Today was inauguration day and Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America. At least that’s my assumption. I assume he took the oath of office. I didn’t watch. I’m opting out of the spectacle, as did many others.
I recently opted out of Facebook too, but there was still much wailing and gnashing of teeth on Twitter and Instagram. Several people shared this:
Friends, I get you. I’m right there with you. I want Donald Trump to be President about as much as I want my beagle to eat poop off the ground in the back yard. Sadly my wishes are unfruitful in both cases.
That’s not the point though. He was caught on video saying these awful things. This should have ruined him forever in the public eye. Yet it didn’t. It wasn’t even enough to keep him from getting elected. I’m still gobsmacked by that fact, and while we mustn’t forget how vile he’s capable of being, our collective pussy has already been grabbed. The ship has sailed. We are all now passengers aboard the USS Shit Show. Now what? Meanwhile the outrage machine is at full throttle.
I won’t. How could I?
Here’s the thing though, we apparently still haven’t learned an important lesson from the election:
Donald Trump is outrage-bating us to distract us from the actions of his inbound administration and the Republican-controlled Congress.
Trump is a virtuoso manipulator of public conversation. It’s what put him in office. He says awful things in public. He confidently lies on Twitter and in press conferences, and he doesn’t care that we don’t believe him. He shrugs when he’s called out on his dishonesty, dismissing fact-checking as “bias” and “fake news” while unleashing his supporters to shout down everyone who thinks we’re still playing the same old political game here. He keeps doing this because it keeps working. We keep falling for it. What he says on Twitter keeps getting sucked into the 24-hour news cyclone and spit back out around the world, adding momentum to the very outrage that fuels his ability to distract us so well.
Trump is now the smirking ringmaster of a three-branch circus we know as the Federal Government. As we focus on the grotesque spectacle of his words and character, which we can’t change, we’re distracted from what’s happening in the shadows behind the bleachers.
This is misdirection, plain and simple. It’s “Hey look over there!” while he picks our pockets and steels our jewelry. We turn back to see him smirking bigger, wearing our watch and counting our money. If we confront him about it, it’s “I didn’t steal from you. You’re a liar. What in the world can that be?” as he points at our feet and disappears in a flash of ninja smoke.
The more hand wringing we do about his character, the more outraged we get about his comments, the easier it is for he and his to make off with the things that really matter to us, like health insurance.
It’s time to ignore his comments. They are lies. Quit being surprised. It’s time to set aside his character. He’s an awful person, and he’s he’s proud of it. There will be no shaming him into having a better character. Meanwhile his bullshit machine is fueled by outrage. Let it run out of gas. If we starve him of his ability to distract us, then his otherwise empty toolbox will quickly fail him. He’s unfit for office, and deep down I think he knows it, but all the bluster and misdirection has brought him this far, and we’ve given him no reason to change his tactics.
So what do you do instead? Focus on policy, not Trump. Oppose him in Congress, not on Twitter. Ignore his words and then hold him, his administration, and the Republican Congress publicly accountable for their collective actions. All non-classified government action is a matter of public record, otherwise it never gets executed. That’s the ironic beauty of bureaucracy. We know the holocaust happened because the Nazis kept meticulous records. So pay attention.
Now that he’s President, his actions have consequences for him in ways they did not when he was simply running for office. They have consequences for him in ways his Tweets never will. Congress has actual power to hold him accountable, and there is already dissension in the Republican ranks. Furthermore (and thankfully) Congress is still mostly full of people who are able to be more directly influenced. If you want to resist Trump, that is where the battle has to be fought.
Take a page from The Art of War. Don’t attack your enemy where he is strong. Attack him where he is weak. Flank his sides and divide his men. Engage moderate Republicans in Congress. Show your concerns to them with respect and humility. Try to lead them back to American political first principles like equal protection under the law, and the pursuit of happiness. Pester them. Shame them. Pressure them to stand up for what the overwhelming majority of the American people actually want in terms of policy.
To tweet back bile at the President is to attack your enemy where he is strong. To remind our Republican representatives what we the people actually want is to attack Trump where he is weak. To dismantle bad policy one Senator at a time is to outflank your opponent. Meanwhile if we quit falling for his outrage-bating, he’s likely to think that we feel defeated, and that we’re no longer a threat to his reign. Let him wallow in his victory. Let him get comfortable while we undermine his every move in Congress as best we can. Meanwhile the clock is ticking toward 2018 when we can grow our ranks in Congress again, but only if we focus on the right things.
So yeah, go march in the streets if it makes you feel better, but call your Senator’s office afterwards. Then email the other 49. Rinse and repeat until November of next year. Pay attention to the actions of our new government and apply force where it will do the most good. Stop shooting your arrows into the castle walls and start sabotaging their food. Then when 2018 comes along, poison their water supply.
In the meantime, opt out of the spectacle. It’s misdirection and just like Facebook, it will steal your happiness.
Photo credit: Flickr