACA,” The New York Times, September 13, 2017: available at http://173.236.39.100/politics/progressive-opinion/225247-pelosi-and-schumer-say-they-have-deal-with-trump-to-replace-daca

 

[ii] Sean Sullivan and Anne Gearan, “In deal with Trump, Democrats see opportunity – and peril,” The Washington Post, September 8, 2017: available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-deal-with-trump-democrats-see-opportunity--and-peril/2017/09/08/cb1f610e-94aa-11e7-89fa-bb822a46da5b_story.html?utm_term=.8e7f87c02cd7

 

[iv] Ashley Parker, “Trump and Democrats strike DACA deal. Yes? No? Sort of? Trump’s world can be confusing,” The Washington Post, September 14, 2017: available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-and-democrats-strike-daca-deal-yes-no-sort-of-trumps-world-can-be-confusing/2017/09/14/ab6a40d4-9970-11e7-82e4-f1076f6d6152_story.html?utm_term=.91113b90b35e

 

[v] Elise Viebeck, Ed O’Keefe and Mike DeBonis, “Ryan dismisses potential DACA deal between Trump and Democrats,” The Washington Post, September 14, 2017: available at http://www.standard.net/National/2017/09/14/Ryan-dismisses-potential-DACA-deal-between-Trump-and-Democrats

 

[vi] Juliet Eilperin, “Trump administration working towards renewed drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” The Washington Post, September 15, 2017: available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-administration-working-toward-renewed-drilling-in-arctic-national-wildlife-refuge/2017/09/15/bfa5765e-97ea-11e7-87fc-c3f7ee4035c9_story.html?utm_term=.3d2dd740257b

 

[viii] Emmanuel Felton, “The Department of Justice is Overseeing the Resegregation of American Schools,” The Nation, September 25-October 2, 2017: available at https://www.thenation.com/article/the-department-of-justice-is-overseeing-the-resegregation-of-american-schools/

 

[ix] Edward Luce, “Donald Trump is mugging the American Dream,” Financial Times, September 7, 2017: available at https://www.ft.com/content/82d313b0-9189-11e7-a9e6-11d2f0ebb7f0

 

[x] Adam Shatz, “Wrecking Ball: Adam Shatz on Trump’s racism,” The London Review of Books, September 7, 2017: available at https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n17/adam-shatz/wrecking-ball

 

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACTS: "China uses incarcerated prisoners of conscience as an organ donor pool to provide compatible transplants for patients. These prisoners or “donors” are executed and their organs harvested against their will, and used in a prolific and profitable transplant industry."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "In the first episode of season three of The Kominsky Method (2021), there is a funeral service for Michael Douglas’ character’s lifelong friend Norman Newlander (played by Alan Arkin). By far the most inconsolable mourner to give a eulogy is Newlander’s personal assistant of 22 years who, amid a hyperbolical outpouring of grief, literally cannot bring herself to let go of the casket. It is a humorous scene, to be sure, but there is something else going on here that is characteristic of employer-employee relations in this era of neoliberal capitalism. “Making him happy made me happy,” she exclaims, “his welfare was my first thought in the morning, and my last thought before I went to sleep.” That isn’t sweet – it is pathological. ----- Employee happiness is becoming increasingly conditional on, or even equated with, the boss’ happiness. As Frédéric Lordon observes in his book, Willing Slaves of Capital (2014), “employees used to surrender to the master desire with a heavy heart…they had other things on their minds…ideally the present-day enterprise wants subjects who strive of their own accord according to its norms.” In a word, the employee is increasingly expected to internalize and identify with the desire of the master."
Jul 20th 2022
EXTRACT: "For three decades, people have been deluged with information suggesting that depression is caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain – namely an imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin. However, our latest research review shows that the evidence does not support it."
Jul 13th 2022
"But is he “deluded”? " ---- "....we sometimes end up with deluded leaders because we ourselves can be somewhat delusional when we vote." ---- "David Collinson, a professor of leadership and organization at Lancaster University, associates this predicament with excessive positive thinking, or what he calls “Prozac leadership,” in reference to the famous antidepressant that promises to cheer people up without actually fixing what is wrong in their lives. “ ---- "In politics, Prozac leaders come to power by selling the electorate on wildly overoptimistic views of the future. When the public buys into a Prozac leader’s narrative, it is they who are already verging on the delusional." ----- "Another potential example is Vladimir Putin, who has conjured a kind of nostalgic dream world for his followers and the wider Russian public."
Jun 25th 2022
EXTRACT: "Many veterans, refugees and other people who have experienced trauma and have mental health issues spend little time thinking about the future. Instead, they are narrowly focused on the negative past. However, people who have experienced trauma and developed a healthy future perspective report being better at coping with life, having fewer negative thoughts about the past, and getting better sleep compared with those who have a negative future perspective. So, instead of dwelling on the past, people who have suffered trauma should be encouraged to think about the future and set goals that help them develop hope for a good life."
Jun 8th 2022
EXTRACT: " The devastation of war is a recurring theme in Turner’s work, and unlike his contemporaries Turner is willing to forego the occasion to bolster national pride or the patriotism of its fallen heroes. In “The Field of Waterloo” (1818), Turner’s great tragic vision of war, “The…  dead of both sides lay intertwined, nearly indistinguishable surrounded by the gloom of night.” Near the bottom center there are three women. The one farthest from us is bearing a child and in her right hand a torch which illumines the sea of mangled bodies. Beside her is another woman struggling to keep a third (also with child) from collapsing outright. Turner reflects not only on the dead and dying, but on the widows and orphans that war produces."
May 19th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Thus experimental creativity could be witnessed, but not verbalized.  When five leading Abstract Expressionist painters founded an art school in New York in the late 1940s, they offered no formal courses, because, as Robert Motherwell explained, "in a basic sense art cannot be taught." ------ "Conceptual artists are ...... more inclined to use written texts to accompany their works in other genres.  In 1883, Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother, "One of these days I will write you a letter;  I shall write it carefully and try to make it short, but say everything I think necessary."
May 17th 2022
EXTRACT: "Unfortunately, it’s common for dark triad personalities to become leaders. ..... their ruthlessness and ability to manipulate means they attain positions of power quite easily. When a “dark” leader attains power, conscientious, moral people rapidly fall away. A government operating under these conditions soon becomes what the Polish psychologist Andrzej Lobaczewski called a “pathocracy” – an administration made up of ruthless individuals devoid of integrity and morality. This happened with Donald Trump’s presidency, as the “adults in the room” gradually headed for the exit, leaving no one but staffers defined by their personal allegiance to Trump. A similar decay in standards has occurred in the UK."
May 11th 2022
EXTRACT: "The proportion of US electricity deriving from wind and solar in the month of April climbed to 20%. Thus, the renewables total was 26.5 if we add in hydro. This statistic is unprecedented."
Apr 24th 2022
EXTRACT: "Every year, around 12,000 men in the UK die from prostate cancer, but many more die with prostate cancer than from it. So knowing whether the disease is going to advance rapidly or not is important for knowing who to treat." ...... "For some years, we have known that pathogens (bacteria and viruses) can cause cancer. We know, for example, that Helicobacter pylori is associated with stomach cancer and that the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer." ....... "....we have identified five types (genera) of bacteria linked to aggressive prostate cancer." ...... "We examined prostate tissue and urine samples from over 600 men with and without prostate cancer," ..... "....men who had one or more of the bacteria were nearly three times more likely to see their early stage cancer progress to advanced disease, compared with men who had none of the bacteria in their urine or prostate."
Apr 13th 2022
EXTARCTS: "Steve Jobs dreaded turning 30, because he knew it would be fatal to his creativity: "It's rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to contribute something amazing." ....... "When Ford introduced the Model T, he was 45 years old" ...... "Ford’s Model T arrived only after a series of earlier cars – Models A, B, C, K, N, R, and S." .... "Sam Walton opened Wal-Mart No. 1 in Rogers, Arkansas, at 44, and discovered “that there was much, much more business out there in small-town American than anybody, including me, had ever dreamed of.” At 53, Warren Buffett wrote in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that “your chairman, always a quick study, required only 20 years to recognize how important it was to buy good businesses.” "
Mar 29th 2022
EXTRACT: ".... Christie's web site calls Shot Sage Blue Marilyn [1964], to be auctioned in May, 'among the most iconic paintings in history', " ------ "Andy Warhol's annus mirabilis was not 1964, but 1962. This is recognized both by the market and by scholars. Thus in a paper published in the Journal of Applied Economics, Simone Lenzu and I found that in all auctions held during 1965-2015, the average price of Warhol's paintings executed in 1964 was significantly lower than the average price of those he made in 1962. And in a survey of 61 textbooks of art history published during 1991- 2015, whose authors included such eminent scholars as Martin Kemp and Rosalind Krauss, we found that fully 45% of the total of 137 illustrations of Warhol's paintings were of works from 1962, compared to only 12% of works from 1964. Thus not only do collectors value Warhol's works of 1962 more highly than those of 1964, but so do scholars of art history,.... "
Mar 29th 2022
EXTRACTS:".....there is plenty of space to scale. For internet-based businesses, the addressable total market is often large. In many areas, such as software, it spans the globe. Chinese estimates indicate that the average distance between seller and buyer on e-commerce platforms is roughly 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), compared to five kilometers for a traditional retail or service business." ------- "While the internet has removed many geographical barriers, high-growth companies cannot emerge just anywhere. In fact, though such firms can be found in more countries than ever, they remain concentrated in entrepreneurial hotspots. For example, of the 24 unicorns in Germany (as of March 2022), 17 are based in Berlin and five in Munich. Of France’s top 24 unicorns, 19 are based in Paris and one in a Paris suburb." ------ "Tech entrepreneurship has become global, but its beating heart remains local."
Mar 27th 2022
EXTRACTS: " We are supposed to be living in a post-ideological era, where everyone one is a cynic, not so gullible as to believe in anything anymore, least of all in the quaint notion of objective truth. This rejection of truth as such is among the great disasters to have befallen our relations with each other and between nations.  We appear to be beyond truth’s demise – we are now witnessing its unpleasant putrefaction and decay." ------ " If we want to grasp how ideology functions in America today, there is no better place to look than at the phenomenon of Trumpism. While he may be only a symptom, Trump himself is the quintessential embodiment of America’s moral and epistemic decline. " ------ "By its disavowal of truth and perpetuation of lies for the sake of self-aggrandizement, Trumpism represents an existential threat to this country and to the future of the Republic. It is a cancer that threatens whatever is good and decent in American life. " ----- "All they know is negative freedom – freedom from – but ignore the need for positive freedom, the freedom to… as in the freedom to flourish, to realize oneself in the world; to make and re-make oneself and the world through action."
Feb 14th 2022
EXTRACT: "In the decades since its inception, there has been heavy criticism directed towards the War on Drugs. These complaints include the increased incarceration rates, the increase in the number of prisoners in jail due to nonviolent offenses, uneven sentencing guidelines often based on the drug type and race, and suggestions of a racist component in terms of who was targeted by law enforcement. Various studies show that instead of reducing crime, the strict sentencing guidelines created more criminals and undermined many of the communities most strictly targeted by law enforcement. Long sentences for non-violent offenses made it difficult for those released to find work and weakened their bonds with family and their broader community."
Feb 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "......... there are countries that have had a relatively high number of infections but which have still managed to keep their death numbers low – countries like Japan. It’s had 17,612 infections per million people yet only 146 deaths per million. This is despite almost one in three people in Japan being over the age of 65 and so at greater risk of severe COVID (the average age of people dying from COVID is over 80). What has kept the death rate there down? A recent Japenese study has proposed an answer. It reports that the risk of people dying of COVID in Japan is related to the microbes present in their guts. "
Jan 26th 2022
EXTRACT: "Then there was a revolution. In 1964, Bob Dylan created a new kind of popular music. The simple, clear love songs ...... were replaced by complex and opaque lyrics, filled with literary allusions and symbolism. Dylan rejected the role of craftsman: "I'm an artist. I try to create art." Nor were his songs intended to be universal: "My songs were written with me in mind." "
Dec 13th 2021
EXTRACT: " We all know that Father Christmas would struggle to deliver presents to everyone around the world without the help of his magical reindeer. But why were they chosen to pull the sleigh rather than any other animal? It turns out that the biology of reindeer makes them ideal for the job. Here are five reasons why."
Dec 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "Planting more forests is a potent tool for mitigating the climate crisis, but forests are like complex machines with millions of parts. Tree planting can cause ecological damage when carried out poorly, particularly if there is no commitment to diversity of planting. Following Darwin’s thinking, there is growing awareness that the best, healthiest forests are ones with the greatest variety of trees - and trees of various ages."
Nov 19th 2021
EXTRACTS: "At a time when the struggle between authoritarianism and democracy is so intense, if not fateful for the future of democracies, NATO and the EU must warn these countries [Editor's note: Poland and Hungary, EU and NATO, Turkey NATO] that they are on the precipice of being kicked out if they do not change their governing practice. They must be required to restore the principles of democracy by upholding universal human rights and abiding the rule of law, or else they will forfeit their membership and suffer from the consequences of their crimes." ------ "A narcissistic leader, such as Trump, whose hunger for power seems to know no limit, has happily sacrificed the good of the country on the altar of his twisted ego. America’s democracy cannot be repaired unless he and those who helped him are held accountable and face the weight of the law."