The “Broken Politics” section of this web site contains a series of just how malfunctioning our government has become under Trump. Regardless of how damaging his policies might be there are larger issues at stake. Compared to losing our form of governance, policy issues (like abortion and second amendment rights) pale into insignificance.
So political decisions will not be a prime topic of this section – assuming you could even figure out what the Republicans’ policies might actually be. I’ve come up with six general areas that are of over-riding importance: respect, honesty, authoritarianism, competence, compassion and corruption. In this section I’ve tried to present my general thoughts on these areas. If any (or in the present, all) of these are amiss then all bets are off for where we might be headed.
Respect is a two-way street – you have to give it to receive it.
This point is apparently lost to a large part of the Republican party.
It has never even occurred to Trump. They not only show no respect for
anyone not part of their tribe, they also show no respect for our laws,
constitution, customs or institutions. Their disrespect is so pervasive
it needed additional sub-categories to keep it organized: the law, the
constitution, people and institutions.
One could argue that none of these things deserve respect, that
things are so screwed up (deep state and all that) that only a complete
cleansing will suffice. The anger with politicians is understandable,
but throwing the baby out with the bathwater will not solve whatever
problems the right wing perceives, a large number of which are untrue to
begin with. Tantrums are rarely effective at solving anything.
Of the six aspects of governance that this web site is focusing on
(honesty, competence, authoritarianism, compassion, respect and
corruption) honesty is the most important. If we cannot trust our
leaders to be honest with us – to tell the truth, the whole truth and
nothing but the truth – then everything else becomes uncertain.
Sad to say, Republicans in general and Trump in particular see
honesty as something optional, useful when it supports whatever agenda
they are currently pursuing – something to be discarded when it is no
It wouldn’t be difficult to do a daily posting on some Republican
(just Trump by himself would suffice) telling a lie, something that is
unquestioningly false. Trump supporters try to play an equivalence game
by saying Democrats do it to, and usually support that with Obama’s
quote about the ACA and keeping your doctor. A prediction about
something that didn’t happen isn’t quite the same as a statement about
something that can be shown to be untrue. Plus the number of lies
accrues heavily on the Republican side.
Most political commentary examines different governments along a
conservative-liberal spectrum. However, as a practical matter it is the
level of corruption in any government, left or right, that has the
biggest effect on the lives of its subjects.
Why are some countries (and even continents) so pervasively poor?
The level of corruption is perhaps the largest single determiner.
Here’s a 2018 world map from Transparency International of the levels of
corruption, with yellow being the cleanest and dark red the worst.
And here’s a world map from the IMF of per capita GDP.
Loosely speaking, corruption occurs whenever the powers-that-be serve
their own (or their friends’) interests at the expense of the general
public. Almost always they’re after the usual: money, power, sex,
respect. There’s a reason investigators “follow the money”. One could
argue that some level of corruption is unavoidable, even desirable –
after all, it can be used to build a support structure that may be
needed to effectively rule. The problem with this argument, of course,
it that it is almost impossible to limit corruption once it gets
Probably the best antidote for corruption is an open and free press,
which is why almost all corrupt governments try so hard to shut the free
press down. Below is a map from Reporters Without Borders – the
similarities among these 3 maps are striking.
The levels of corruption in the current Trump administration far exceed
any that we in the U.S. have ever experienced, starting with his refusal
to release his tax returns and continuing with the appointments of his
family to important government positions. And the congress is silent.
It should be self-evident that regardless of ones political leanings,
there is a need for basic competency when operating the levers of
government. It should also be self-evident that the Republicans, now
that they control all the major levers of power, are astonishingly
incompetent. Maybe that’s a blessing as their goals are reprehensible –
for example they were unable to take health care away from 20 million
“Compassion is the radicalism of our time.” Dalai Lama XIV
It is impossible to deny the sad truth of the above quote. Our world
– especially the U.S. – has gotten meaner over the last few decades.
The election of 2016 of Trump was the latest chapter of this trend, and
one can only hope it is the last.
It is not just Trump. The Republican party seems to have no regard
for anyone not part of their tribe. Immigrants are having families torn
apart, kids who have no other home are threatened with deportation,
people are allowed to suffer and die early due to a lack of health care,
wages are kept low so the rich can become richer and workers despair
and too often turn to drugs.
Compassion may seem like an odd and unnecessary aspect of
government. Certainly many governments exist without it. But would you
want to live in a country where the government showed no compassion, or
(more likely) limited it to a favored few? If we think the most basic
purpose of government as being a force to improve human lives then
compassion has to become part of that.
One could argue that showing compassion is a luxury governments
cannot afford – that spending time, money and energy on being
compassionate takes away from more important government
responsibilities. Many Republicans would argue that it takes away from
the military. Please, dear reader, think about what that implies.
Trump and Republicans make a lot of noise about being Christian. Perhaps they should take the Bible (Colossians 3:12) to heart:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe
yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Authoritarianism has two major aspects to it. The first is the view
from those who want to control everyone else – whether it be for
corrupt, religious or political ends. The second view is from those
who buy into the resulting rigid hierarchy – whether it be from some
religious or ideological belief, or maybe that’s just the way their
brains are wired.
It seems ironic that Republicans are so anxious to warn about “big
government” and the “deep state” when they are the ones pushing the
hardest for increasing government intrusion into our lives. For just
one example consider the right-to-life stance they take, inserting the
government into what should be a matter between a woman and her doctor.