More questions than answers lead up to inauguration

By Georgie Anne Geyer

The answers to many of our simpler questions seem to be swirling around us and settling down this Inauguration Week. Donald J. Trump will be our president. Donald J. Trump is not going to change, despite the cries of despair out of many quarters; and his incessant twittering, I'm very much afraid, will continue.

But by far the most troubling point of departure for the nation this week remains a question: Is the Trump presidential phenomenon merely a flash-in-the-pan, an anomaly or a seasonal political storm that will pass, or does it, in truth, reflect what has been changing beneath our feet for many years?

Is the past now only instructive memory and is a President Trump the prologue of a new American reality?

First, we know by now that Trump was elected by working-class Americans, largely white, who had come to feel they had lost everything. Globalization took their jobs; uncontrolled immigration took their culture; and coastal "elites," who were just about anyone with a university education, stole their pride and cohesion.

Second, large numbers of the Americans who voted for Trump were consumed by a profound sense of injustice. A great part of this was connected to the fact that virtually nobody on Wall Street paid anything for the 2008-09 close-to-collapse of the economy.

I wrote when Barack Obama came in as president and was otherwise dealing effectively with the 1930s-type collapse, "He's got to hang somebody." But, of course, he didn't.

Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, one of the wisest columnists of our age, wrote recently of Obama's one "big mistake." His administration, Wolf wrote, "did not go all out to punish those whose malfeasance and irresponsibility blew up the financial system and economy. This sense of injustice is one reason why the U.S. has elected the wrecking crew that is about to take office. Mr. Obama could not channel rage. Mr. Trump, alas, can."

Third, globalization, immigration, casino capitalism: all came together to cause a serious breakdown in the culture that once united America. One example: Instead of TV sitcoms that tended to at least reflect an America most citizens took part in, tired Americans were seeing programs for every taste - and for every non-taste.

Cable programming, especially, was exhausting more and more Americans as it spewed out whatever would appeal to and satisfy the whims of the lowest common denominator. America's shared identity was dying. (The Nielsen ratings recently showed that only about 12 percent of television households regularly tuned into the most popular network shows of the 2015-16 season.)

Fourth, I have had cause to wonder why Donald J. Trump's vulgarian tendencies, his appalling language (which might cause even cable news to blanch) and his never-ending need to make bad fun of anyone who dared to critique him have been so attractive to Americans I had trusted with our nation's civil tongue.

And I could only decide that this was because, to the angry Americans who elected Trump, his words were THEIR words, directed at those "elites" who betrayed them.

Trump's vulgarian self - and remember, he is the son of a father who divided the world up into "killers" against pathetic "losers" - is, I believe, what unites him with a fellow vulgarian like Vladimir Putin. The Russian president may very well have something on Trump, but regardless, they are essentially two birds of a feather; that's the attraction.

Trump must feel very out-of-place with the Old Families of New York or Palm Beach. Indeed, he must really hate them, just as he hates the young Harvard, Yale and Stanford elites with globalized stars in their stupid eyes. Between his outhouse behavior and his flamboyant TRUMP buildings everywhere, he is really showing them!

Or is he really showing US?

I suspect strongly that the real next question will have an awful lot to do not with who HE is, but with who WE are. Not how he arrived at this moment in history, but how we did. Not why he spews out these disgusting perorations, but why we listen to them.

My own guess is that the nation has not totally changed - yet. If someone or some group could put a hold on the injustice of inequitable economic distribution and clean up our cable news-driven civic culture, not to speak of displaying a sober leadership in the world, this country could come out of this richer rather than poorer, fairer rather than more unjust, and more beautiful rather than uglier.

But I don't think we have forever to make the necessary changes. Maybe four years. Although the next four years may SEEM very long, they really won't be. We have a lot on our plates this Inauguration Weekend.

Email Georgie Anne Geyer at

© 2017, Universal

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