“For some citizens, it is a time of celebration. For others, it is a time for protest. For many, this change brings uncertainty as to its implications.”
These are the words of my “Christian political option” colleague in Washington DC at the Center for Public Justice. Her post concerns tomorrow’s Presidential inauguration. We are all with her, and her fellow citizens, especially her fellow Christian citizens who are charged by the Lord Himself to get busy politically in the promotion of justice for all in their daily responsibility as citizens of their polity.
And so, in the words of the letter to the Hebrews, Nurturing Justice gives concerted attention to writing a post that provokes us to love and good works, not neglecting opportunities to link up more and more so that even our measly political work may globally bear witness to the sure hope of the day of fulfilment, when Creation’s Merciful Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will indeed ensure that justice will roll down like the waters, and righteousness cascading like an ever-flowing stream (Micah5:24). In the meantime we strain every nerve to form our citizenship in anticipation of God completing His work when He decides.
But my colleague is right. There will be those celebrating, and these will include those political representatives from these shores who have gained tickets in the inauguration lottery for an “up-front” seat. Many in these parts are surprised and troubled by the Trumpists who have “come out” in recent days. Others of us have sensed the impact of a politically directionless populism for some time. Nurturing Justice has drawn attention to it on this blog. But there are also those who are now preparing to protest hereabouts as if somehow the American President is “our” leader, and this man, they say, is simply unacceptable. The protests will not only take place in the US. And overall, there is indeed an intensification of global uncertainty about this man and about this presidency, and about the role of the US in world affairs. More and more fellow citizens are saying that they are declining to read Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids, more avoidance than ever before. More and more fellow citizens are listening to Classical FM rather than submit to bombardment of destabilising and unsettling news broadcasts as they drive to work through gridlocked freeways.
I suspect that after 9/11, newspapers reached new circulation records and the ratings for radio and TV news bulletins went up and up. That, it seems was a 17 year generation ago. That was then, however, this is now. Now we have “news-about-the-latest-disaster fatigue”. And now we also have Donald Trump.
Donald Trump and his supporters have not addressed this obvious political fact of global grass-roots social uncertainty, that preceded and also followed his election victory. They are far too enamoured by their victory in “grass roots insurgency”. Sure, they can point to the deep uncertainty that the rival candidate carried with her through her tour across the US hustings, and they can tell us that se failed to staunch those deep fears. Yes. All that cannot be denied. But here I would like to list a few political matters that are part of the US Presidency which the President-elect has clearly avoided or at least has not used his Twitter account to insist that they need attention. And in not doing so, he has deepened my sense of uncertainty. Of course, what he has said confirms the dread experienced by some people, alarming many who are considered astute political commentators. He has had ample opportunity to address these other matters I raise but at the very least these issues do not rate much of a mention:
1. What has Donald Trump achieved politically to this date? Donald Trump is a US citizen. What has he done in a civic sense? Has his public life been as self-oriented as Tony Schwartz, the ghost writer for his inaugural autobiography, suggests? Has he not been involved in political campaigns before this more recent decision to run for President? His evident silence on this matter seems to suggest that he has not been involved in politics until he decided to run for the office of President. Schwartz suggests that everything he has done is little more than self-promotion. The reports of his preparation for the inauguration certainly confirm this personal narcissistic ethic.
2. What does Donald Trump suggest needs to be done to reform the US system of political representation? How should the US President be elected?
3. What has Donald Trump and his frantic Republican supporters told the US people, and the world, about their view of the political shambles on their own “side” of politics that brought him to power? What is there view of the Republican Party? What are they going to do about it so that the Republican Party can be a genuine servant of democratic politics rather than a self-serving rabble? Here is a candidate, and a considerable number of elected representatives and Senators and other self-proclaiming “movers and shakers”, and they all, at the President elect’s beck and call, have not spelled out any programme concerning the significance of his election for the future of their own party. Are they simply going to maintain the current system of political representation in the Congresses around the US polity and federally? Are they in it for America or to safeguard their own elite standing?
4. Another point. Sure, there was “Dubbya’s” dimpled chad victory of 2000, and other Presidential winners who polled less votes in total than their opponent, but what has Donald Trump ever said about the fact that less Americans voted for him than for Hillary Clinton? This is not to carp but is a vital political issue that certainly needs to be openly discussed. A younger generation of citizens need to be heard on this. President Obama for his part at least addressed the grieving millennials with advice that politics can also mean “losing”. Is this new administration really wanting to face up to the reality of political life? Does not the fact that millions more can vote for the losing candidate indicate a need for a systemic reform of US Federal electoral system? What do Trump and his minders propose to do about that? Anything? Or is he simply riding on the back of its evident deterioration in order to take the top job, look tough, bluff it out and then get swept from office next time, or the time after, and leave it all to someone else? I have often felt, when I have steeled myself to read his garbled rhetoric, or to listen to his intemperate invective on radio or watched his childish antics on a televised news segment, that I am being confronted by Homer Simpson, or maybe it is his “I didn’t do it” son, Bart. But as much as American entertainment can give us insights into American politics we need to avoid treating the US Presidency as merely the spoils of self-made celebrity and the skills refined in Madison Avenue manipulation of the masses. It is all about getting a box-office rating; one is busily constructing his/her own celebrity image.
5. As I have said in a previous post immediately after the election result was announced, I get the impression of someone clearly out of his political depth. Sure, the political “tide” may be well and truly “out” at the moment, and maybe we should prepare ourselves for a considerable time before such a tide returns. (Will it bring a tsunami with it next time?) But I am yet to see any indication that Trump and his administration, family, friends or international buddies, let alone the local “hangers on” of the Trump International Political Circus, have actually grasped the fact that the complex political demands that are integral to holding political office, have to do with a basic human responsibility (called citizenship) loving our neighbours by ensuring we strain every muscle to give due respect, public justice for all.
6. So after tomorrow our ongoing question of Donald Trump will be: Yes, Mr President of the United States of America, what do you actually understand by the term “democratic governance” and how do you propose as President to contribute to legislation and public policies, let alone international agreements, that ensure public justice for all? Your self-oriented campaign so far, at home and abroad, leaves basic political questions unanswered. And when the US bugle cannot sound clearly, who will there be to get ready along side to fight for public justice globally?
19 January 2017