From Turmoil to Tribute: How the Trump Presidency Will Ultimately Fortify the Status Quo


Michael Orion Powell | Politics & Government | Commentary | September 10th, 2018



If you grew up in the United States as a Millennial or in Generation X, many of the historical names seem like a natural part of our environment. A main street is named after Martin Luther King, Jr. in close to every major city in the country, while New York's busiest airport is named after John F. Kennedy, parks and streets in major cities like Washington D.C. are named after Malcolm X, an airport in Kansas is named after Dwight Eisenhower, and a major stadium in Washington D.C. is named after Robert F. Kennedy.

It's normal for monuments to be named after leaders, but the process where it becomes finalized often occurs after a tumultuous period. The 1960s and 1970s were just that. Deemed "a long national nightmare" by President Gerald Ford (who also has an airport named after him in Michigan), that period started off with promises of "a new frontier," only to go through an unpopular war, multiple assassinations, the resignation of a president, inflation, an oil crisis, and social, class, and racial tension and conflict throughout the country.

Currently, we are passing through a similar phase. The eulogy of John McCain last week signaled a bipartisan group of former American heads of state coming together to actively spurn the sitting president, Donald Trump, while simultaneously building up a legacy for the Arizona Senator they were mourning.

Several comments seemed directed at Trump. One was from George W. Bush, who said, "Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots. There was something deep inside him that made him stand up for the little guy - to speak for forgotten people in forgotten places ... We are better than this. America is better than this."

Barack Obama added on by saying that "so much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse, can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that."

Trump is going to go down. At least every few days is a strange new accusation, departure, or friction between him and someone else, including people within his own administration. A few weeks ago, it was the departure of political aide Omarosa Manigault. As of this writing, it is bizarre accusations from veteran political journalist Bob Woodward of Trump behavior in the White House, including calling Attorney General Jeff Sessions "mentally retarded" and "a dumb Southerner" while imitating his accent in a Foghorn Leghorn manner. Woodward also claimed that he was told by an inside source that Trump wanted to "fucking kill" Syrian leader Bashir Assad, a strange accusation for someone who "colluded" with Russia, given Russia's decades-long support for Assad and his father.

And now, in perhaps one of the most shocking moments in modern political history, an anonymous op-ed published by the NY Times titled, " I am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration ," whereas a reported "insider" goes on to talk about an organic resistance that has developed within Trump's own circle in an effort to "thwart Mr. Trump's more misguided impulses until he is out of office."

With the eventual exit of Trump will be a gift for his predecessors, who will be hoping to shore up their legacies as America's "legitimate" statesmen. Donald Trump, the Alt Right, Russia, and whatever other far-right elements are associated with him, will be pinned with the nadir of American society that the country now sits in, instead of the destructive policies that led America toward Trump in the first place.

The true legacy of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, no matter what role they are playing now, was war and decline.

Bush talked of a "humble foreign policy" while running for president, while one of Obama's first political appearances was at an anti-war speech in Chicago. The only change that Obama brought was changing how theatrical war appeared. Instead of relying on "troops on the ground," to coin a phrase from Secretary of State John Kerry, special forces and drones were used to maintain American supremacy in Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and elsewhere.

Bush's policies promised the end of terrorism, only to create a breeding ground for Al Qaeda to transform into ISIS and then Boko Haram. The invasion of Iraq touted democracy and the rule of law, but created so much chaos that people whose ancestors had lived in the Lavant for generations fled for Europe by the millions.

Obama promised "post-racialism," a phrase used often upon his election, only to see a small (and mostly one-sided) war between police and the black community escalate, as the federal government distributed military equipment to the nation's police departments.

All of this will be forgotten as the erratic housing tycoon-turned-president Donald Trump eventually falls, however. In the mainstream imagination, Trump will represent the treasonous forces of darkness that usurped those who wanted progress. Just as Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and the like were venerated in the aftermath of Nixon's resignation, national holidays, monuments, and buildings will be memorialized after the establishment figures who stepped up against him - all with the purpose of whitewashing recent history and fortifying the status quo.

The reality of what all the last American presidents, Trump included, really is stands beyond what a theater of difference they stage. As Vladimir Putin put it in an interview with Oliver Stone, "It's very curious. Your presidents change but the policy never changes." The truly powerful people who run the United States only change the face of the United States every few years. If we go through difficulties, it's their doing and not the spokesperson they pick. This reality, while tested by the tumultuous Trump, will only be strengthened in his ousting.