Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Are Trump's Lies and Hypocrisy Good for America?

Anyone who bothered to pay attention and wasn't merely swept up by Donald Trump's appeals to their racism and overall bigotry should have known that much of Trump's campaign rhetoric and "promised" action if elected were lies.  Slowly, those others than the hard core racists, white supremacists and evangelical Christians who have long lived in their own alternate universe, Trump voters may be waking up to the reality that they were deliberately conned by America's would be fuhrer.  An column by Republican columnist Michael Gerson makes the argument that this awakening and Trump's willingness to walk away from continually made campaign promises is good for America albeit, I would argue, not sufficient to save the nation from a catastrophe.  Here are column highlights:
As Donald Trump’s campaign promises have been dunked in reality’s strong solvent, many have been transformed in one way or another — modified, moderated, qualified, abandoned or pushed off into the distant future. Not a wall across the whole southern border. Not every part of Obamacare repealed. Not all illegal immigrants deported, at least in the foreseeable future. Not literally tearing up the Iran agreement. Not an actual prison cell for Hillary Clinton.
All this has opened up Trump to the charge of being a hypocrite. For the nation’s sake, let’s hope so.
But we should take care in defining hypocrisy. . . . British political scientist David Runciman says that hypocrisy involves “claims to a consistency that one cannot sustain, claims to a loyalty that one does not possess, claims to an identity that one does not hold.”
[I]t is worth recalling that the founder of Christianity took hypocrisy quite seriously: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” Purity of heart and motivation, in the Christian tradition, does matter. But the hunt for hypocrisy should begin in the mirror.
The issue at hand, however, is a certain kind of political hypocrisy — the conscious use of a mask to fool the public and gain political benefit. Most would concede that this type of hypocrisy is generally harmful for a democracy, in which self-government requires informed choices. Trump’s brand of personality-driven politics — emphasizing the virtues of a single leader — exaggerates the challenge. 
Some of Trump’s strongest supporters seem to assume his cynicism. The part about forcing Mexicans to pay for the wall, according to Newt Gingrich, was “a great campaign device.” Of the largest construction project since the Qin dynasty, Rush Limbaugh now says he never expected Trump to do it.
This is a rare ethical circumstance in which realism and good sense take the form of hypocrisy. On a variety of issues, the sincerity of Trump’s current intentions — or the cynicism of his past intentions — should not matter. If the candidate who gave a wink and nod toward white nationalism now repudiates the alt-right and promises to “bring this country together,” so much the better. If the candidate who promised a trade war with China reconsiders, it is all to the good.
It is admittedly an odd thing to cheer for cynicism. But in this strange, new political era, hypocrisy is our best hope.
Personally, I believe that Gerson is too quick to assume that Trump will walk away form some of his more extreme campaign promises.  His announced appointees to date are a study in extremism that ought to terrify thinking, moral Americans.  We can hope that Trump totally lied and conned his supporters, but I am much afraid some of the ugliest promises will be delivered on.  

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