The Winner Who Loses

It was Billings, Montana. It was May 26, 2016. It was vintage Donald Trump:

We’re going to win. We’re going to win so much. We’re going to win at trade. We’re going to win at the border. We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning, you’re going to come to me and go “Please, please, we can’t win anymore.” You’ve heard this one. You’ll say “Please, Mr. President, we beg you sir, we don’t want to win anymore. It’s too much. It’s not fair to everybody else.” And I’m going to say “I’m sorry, but we’re going to keep winning, winning, winning. We’re going to make America great again.”

The crowd went wild, but they had heard this one. Everyone had heard this one, word for word, at other campaign rallies. Everyone would hear this one at the debates, and then at the convention, where he accepted the Republican nomination. They would hear this one, word for word, as he campaigned against Hillary Clinton. This was message discipline. Keep it simple. He was a winner. Everyone else was a loser. There were embarrassments – the Access Hollywood tape – but embarrassments don’t matter, not to winners. They win anyway – and there was that implicit promise that no nation would ever humiliate America ever again, even if none really had. He said they had, and starting with Mexico, we’d humiliate them all – and starting with Little Marco and Lyin’ Ted, and moving on to Crooked Hillary, he humiliated anyone who disagreed with him about anything at all. His tweets destroyed them. He was a winner. We’d all be winners, again, finally. He tapped into America’s deep pool of resentment of those who question us, and an even deeper pool of insecurity, that they might have good reason to question us. There’d be no more of that. He promised to rid the country of Mexicans and Muslims and gays and urban hipsters and fancy-pants experts and the French and the Chinese and all “politicians” in general. Donald Trump just sneered and mocked them all. No one would ever question us, or question him, ever again, and of course he won the election – without saying any of that. That was implied. He kept it simple. He memorized those few simple words. Those few simple words were all he needed.

That got him elected, but there was no win at trade. He tore up no deals – NAFTA is still around. He did withdraw the United States from the Transpacific Partnership – but China is now setting up their own transpacific partnership with various Pacific Rim nations, and with the European Union, and with India, and with African nations – mutually beneficial trading arrangements that exclude the United States. China won, Trump (and the United States) lost, and there was no win at the border. There’s no wall. Mexico won’t pay for one. Congress won’t pay for one – and Robert Mueller is closing in. Something was going on with the Trump campaign and Russia. Donald Trump won’t win that one. He can’t even fire the guy. That would only make matters worse – and Trump’s tweets haven’t destroyed Kim Jong Un.

Donald Trump has become Rodney Dangerfield. He can’t win for losing. He gets no respect. That was a great punchline for Rodney Dangerfield – “I tell ya, I get no respect!” That’s not a great punchline for a president, and now this “winner” has lost to the NFL:

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined his team’s players in kneeling before the national anthem before their game Monday night at Arizona.

Jones, Coach Jason Garrett and other Cowboys coaches and front office executives locked arms while standing on the field. Before the anthem, Jones and the players and coaches took a knee.

They then stood up, with arms still interlocked, for the anthem…

It was the latest show of unity or protest by NFL teams since President Trump said Friday at a campaign rally in Alabama that owners should fire players who refuse to stand for the anthem.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans were not on the field for the anthem before their games Sunday. Many players on other teams chose to kneel for the anthem. Other teams demonstrated unity with players standing with interlocked arms. Several owners stood on the sideline with their players and locked arms with them. But Jones became the first owner to kneel.

And that was that – no more need be said – but for this:

Earlier on Monday evening, Trump had taken to twitter to claim that there was a “tremendous backlash against the NFL and its players for disrespect of our Country.”

That doesn’t seem to be the case. That “tremendous backlash against the NFL and its players” came from Trump’s base, an increasingly smaller subset of Republicans, those Republicans not yet embarrassed by all this nonsense. There are fewer and fewer of those and the New York Times’ Charles Blow may speak for everyone else:

Donald Trump is operating the White House as a terror cell of racial grievance in America’s broader culture wars.

He has made his allegiances clear: He’s on the side of white supremacists, white nationalists, ethno-racists, Islamophobes and anti-Semites. He is simpatico with that cesspool.

And nothing gets his goat quite like racial minorities who stand up for themselves or stand up to him.

Those are strong words, but that seems to be the case:

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was asked about the annual rite of championship teams visiting the White House, and Curry made clear that he didn’t want to go because “we basically don’t stand for what our president has said, and the things he hasn’t said at the right time.”

Trump responded to Curry’s expressed desire not to go by seeming to disinvite the entire team, to which Curry responded with a level of class that is foreign to Trump. Curry said, “It’s surreal, to be honest.” Curry continued: “I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals, rather than others. I have an idea of why, but it’s kind of beneath a leader of a country to go that route. That’s not what leaders do.”

And there was the root cause of all of this:

Last year, Colin Kaepernick, who was then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, kicked off these protests when he began to quietly kneel during the pre-game playing of the national anthem.

At the time he explained his rationale to NFL Media, saying: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He continued, “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Let alone that the anthem was authored by a white supremacist, Francis Scott Key, who was a proponent of African colonization – exporting free blacks back to Africa – and an opponent of the anti-slavery movement…

As Jason Johnson, a professor of political science at Morgan State University and political editor at The Root wrote on the site last year: “With a few exceptions,” Key “was about as pro-slavery, anti-black and anti-abolitionist as you could get at the time.”

Kaepernick’s objection is valid on its own, but the anthem itself is problematic. It all points to the complexity we encounter when we pull back the gauzy veil of hagiographic history we have woven.

Yes, history is a bitch, but history isn’t the problem:

The exploitation of black bodies and the spilling of black blood are an indelible part of the American story, and how we deal with that says everything about where we are as a nation and who we are.

This is about far more than football and flags, about more than basketball and battle cries. This is about American memory, the ongoing quest for equality, the racial inequities fused to the DNA of power in this country. This is also about the response to minority advances and the coming minority-to-majority demographic conversion.

This is about the honest appraisal of what America was, is, and should be.

That’s the issue here, or this:

Trump is not a proper leader for any moment or any conversation, let alone this moment and this conversation.

Trump has no desire to advance truth and reconciliation when it comes to race in this country. His venality and vulgarity seeks only to exploit white racial anxiety and hostility, in the most vulgar of terms, to maximum political gain.

With every passing day, Trump diminishes the office of the presidency and elevates a virulent strain of racial animus.

More and more Americans are saying that:

Trump’s language was unequivocal in a way that he hasn’t been in response to other protests – such as those in Charlottesville last month.

Washington Post-ABC polling released Sunday suggests that, even before Trump inserted himself into the NFL protests, most Americans viewed him as a president who was doing more to divide the country than to unite it. About two-thirds of Americans felt that Trump, despite his insistent rhetoric that the country needs to unite, was, in fact, driving Americans apart. About 3 in 10 said Trump had helped unite the country.

There is agreement here:

Among those who approve of Trump – 39 percent of respondents, far fewer than other recent presidents at this point in a presidency – about 1 in 5 think he has done more to divide than to unite. Even 1 in 7 of those who approve of Trump strongly see him as more of a divider than a uniter… Neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama ever had so many Americans view them as being so divisive.

Michael Scherer thinks that Trump is fine with that, but this time he miscalculated:

Trump attacked an enormously popular sport whose fans prefer it to be a politics-free arena, while once again touching on the raw nerve of race. In so doing, the president proved anew that divisive provocations can mean something completely different when they come not from a private citizen, but the man whose very job description is to lead the country.

“Most presidents believe that a big part of their job is to keep the country together,” said Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, who noted that even Richard M. Nixon spoke of bringing the nation together during his 1969 inauguration. “There is very little sign that Donald Trump has much of an idea that unifying this country has much to do with being president. He just hasn’t shown it.”

There’s a reason for that:

Trump credits his ability to see and exploit cracks in American society as the key to his political success. During the campaign, he praised his gut instinct in latching onto fears about Muslim refugees and Hispanic immigration as the key to his victory in the Republican primary, comparing it to his ability to predict successful real estate investments.

“I understand people,” he said before another rally in Alabama in 2015. “I’ve made a lot of money because of people, because deals aren’t anything other than people.”

Perhaps he doesn’t understand people as well as he thinks he does, and he’s not winning here, and then there’s replacing Obamacare. There’s a new S&P estimate of how the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill would affect the economy – “580,000 lost jobs and $240 billion in lost economic activity by 2027, ensuring that the GDP growth remains stuck in low gear of around 2% at best in the next decade.”

Donald Trump is enthusiastic about the Graham-Cassidy bill, but Kevin Drum points out the obvious:

Graham-Cassidy is – literally – opposed by every single constituency in the healthcare industry. That includes doctors, nurses, hospitals, patient advocates, and pharmaceutical companies. It is wildly unpopular, polling around 20 percent approval. The Republican base isn’t clamoring for it. It would leave more than 20 million people uninsured without saving very much money. It would remove protections for pre-existing conditions. And it would cost the country 580,000 jobs, tanking the economy for the next decade.

And yet Republicans are still trying to pass it. Can anyone explain why?

Yes, this would humiliate Obama and make Donald Trump a winner, a winner who has kept at least one campaign promise, but this guy can’t win for losing:

The latest Republican effort to unwind the Affordable Care Act collapsed Monday as a third GOP senator announced her opposition and left the proposal short of the votes needed to pass.

While one top Republican senator held out the possibility that the Senate might still vote on the bill, others accepted the reality that the push had sputtered out after Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined two of her colleagues in formal opposition.

“Everybody knows that’s going to fail,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who led a raucous, five-hour hearing on the bill Monday afternoon. “You don’t have one Democrat vote for it. So it’s going to fail.”

So Donald Trump lost another one:

Monday’s developments amounted to a massive setback for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and President Trump, who spent the past week trying to rally support for a last-ditch attempt to fulfill a seven-year Republican promise. The effort lost much of its steam in the past four days, as it became clear that the new proposal had not resolved the same disagreements that plagued Republicans in a failed July push.

Collins announced that she could not back the measure – which would redistribute federal health-care funding across the country and sharply curb spending on Medicaid – moments after the release of a much-anticipated Congressional Budget Office analysis that forecast “millions” of Americans would lose coverage by 2026 if the bill was enacted.

She was not alone, really:

Two GOP senators – Rand Paul (Ky.) and John McCain (Ariz.) – had already come out against the bill and were not swayed by a new draft that emerged Monday morning. Republicans hold a 52-to-48 advantage in the Senate; they can lose only two votes from their party and still pass legislation with the help of a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Pence.

A fourth Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), indicated through his aides Monday that he could not back the bill in its current form because it would not go far enough in repealing the 2010 law.

The only hope was this:

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) did not rule out the possibility of holding a vote on the proposal despite clear signs that it did not have sufficient support to pass. Many Republicans feel pressure from voters to keep pushing to repeal the ACA before moving on to other issues.

“There are a lot of people who want to vote yes and be recorded as voting yes,” Cornyn said, adding that the Republican conference would decide the matter Tuesday, when lawmakers will meet for the first time since leaving for recess last week. “I think there is some advantage to showing you’re trying and doing the best you can.”

He was saying that they could do the martyr thing – the Lost Cause of the Confederacy thing. They could be the noble heroes who went down fighting. They wouldn’t win, but they tried. Trump’s base, promised that they would win so much that they would be sick and tired of winning, would surely understand.

Donald Trump knew better, so he called Collins:

Speaking to reporters Monday evening, the senator said the administration had lobbied her hard to endorse the bill – and she received a call from the president himself before the CBO score was announced.

It’s easy enough to imagine that call – “I promised American a whole lot of winning, winning, winning – so can you help me out here, please, pretty please?”

She wouldn’t help him out:

“I told him that I would go back and look at the numbers one more time, but I was straightforward with him that I was not likely to be a yes vote,” she said, adding that the process had been too hasty. “Last night, a whole new bill came out, which to me epitomizes the problem.”

She didn’t like being bribed:

The legislation’s sponsors had rewritten the bill to deliver more money to Alaska and Maine, in the hopes of winning over Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), another key GOP centrist.

Perhaps he should have offered her a free lifetime membership at Mar-a-Lago and free golf at his two Scottish resorts, but he had already lost this:

The contentious debate erupted into public view Monday afternoon as protesters chanted so loudly at the hearing’s outset that Hatch was forced to temporarily adjourn as police officers arrested and removed 181 of them.

“No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty!” one woman in a wheelchair screamed as she was wheeled out.

They were the NFL players kneeling on the sidelines during the national anthem – the same sort of thing – but this was needlessly cruel:

Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the panel, questioned why Republicans were rushing to pass a measure this week that was just having its first hearing – and one that he considered “a lemon.”

“Nobody has to buy a lemon just because it’s the last car on the lot,” Wyden said.

We’re going to win so much that you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning? No one will ever question us, or question him, ever again? What has this man won, other than the election? Perhaps America will get tired of losing. Perhaps it already has.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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1 Response to The Winner Who Loses

  1. This morning, at coffee, I saw a very well-larded (Triple XXX) middle aged white man with his brand-new acquisition, a black t-shirt on the back of which was emblazoned “Info Wars Real News”. On the front, I saw later, was “CNN Fake News”. Best I can tell he said nothing to anybody, nor was there any comment back. His message of the day, his witness to his view of reality. It was chilling.

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