Actually there are more than two Americas. There are many.
Ask any person of color; ask immigrants of select ethnicities; ask women, seniors, the disabled, the poor and needy. Ask the LGBTQ community. Ask families with sick children. Ask low-income workers; those who’ve hit hard times, lost jobs and can’t find new ones. Those who live in areas of the country where little opportunity exists. Ask veterans. Ask teachers, single parents, and adult children caretaking ill and aging parents while raising their own kids.
They each experience an America that differs greatly from the rosy existence of the privileged few who are white, wealthy, and predominantly Republican. Certainly different from the politicians currently gushing over their first legislative win, one that enriches them while taking a toll on their less fortunate constituents. While most Americans now worry about losing their health insurance, seeing their paychecks mean less as taxes rise; struggle to make sense of their government’s deprioritizing of their wellbeing in lieu of rich GOP donors, that other America — Trump’s court of fools — fawns and preens in self-congratulatory delight, attempting to convince the world of a president who bears no resemblance to the man we actually sees, hear, and experience. It’s jarring and discordant; as one bewildered friend put it, “it’s like they live in Opposite Land.”
Republican obsequiousness rose to near-comedic levels after said tax bill passed (without one Democratic vote and with the disapproval of most Americans: 59 percent / 29 percent). It was not only cringeworthy to watch and listen to, but the litany of adoration belied reality. While Paul Ryan breathlessly lauded Trump’s “exquisite leadership,” the embarrassing fact of that “leadership” was thus:
When House speaker Paul Ryan was asked Wednesday to explain the role that President Trump had played in the law’s passage, he replied, “He was very good on this … He just realized being more disciplined and letting the tax writers get this deal done was the best way to go.” In other words: Trump’s chief contribution to the tax-cut law was letting Congress write the bill for him, with minimal interference. By all accounts, the president did not participate in the legislative deliberations, opting instead to concentrate his energies on selling the plan to the public. New York Magazine [Emphasis added.]
And when the “plan” in question is shilled by a president whose disapproval stands at almost 60 percent, who the majority believes has made “race relations worse,” has handled the Russia probe badly, and is, fact, lying about it, the question of how on earth can these men bootlick THIS guy? begs for an answer. A truthful, factual, unassailable answer.
But that’s not to be found with Lindsey Graham, whose recent golf forays with Trump swung him from calling the president an unqualified “kook” to brownosing about the man’s golf course and what a swell guy he is. Nor is candor to be found with Orrin Hatch, whose adulation left him sounding less like a senior senator than a tittering schoolgirl finally admitting her crush:
“Mr. President, I have to say that you’re living up to everything I thought you would. You’re a heck of a leader. And we’re all benefiting from it. This president hasn’t even been in office for a year and look at all the things that he’s been able to get done — by sheer will, in many ways … I came from very humble roots. And I have to say that this is one of the great privileges of my life to stand here on the White House lawn with the president of the United States who I love and appreciate so much … We’re going to make this the greatest presidency that we’ve seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever.” New York Magazine
Strangely, the person Hatch describes is not remotely in evidence to the majority of Americans, nor, in fact, to most people around the world.
Then, of course, there was Vice President Mike Pence, whose excruciating three-minute love purge while sitting across from a puffed up, nodding Trump was truly something out of a bad movie. Or a movie mocking bad movies. In fact, it reminded me of any one of the toadies sucking up to Dr. Evil in “Austin Powers”... except Austin Powers was funny. This wasn’t. As Matt Lewis of The Daily Beast put it:
This sort of slavish hero worship offends me on a couple of levels. First, it strikes me as patently un-American. We don’t have a king in this country—because we overthrew one. Our aversion to strongmen is so visceral that criticizing a president—any president—almost feels like one’s patriotic duty. In this regard, one wonders if feeding Trump’s authoritarian tendencies satiates these tendencies or encourages them. This deference to authority also feels a bit antiquated. Granted, the position of Potus deserves respect. But the saying goes that one salutes the rank and not the man. This feels like they are saluting the man.
And who is that man, the one Ryan, Hatch, Graham, Pence, and countless others of this privileged class aggrandize so speciously? To any one of the many Americas mentioned above, that man doesn’t exist. What they see instead is a pretender, a charlatan, an imitator attempting to embody those traits while being, in truth, an emperor with no clothes; a feeble, inept man behind the curtain pulling levers, wearing costumes, feigning generosity, and granting wishes he doesn’t have the power or principles to deliver. And when he can’t deliver — or on any day that ends with a “y” — he lies. As he’s lying now in attempting to convince the majority that a tax bill enriching him and his cronies is designed for their best interests. He presumes everyday Americans are not bright enough to sort that out; to his detriment, most see through the smoke and mirrors.
The one shining truth of this strange and convoluted moment in history, a moment in which truth, frankly, is in short supply, is that the growing aversion to Trump, and to those who acquiesce, capitulate, and bow to his narcissism and ego at the expense of their own constituents, has inspired a resurgence of activism, shaking people out of their apathy, their sense of despair, to loudly and actively align with the #resistance. More women than ever have signed up to run for public office, and election “fundamentals favor Democrats in 2018,” both a direct response to disgust with Trump’s agenda. Another massive Women’s March is scheduled across the country (the globe) for Jan. 20, 2018. And despite the treacle trickling from the mouths of evermore coddling Republicans, Democrats are winning in states long believed to be impossibly red.
We may never comprehend the cultish conviction of Republicans who’ve chosen to ignore the harsher realities of their chosen leader, but we can springboard off that delusion to change the trajectory, to inspire a kind of cultural revolution we haven’t seen since the ’60s and ’70s. The kind of shift that changes the blueprint of how we see our America, the one in which we all live, to make it the inclusive, honorable, compassionate place it was intended to be. This was a challenge before Trump; after him, a battle. But there are more of us activated and inspired every day, and the tale of our America will write its own noble chapter.