Colson: Down the rabbit hole again
For The Aspen Times
We are now in the second era of Trumpism, that peculiar and essentially anti-democratic worldview championed by our former one-term president, Donald J. Trump, and a startlingly cohesive movement of far-right adherents to white nationalism and other related “isms” aimed at maintaining the status quo at any cost.
These Trumpists, make no mistake about it, largely comprise a sorry lot of Americans petrified by the prospect of becoming a minority in their own land and desperate to fashion a nation dedicated to the principle that the United States would be best run by a tiny, hide-bound and vicious cabal of ultra-wealthy, white billionaires (soon to be trillionaires, if current trends continue.)
I call it the second era because Trump, after failing to win re-election in 2020, has now announced his intention to run again in 2024.
This means we will have to endure two years of his lying, his insults against everything and everyone who does not genuflect to him, his desperate attempts to rewrite modern political history in his own image, and his proven refusal to accept defeat.
As for the Republican Party, despite murmurings of discontent over Trump’s excesses it seems the party faithful are going to keep being faithful only to Trump no matter what the cost to our representative democracy.
And alongside Trumpism, we have the ongoing march toward total oligarchy (defined as control of the nation by a small group of the ultra-rich, typically dominated by white men).
John Nichols, a progressive columnist and author, recently wrote in The Cap Times, a leading liberal publication in Wisconsin, where I now live, an interesting piece: “The United States is an oligarchy.”
In the piece, Nichols, a writer and researcher I admire, describes a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office that confirms the truth of his headline by offering details of our tilt toward rule by the monied elite.
“The share of total wealth (in the U.S. economy) held by families in the top 10 percent … increased from 63 percent in 1989 to 72 percent in 2019,” in Nichols’ analysis of the CBO’s stats, “and the share of total wealth held by families in the top 1 percent … increased from 27 percent to 34 percent over the same period.”
Over that same 30-year span, the share of total wealth in this country held by families “in the bottom half of the distribution declined over that period, from 4 percent to 2 percent,” according to the CBO and Nichols.
Tellingly, Nichols notes that this growing disparity corresponded with the end of former President Ronald Reagan’s “’trickle-down economics’ presidency,” and of course he pointed out that this inequity in wealth distribution hits hardest among poor families of color — black, brown, Asian and others in the lower tiers of our national economy.
In the later stages of this push toward wealth consolidation at the top, the pandemic hit and “delivered a bonanza for the billionaire class,” Nichols continues. He cites a study last May by Chuck Collins at the Institute for Policy Studies that found U.S. billionaires had a jump in their wealth index of some $1.7 trillion, or “a gain of over 58 percent,” while the rest of us were sucking wind, financially speaking, and wondering if we were going to lose our homes.
Collins reported that some $5 trillion in wealth is “now held by 745 billionaires … two-thirds more than the $3 trillion … held by the bottom 50 percent of U.S. households estimated by the Federal Reserve Board.”
And this is the class that Trump represents, not the poor skinheads, race-baiters and other fearful foot soldiers of the Trumpist army.
How these deluded white supremacists can swallow Trump’s lies is beyond me, other than to simply accept that they see him as their bulwark against the rising tide of “immigrants,” by which they clearly mean people of color.
So can we agree that Trump and his ilk are at the leading edge of an impending race war in this country?
I can’t see how we can conclude otherwise, while also realizing that this is just what too many members of the uber-wealthy class want in their heart of hearts — and what a black heart it is.
I guess that will have to do for now, but in a future column I hope to take a hard look at why so much of our national political dialogue is dominated by hate, lack of trust and lack of belief in societal norms, published information and just about anything that runs counter to their own tunnel-vision view of the world.