The only question I am asked more frequently than how I maintain my radiant, youthful complexion is how I am feeling about our current political scene. My answer is always the same:
Okay, that’s just a bit on the glib side. But in truth, on the national scene anyway, there’s not much to cheer about. It is not just that we are in the process of normalizing what is likely the most profoundly disastrous presidency in our nation’s history, but that the Commander-in-Chief routinely uses his office to further shred the narrative that we as Americans have long cherished as the foundation of our unity. His efforts have been so effective that, were he to disappear tomorrow in a puff of orange smoke, the damage would not be easily reversed.
Our national narrative, including ideas like separation of powers, the rule of law, and freedom of expression, has always been a work in progress; but we now find ourselves confronting a spectacle in which that narrative is being torched by the very leader who, in the name of all of us, is charged with supporting and building on it.
Worse, there is a healthy minority of citizens who appear to be enjoying the bonfire. It’s hard to say exactly where their perverse joy is coming from. But whatever the source, it is certainly fed by an understanding of the Constitution that’s as abysmal as the Commander-in-Chief’s.
As he stumbles his way through the coming months, our real concern should be: what will he do as his base shrinks? How will he rally more supporters as his gross incompetence becomes even more embarrassingly apparent?
Elections won’t help him. He suspects that by now. They’ll just leave his supporters swearing, drinking, grinding their teeth and vowing revenge in the vague future.
No, what he needs is an attack by space aliens. With recent revelations about the government’s Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, a 70-year-long study of UFOs and related phenomena, he now can hope that perhaps extraterrestrials really are out there, and that, if they were just the tiniest bit aggressive and conquest-minded, could be the driver of not just American but even world unity.
Conflict has unified America many times in the past, however temporarily. World Wars I and II and the Cold War all provided us with common enemies that allowed us to ignore our deep disapproval of our fellow citizens, and show the world at least a superficially unified front. Even better for the Commander-in-Chief, then, to face an interstellar threat that might serve to bring the entire planet together. Can’t you just see him on the phone with Kim Jung Un, discussing coordination of missile launches? Right. Neither can I.
Of course, the down side is obvious. The aliens might be so far advanced that they would choose to incinerate us completely, in the time it would take Trump to wolf down a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Or they might be more advanced still, disdainful of such low forms of life, unwilling even to deploy a landing party that would risk getting some of our filthy microbes on their beautiful uniforms.
The altogether more real option available to the Commander-in-Chief, in attempting to shore up his support at least here at home, is the one that few want to talk about: initiating or provoking war. It is a frighteningly plausible move for this president, plagued as he is by a notoriously unpredictable temperament and those low approval ratings. If you argue that he would never put the world at risk by ordering military action against North Korea or Iran or some other nation, I would simply say that his short history in the public eye offers no reassurance whatsoever on that score. In fact, his decision to exercise that terrible option would likely have little to do with geopolitics or diplomacy or national security, but more with a single overriding priority: protection of his image with his base. Virtually every move he has made, beginning with the 2016 campaign, has served that end. From his waffling on white supremacy to his blaming Mitch McConnell for the health care debacle to his impressive array of mendacious tweets—all of it, first and foremost, has served the idol of his image.
At least thus far there has been no limit to what he would do to preserve that image. As we see him falter in public—speaking increasingly incoherently and even slurring his speech—and as more and more reports describing his shocking level of dysfunction and incompetence are leaked from the White House, we have every reason to be concerned.
Just how comfortable are you to hear the President of the United States publicly insist that he has the biggest and most powerful nuclear “button”?