Shattering the decorum of democracy


George Blecher in Eurozine:

Not since the sweeping changes of the Roosevelt presidency in the 1930s have the constitutional “checks and balances” – the structural procedures built into the constitution that ostensibly protect the republic from demagoguery – been put so early and blatantly to the test. And it was just beginning: the next months will be filled with constant battles between the various branches of government.

Maybe the best way to describe the turbulent, terrible month that we just lived through is to say that the new President played two rather distinct roles, neither of which resembled that of any previous president: the public and the private Trump, the Performer and the Shady Businessman.

The public Trump was obsessed with the media – and vice versa. He clung to an image of himself as the star of a reality show whose ratings were in perpetual jeopardy. There was a frenetic, crazed quality to his performance that we didn’t see during the campaign. His tweets were directed at his fans, but they also served to confound and titillate the general public. And in those tweets and raucous press conferences, he acted out a kind of morality play in which he was the victimized child, while the establishment – the media, the courts, all his enemies in Congress and the general public – was the parent who didn’t understand him. Self-righteousness and self-pity were the play’s main themes.

It has to be admitted that his fan base enjoyed Trump’s performance. They shared his sense of persecution and belief in his definition of fake news; most of all, they appreciated his gestures at making good on his campaign promises, though much of what he did was in the nature of public pronouncements rather than proposals to Congress or executive orders.

But Trump supporters are a patient lot, and up to this point seem to be comfortable with someone who voices and respects their complaints rather than a chief executive who can actually do something about them. Plus it all made good TV. We were glued to our newsfeeds and TV news channels night and day. The Trump show was the only show in town. Whether one liked or hated his performance, he managed to keep the whole world enthralled.

More here.