According to his associates and allies, Trump is “a nut job,” a “carnival barker,” “kooky,” and “very, very not smart.” Trump has turned the White House into “adult day care.” Most infamously, Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States of America, is a “f***ing moron.”
It’s difficult not to dismiss Trump as a low I.Q. lunatic, one who has insulted more than 350 people, places and things (and counting), provokes nuclear war with North Korea and attacks football players while Puerto Rico drowns.
But he is also in control of the most powerful institution in world history, the U.S. government. To get there, he endured a grueling 17-month campaign in which he blew up the establishment of both major parties, trounced 16 Republican candidates, made the media, pollsters, and experts look foolish, and edged past Hillary Clinton who was backed by Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley and two of the most popular presidents of the modern era, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Trump has a glaring lack of erudition. But he is an evil genius who keeps suckering the public and very smart people alike. Trump’s latest chumps are his newest besties, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
A month ago Schumer, the Senate minority leader, and Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, were all smiles. They believed they had struck a deal with Trump to protect 800,000 immigrant youth, whose protected status Trump had just revoked, while refusing to fund a border wall with Mexico.
Schumer was caught on a hot mic all aflutter at Trump’s attention, “He likes me,” and proud of himself for explaining to Trump how to triangulate Congress — “sometimes step right and sometimes step left.”
It didn’t occur to Chuck that Trump had already mastered “step right, step left” in his rise to power. Trump appealed to antiwar and anti-interventionist sentiment by calling the Iraq War “a big, fat mistake” and blaming Bush for 9/11. Trump promised to lower prescription drug prices and provide health insurance for everyone. He said he would bring back manufacturing jobs and make Mexico pay for the wall. Trump met with Al Gore to talk climate change, and vowed to “win” against the opioid crisis, whatever that means.
And he did the same to Chuck and Nancy, backtracking the day after he seduced them over a dinner of honey sesame crispy beef. Trump disputed their claim there was an agreement, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted, “excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to,” and Stephen Miller, Trump’s minister of ethnic cleansing, reportedly said prior to the dinner that “the administration would never allow a version of the replacement legislation, known as the Dream Act, to pass.”
It was classic Trump telling people what they want to hear. Despite the blatant bait and switch, Chuck and Nancy believed they had “little to lose” in negotiating with Trump. Schumer told the Washington Post, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained … We’re very hopeful that they will keep their word.”
That hope was a delusion. When Trump showed his cards on immigration, it was a white nationalist Christmas. He is demanding “the construction of a wall across the southern border, the hiring of 10,000 immigration agents, tougher laws for those seeking asylum and denial of federal grants to ‘sanctuary cities,’” along with turning state and local police into a deportation force, cutting legal immigration, lowering the cap on refugees, and new punitive measures against children fleeing violence in Central America and families trying to reunite.
Chuck and Nancy got suckered, just like everyone else who has crossed paths with Trump, whether it’s hundreds of workers and contractors he stiffed, casino creditors he bamboozled for hundreds of millions of dollars, telling them “it’s going to be great,” more than 6,000 Trump University students he fleeced, the public he ripped off with a $916 million tax write-off, or the 63 million people who fell for his “Make America Great Again” schtick.
At least those who voted for Trump have the excuse of being desperate or dumb or racist or greedy or just sadistic. Democratic leaders have no excuse. Chuck and Nancy are supposed to be savvy operators with 65 years of combined experience on Capitol Hill.
But they got played by the Washington neophyte. Far from “nothing to lose,” they fell into Trump’s trap. By agreeing to a vague deal on immigration, they legitimized whatever proposal he put forward. They burnished Trump’s image as a dealmaker. And they set themselves up to be villains in Trump’s reality TV White House. He will harangue the Democrats for not wanting to save the Dreamers, reneging on their deal, and letting drug dealers and criminals flood over the border to take Americans’ jobs, steal their taxes, and poison their youth.
By enabling Trump, Chuck and Nancy have handed him a win either way. If any immigration bill is passed, no matter how watered down, it’s proof Trump is fulfilling his promises. If nothing is passed, he’ll rant and tweet about how the swamp needs to be drained.
Hillary Clinton lost to the raging man-child because she didn’t stand for anything other than being anti-Trump. Nearly a year later, a majority of voters still think the Democrats don’t stand for anything. They have not figured out how to counter Trump and he controls the agenda.
Chuck and Nancy are stuck in the pre-Trump era, where power involves horse-trading behind the scenes, instead of the bloodsport spectacle Trump excels at. Dominated by Wall Street, the Democrats have no bold ideas. The Onion aptly skewered their politics as, “Americans Are Tired Of The Same Old Pandering And Stale Ideas We’re Going To Keep Offering Them.”
Liberals seem to believe Trump’s con game will wear thin as he fails to deliver and alienates more and more groups that he insults. That would be a grave mistake. Despite his dumpster fire presidency, Trump’s approval rating is in the high 30s, close to what it was on election day. He juices his base with bombastic decisions like withdrawing from the Paris climate accords or decertifying the Iran deal because they look dramatic even if they lack substance. Same with twitter fights he uses to divide, polarize, and distract.
In 2020, Trump will have the power of the presidency behind his campaign, using every dirty trick in the book, particularly voter suppression and electoral fraud, and possibly inventing new ones like violence on election day or encouraging terrorist attacks, to keep his grip on power.
Trump may be a f***ing moron. But Democrats like Chuck and Nancy are proving to be the bigger fools.
Arun Gupta contributes to The Washington Post, YES! Magazine, In These Times, The Progressive, Telesur English, and The Nation. He is author of the forthcoming, Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: A Junk-Food Loving Chef’s Inquiry into Taste, from The New Press.
Follow him @arunindy or email at arun_dot_indypendent_at_gmail_