Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Respect Deficit

Lucky him.  I haven't had a President I respected since JFK, and that was mainly because I was too young to know how bad he was.  Maybe I respected LBJ at first, for his Great Society programs and the Civil Rights Bill, but his foreign policy eventually outweighed those accomplishments.  I have some respect for Jimmy Carter, but only since he left office, so it doesn't count.

This doesn't mean I'm looking forward to the Trump regime, of course.  (Which I only mention because there are many people who assume that if you don't love Obama, you love Trump.  The Stupid has been very strong in the media, both corporate and social, these last few months.)  Trump will become President with a major respect deficit; he'll probably have to import it from China or something.

And really, shouldn't the person who posted the above lament respect Trump anyway once he becomes POTUS?  Aren't we supposed to respect the President?  Partisans always confuse respect for the office with respect for the person who occupies it.  Obama devotees were furious that Republicans drew the distinction, though the Republicans were just as incapable of doing so when a Republican was in the White House.  Some Democrats were even ready to defend George W. Bush against disrespect from Hugo Chavez, though; touching.  I was listening to Democracy Now! this morning, and some remarks by one interviewee reminded me that Dem loyalists were not only ready to overlook Benjamin Netanyahu's ongoing and explicit disrespect for Obama, they supported and agreed with it.  But it's pretty clear that we need to learn to distinguish respect for the office from respect for the office-holder, and that's not going to be easy for most people.

One symptomatic example of this confusion has been the #NotMyPresident bandwagon that some Americans are jumping onto.  This is a two-year-old's response: You're Not the Boss of Me!  More amusing in a twisted way, it's exactly what numerous Republicans said from November 2008.  Like it or not, and I don't like it either, Donald Trump is going to be the President of the United States starting tomorrow.  That makes him my president, your president, Garrison Keillor's president.  It's worth remembering Keillor went easier on George W. Bush, who was as weak as Trump in the things that matter to Keillor.  But Keillor still defended Bush's sweetheart-deal reading program for kids that mainly put federal money into the coffers of McGraw-Hill, without improving children's reading ability.

I am very happy that Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, though some Democrats were not, and even one of his subordinates went on the public record to disagree with the decision.  Does approving of certain isolated policies and actions of a president constitute respect?  I don't think so.  I've inveighed often against the cult of personality in politics, because it's anti-democratic and destructive, but it will probably always be with us.

P.S. Jon Schwarz linked to this article by William Greider from the Nation, trying to reassure us.  I think. 
The fright and gloom are understandable, but I have a hunch Donald Trump has already peaked. He won’t go away, of course—he will be Mr. President—but the air is already seeping out of Trump’s balloon. The president-elect has amassed a huge inventory of dubious promises, and I expect this powerhouse of American politics to get smaller and less influential as the broken promises pile up.
Pundits all across the political spectrum have been assuring us for the past year and a half that the Trump phenomenon was already over, that he couldn't possibly win the nomination or the election.  And here we are.  Far from reassured, I'm more worried than ever.  Could you guys please just ... stop?