Now what?  Popularity puppet in the Nut House!

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by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Politics and popularity have forever been conjoined.  It’s the name of the game. It was, however, disturbingly unfamiliar to hear Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spencer at the first media briefing of the new presidency deliver what sounded like a sandbox dispute amounting to “Ours was bigger than yours!” message.

In a highly unusual move, Spicer left the briefing without taking questions, ignoring reporters who shouted questions at him about the massive crowd in town for the Women’s March on Washington, which was designed to protest Trump’s presidency.

Hearing the mouthpiece of the new President dwell solely upon whether more people attended the inauguration of Trump or Obama is hardly what one would expect to be of primary interest to the leader of what is touted to be the most powerful nation in the world. Nor does it help that the backdrop to that embarrassment was world-wide protests against Trump on the first day of his presidency. Even more destabilizing is that the so-called “facts” of both Trump (at his earlier visit to the CIA) and Spencer are highly disputed if not, in fact, patently outrageous. It appears that Trump and his minions are living in a world of alternate reality of their own making. Add to this the further fact that Trump’s popularity as an incoming president is the lowest in history and that Hillary Clinton had a vastly superior popular majority (in spite of having been defeated by the mechanics of the electoral college), things are not presently looking very comfortable for Trump, his Republican cronies (who will inevitably bend to popular opinion) or his business interests (which his “basket of Deplorables” likely can’t afford and which those who can will avoid to escape social contamination). Americans, after all, are well-known to love a winner.

Historically, any president who has been on a collision course with popular opinion has suffered the consequences; viz., Lyndon B. Johnson (the Vietnam war) and Richard M. Nixon (bugging the offices of political opponents and the harassment of activist groups and political figures). What however distinguishes Trump from the misfortune of others is that Trump’s nemesis isn’t policy but excessive pride.

Hubris (/ˈhjuːbrɪs/, also hybris, from ancient Greek ὕβρις) describes a personality quality of extreme or foolish pride or dangerous over-confidence. In its ancient Greek context, it typically describes behaviour that defies the norms of behaviour or challenges the gods, and which in turn brings about the downfall, or nemesis, of the perpetrator of hubris.

The adjectival form of the noun hubris is “hubristic”. Hubris is usually perceived as a characteristic of an individual rather than a group, although the group the offender belongs to may unintentionally suffer consequences from the wrongful act. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities. Contrary to common expectations, hubris is not necessarily associated with high self-esteem but with highly fluctuating or variable self-esteem, and a gap between inflated self perception and a more modest reality.

In the most hopeful circumstances the current government will continue in spite of its leadership weakness. There persist compelling arguments for “made in America” and “buy American”; and no one disputes the value of improvement of infrastructure and tackling drug trafficking. As well, the excoriation of Washington for currying favour with monied interests is not without its substance.  But the contemporaneous erosion of decades of liberal policy advances will enflame a majority of the American public and, apparently, Western civilization.

This time, Gregg Popovich started by praising the thousands of people who participated in the women’s marches across the country (via MySanAntonio.com).

“The march today was great,” said Popovich. “The message is important. It could have been a whole lot of groups marching. Somebody said on TV, ‘What’s the message?’ The message is obvious. Our president comes in with the lowest rating of anybody who,ever came into the office. There’s a majority of people out there, since Hillary won the popular vote, that don’t buy his act.”

The natural sequel to any stage performance is applause and a bow.  Even if the entertainment is not well received, it will end, its object achieved whatever the result.  As jaundiced as we may be about the motives of our politicians, some at least have the appearance of dedication to their professed goals.  Trump’s authenticity, on the other hand, is highly questionable.  Certainly, his affection for minorities and women is a mockery; and his pretence at religious affiliation or belief is doubtful. His choice of inner circle members is already recognized as a billionaires’ club. Most importantly, he will soon exhaust his interest in personal gain and advancement; and that dénouement will, in turn, predict the lapse of his social interests.  What sustains this person is infatuation with himself, a thrill in this instance which will be just as short-lived.

The media, meanwhile, have the continued pleasure of being assured the fodder for endless “shows”, oddly making CNN and Fox News more entertaining than the most preposterous Hollywood production. I am not, however, convinced that it will be as pleasant a ride for Mr. Trump. The erosion of his “performance” has already begun.  Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, there are many Americans who demand more than buffoonery of their president. Every time Mr. Trump pretends to cover his tracks by effectively denying the thrust of what he has already said or tweeted, he does nothing more than reveal his absurdity, which in turn, does more than hint at his mental imbalance.  This is not a vernacular Americans will tolerate for long.

This isn’t the first time Gregg Popovich has spoken out against Trump. He didn’t hold anything back on Nov. 11, three days after the 2016 presidential election, in a meeting with reporters.

“I’ve spoken on this before and I probably will again,” he said. “Right now I’m just trying to formulate thoughts. It’s still early and I’m still sick to my stomach. Not basically because the Republicans won or anything, but the disgusting tenor and tone and all the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, and I live in that country where half the country ignored all that to elect someone. That’s the scariest part of the whole thing to me.”