Sunday, September 1, 2019

Fascism Rises

In this age of the recrudescence of fascism, there is just one lesson to learn:  that the human race cannot afford it.  Charismatic leaders who summon visions of halcyon times to manipulate a targeted slice of the population are not only narcissists; they are required to be beyond reproach or shame.  That is how the dynamic works.  The chosen people go all-in on a messianic savior.  Leader and follower spin each other in a centrifuge of mind-narrowing ideology.

A faith-propped fascist is not concerned for future generations or even reality.  The goal isn't a strong country on the world stage.  It is self-aggrandizement.  Success in this goal insures dysfunction.   Instead of facing the titanic magnitude of the Amazon burning, the leader of Brazil blames liberals and demands apologies.  Donald Trump pulls the USA out of the Paris Accord, ignoring scientific consensus on global warming.

It has been said that in the nuclear age, war itself is the true enemy.  And yet Modi, envisioning India as a nationalistic Hindu country, eliminates the Kashmir's special status with police state tactics, shutting off internet and other media, while cordoning the area block by block.  This enrages Pakistan.  Both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons and a history of modern, violent conflicts.  The repression in Kashmir is a reckless gambit in which no doubt there is some significant probability of sparking nuclear war.  Maybe it is even something like 1% or 10% or more.  We don't know.  No one does.

As worshipped fascists multiply, feeding off of fear and spreading us-vs-them extremism, the possibility of nuclear armageddon grows.  Two fanatic governments, neither able to back down, rattling sabers at each other, except now the sabers are ICBMs.

We can't do this.  For both military and environmental reasons, we can't abide fascist demagogues, The dynamic of a god-like leader with unthinking followers is inevitably cataclysmic.  The technologies we control now, and the eco-habits we develop, coupled with a population of 7.7 billion and growing, are self-destructive without farsighted wisdom.  They are too capable of inflicting a scale of tragedy never before seen in the history of civilization.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said we "are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."

The only things that can save us are the advancement of reason and ethics.  Both are completely compatible with spirituality and emotion.  Indeed, they require them.  The more politics drifts away from the real and virtuous--the more it becomes about acquiring power for the in-group at the expense of the 'enemy'--the more evil it becomes.  Hate-mongering, race-baiting, misogyny, military repression, Orwellian mind games, and the cynicism of parasitic, plutocratic greed--all these and more result when ethics is abandoned for the national manifestation of egotism , which is fascism.

All countries have flaws and can learn from others.  What diversity teaches us is that people are amazingly malleable.  A great deal depends on how they are taught.  Think of this:  No human being born yet, not a single one, has ever been raised in a truly good society.  How would we turn out if we were?  We've made progress.  Incredible progress that many in the past called impossible.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we gave future generations a chance to get closer and closer to the ideal?


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Trump (and the GOP's) Long Term Strategy

Trump's recent psychological warfare salvo reveals not only a short term method to win in 2020, but also the perilous face of his long game.  He chose four minority congresswomen as effigies and tweeted for them to go home, that is, leave the country, even though three of them were born in America and one, Ilhan Omar, is a naturalized citizen.  It is worth noting the prodigious mendacity and calumny of his flimsy attempts at evidence, adjoined to claims that the congresswomen hated America.  Fact Checker, for instance, gave four Pinocchios to Trump's claim that Omar supported Al Qaeda.

Also noteworthy is the irony of language like "infested" from a man whose soul is ugly with voracious egotism and repugnant not only from an absence of conscience, but also a prevalence of depravity.  At his first rally after the 'go back' tweets, a pumped-up crowd chanted "Send Her Back!" referring to Omar.  Trump let this chant go on for 13 seconds without interruption, even though he claimed the next day to have resumed his speech quickly.

Mainstream pundits condemned this bald-faced manifestation of racism. They vilified the blatant use of well-known racist tropes, and underscored that dog whistles are out and fog horns are in.  But to some degree, at least, the media didn't convey the full threat. 

Take Morning Joe.  The parsing there was correct but limited.  The Republican Party, so the analysis went, shamelessly accepts Trump's moves to solidify the base.  However, in so doing they wed themselves to white jingoism, and lock themselves out of expanding demographic blocks. 

The conclusion of this 'death by math' argument, though, relies on a key premise:  that the US remains a democracy.  A POTUS-crowd chanting racist hate is a watershed, and it's past time to consider a danger we've too long kept at arm's length.  Namely, when fascist authoritarians have to, they aspire to win elections, but their ultimate goal is to make elections irrelevant. 

The counterargument is that Trump's base is too small to make him a President Putin.  But if you look at history, and the rise of dictators in republics, at some point they no longer rely on the vicissitudes of votes.  They seize power, usurping the right of the majority. 

It's worth point out that any seismic event of national significance, such as full scale war with Iran, could incite a bellicose stampede of fear that drives the citizenry right into Trump's hands.  Does anyone really think that someone who '"fell in love" with Kim Jong un--a totalitarian who demands worship of his statues--will shy away from conflict with Iran if it becomes his best route to power?

Trump's know-nothing mega-claque isn't going to pull back from the edge.  There won't be some magic moment when they see they are trading liberty for a protection racket.  Ignorance can take hold even in the smartest people, who then work to spread and defend it.  So ensconced, it gains immunity to the strongest logic, or even 'right before your eyes' evidence.  

The Republican Party is hardly worth mentioning as a safeguard for our democracy.  They have become Trump's puppets.  As for Trump himself, apologists have been arguing for years that he isn't as bad as he seems, or that others can control his 'impulses'.  There is a persistent idea that he is rash, stupid and incapable, even though he is perhaps the most successful con man in modern history.  At the very least, he has a genius for knowing how to exacerbate and exploit fear.  And he knows how to conjure efficacious chaos.  And yet commentators still continue to label him as inept, perhaps because their standard is a strong USA on the global stage, whereas Trump's goal is a crippled USA under his thrall. 

The idea that Trump's ineptitude could be a smokescreen for fascist ambitions hardly gets any airtime at all. He ambushed everyone in 2015, coming down a golden elevator after months of original, insightful calculation.  He became the most powerful man in the world.  Liberty requires perspicacious vigilance.  And yet we seem more than ready to be blindsided by Trump again.  What is our excuse at this point, after "Send Her Back"? 

In terms of actions, there is a straightforward one.  The Democrats could impeach Trump and thereby greatly alter public opinion.   Their willful violation of an oath to protect the Constitution bears the greatest part of the cataract in our collective blind eye.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Impeach Or War

House Democrats have a very limited amount of time to impeach Donald Trump before he gains an almost impervious protection:  an aegis of saber-rattling, news-dominating vitriol aimed at Iran, possibly followed very quickly by full-scale war.

There are many reasons why brink-of-war tension and war itself benefit the self-centered Trump, at least from his own blinkered vantage.  They relegate the Mueller report and other investigations of his conduct to the spectatorial shadows.  This is especially pertinent as the 2020 election looms, when negative press could unfavorably impinge on the minds of vulnerable voters in swing states. Trump wallows in the limelight, but better than playing defense are large-font headlines, just below the masthead, that showcase boldness and aggression.

It is well worth emphasizing that demagogues feed off of fear, hate and associated jingoism.  As has been shown in crisis theory, a climate of chaos and disaster leads to a disoriented, malleable public.  When people are terrified and off-balance, they run for the nearest psychological shelter, tossing critical thought aside like a heavy burden.  Trump is nothing if not an authoritarian harbor who offers easy port for his scared, angry followers.

War or near-war conditions usually rally citizens around the top.  George W. Bush gained a huge surge in popularity after 9/11.  Although that popularity waned over the next few years, he was able to win re-election on the theme of decisive action for the cause of national defense.  Trump could gain a big ratings boost through a favored tactic:  a nostalgic us-vs-them scenario that labels Iran as the world's greatest villain.

The Pelosians continue to ply their passive wait-and-see strategy, befuddlingly conventional, while our unconventional President pushes the numbers.  He breaks sacrosanct rules and aggressively bends political climates.  Just recently, Trump said he would accept oppo research from foreign governments.  This on top of his affinity for torturous dictators.  The sum of his lies, smears, dog whistles, corruptions, and Constitution-attacking behaviors, such as violation of the emoluments clause, indicate an egotist unfettered by shame or principle.  His goal is re-election by any feasible means, untroubled by havoc and carnage on a country-wide scale.

In this light, impeachment proceeding are no longer just about upholding the Constitution.  As if that weren't enough, they now could blunt our momentum toward an ill-thought-out war, at a time when the US is saddled with a myopic confidence man who craves the spotlight above all else.

Much has been said about how public opinion swung against Nixon as the evidence reached the public.  Democrats have a similar opportunity right now with Trump, though the window of opportunity is brief.  Mueller himself nudged them to move on impeachment in his one public appearance since the release of the eponymous report.

Those in the House swore an oath to protect our country.  As it stands, they are in violation of that oath.  It's bad enough that Republicans claims ignorance.  But even worse that Democrats admit that the President has committed impeachable offenses, and yet continue to do nothing.  Add war with Iran to the ante.  The Democrats are on the verge of self-induced tragedy.  A debacle of oath-breaking and mealy-mouthed cowardice.  Their failure will stand in history as a dark monument of how not to protect what you love--unless they act now.


Saturday, May 18, 2019

Feckless Representation


House Democrats need to impeach Trump.  Otherwise, they saddle themselves with the onus of stunning cowardice.  Not just in the eyes of our descendants, but in terms of current electability.  As it stands, Democrats are defending the Constitution by choosing not to defend it.  Trump's dictatorial bent assails our tricameral system with the dark charisma of an insurgent white nationalism.  Democrats see this. They offer stark warnings in their ominous oratory.  And yet they refuse to use their Constitutional powers.  Some, like Elizabeth Warren, have taken the plunge and now stand for impeachment.  Why does the leadership waffle?

The strategy, sadly, is to be political but unethical:  to avoid doing what's right--where right is based on the principle of challenging a burgeoning tyrant--until enough American citizens agree that it's right.  Even in terms of practical expediency, it is a pitiable bungle.  It means Democrats look passive.  False leaders.  Trump, on the other hand, comes across as seizing the helm, assertive, instead of letting the ship drift in the currents.  Importantly, although his mendacity is well-known, Trump presents as serving key constituent beliefs, whereas Democrats project timorous apprehension.

Strength versus weakness.  Principled offense versus compromised defense.  Which will 2020 prefer?

From a calculating perspective, some high-power Dems think they can win next year by not rocking the boat.  Polls show that a formidable number of voters refuse to cast a ballot for Trump.  Encouraging, also, is the momentum that flipped control of the House.  However, the zeitgeist of each political season is a fickle thing, and the mindset of voters is often misread, sometimes egregiously.  Witness, for instance, the much predicted Clinton victory that never came to pass.  Quantitative crunching cannot encapsulate qualitative irreducibles.

Democrats still aren't facing the framing factors that toppled both party machines in 2016.  It's fair to say that all voters want leaders who say and do what they believe.  High on the list of odious traits is mealymouthism, a rhetorical cloak of vacillation that often hides shady politics.  The extensive corruption, decades old, that erected a golden ladder for Trump is well-known across the demographic spectrum.  Any politician that wants a leg up this political season should use the wealth-gap distribution curve as their logo.

Right now, when it comes to protecting the Constitution, it is the Democrats who own mealymouthism.  Trump can legitimately say he is pushing to build the wall and punish China.  Can the Pelosians say they are defending the Constitution by holding Trump accountable?   House leadership says they are aware of the imminent, extreme danger that Trump presents, and yet they refuse to employ the powers assigned to them, for the very purpose of protecting the United States from people like our current President.  

Some say that impeachment proceedings will insure that Trump gets to 'run against the House'.  Guess what?  He's going to run against the House no matter what.  Spineless fence-sitting will make it even easier.   It's easy to imagine how it will go:  "Look at 'em.  They don't even have the guts to try and impeach me, folks.  Why?  Because they know I'm clean.  It's all a witch-hunt, folks."

Another objection is that, after the House votes for impeachment, the Senate won't vote to convict.  This argument gets things backwards.  Senate complicity in tyranny is all the more reason to stand up to tyranny.  Let's, please, avoid the metaphor of a nuclear power plant meltdown.  A situation in which none of the fail-safes meant to prevent a catastrophe actually tripped. 

Failsafe devices don't have a conscience.  Presumably our Democratic leadership does.  And if they don't act, their utter debacle will engrave itself not just on the history of the United States, but also world civilization.


Monday, March 18, 2019

The Imperative To Impeach

When Nancy Pelosi said, "He's just not worth it," referring to a Trump impeachment, we all know she meant something else, namely, that it's not politically viable.   This obvious sidestep is strike one for what seems the majority Democratic trend.  Unfortunately there are many more strikes, maybe enough to lose the game.   Let's look at various arguments that take into account how the American public might frame the current state of the nation.

The bat hisses through the air, missing again, when we acknowledge a simple premise:  the Trump threat is unique, and yet the Pelosi response is conventional.   One thing voters didn't like about Clinton was that her talking points seemed evasive and mealy-mouthed, the rhetorical embodiment of statistical calculations.  Clinton wasn't a leader, she was a follower.  A follower of the numbers.   Trump did the opposite.  He led the numbers.  He worked to change people's minds and it paid off in ways we are still not willing to face, and therefore cannot effectively counteract. 

Pelosi is making the same mistake as Clinton.  She's following the numbers, instead of being a truly great leader.  Trump's base frames him as a virtual god.  The reason is that his power to topple what we are as a country is real.  Polls show that the majority of Americans see him differently, as a villain.  To challenge him we need a champion.  Even after all we've seen in the last three years, the seismic upheaval and threat, the Democrats still waffle, sounding old- school status quo.

But constituents on both the right and left are fed up with congressional complacency.  Americans do agree on quite a bit when it comes to the obvious and entrenched corruption.  Here's some advice for any politician who wants to get a leg up this election season.  Make the graph of the income distribution curve your campaign logo.  It would look like a thin mutant boomerang, skewed on one side where the meek asymptote suddenly shoots upward, almost vertical, when you reach the rich.  The mathematics of the wealth in itself is telling.  It indicates a neofeudal system, not capitalism.  It exposes gross unfairness in hideously dysfunctional markets. 

Our entire medical health system is a glaring example (special props to Big Pharma for making insulin unaffordable for diabetics).  The ridiculous cost of a college education is another.  The American people, one and all, know that we are being fleeced.  The fleecing started long before Trump.  And when we see politicians that do the same old thing-- hedging, hemming and hawing--there's a nationwide  visceral reaction.  A big swing and a miss, then, for Democrats who shy away from heroism and instead hew to the mannerisms of kleptocracy.

The answer is simple.  Lead the numbers.  Call a crime a crime and act accordingly.  The absence of such a simple candor from the left has greased the anger rails for a xenophobic demagogue, one who now has gone far toward imposing his MAGA-version of monarchy.   

"He's just not worth it" effectively sends a message like, "Well, Trump has committed impeachable offenses, but it isn't practical to do anything about it, so let's just insult him a little instead."  This message puts politics above ethics.  Trump has attained great power because he has convinced people he is doing the opposite. 

What we need from our politicians is a rallying cry.  There's another reason to take a bold, courageous stand, maybe the most important of all.  None of us wants to think about the unthinkable, but if another major terrorist attack occurs, Trump will become impregnable.  His message of fear and hate will gain invincible traction.   It might very well be too late to do anything then except suffer and mumble out a furtive, "We should've been the voice of freedom when we had the chance."


Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Ultimate Test

The Ultimate Test

Little is more infuriating than someone who denies the obvious, while accusing those who point out the error of being blind.  It is more infuriating, still, when said person holds considerable power, from the obtuse office boss to the political demagogue, even a president who seduces millions of voters, turning them complicit, and thereby advancing an ego-fueled trajectory toward the center of everything,  until a land of freedom threatens to devolve into a soil for tyranny.

Catastrophically, this is the situation we face in the US. The obvious is denied, and yet those who object are vociferously labeled liars.  Climate-change denialists rant that those who believe the science are, not only ignorant, but also in fact malicious.  Racists and xenophobes,  gender bigots and sexists, angrily label others as prejudice, while adducing their own record as just and pristine.

As a coup de grace, these gaslighters, in effect, challenge a constitutional premise--that humanity can embrace equal and inalienable rights--with the bald example of their own behavior.  They do this, of course, while denying that they are doing any such thing, and casting hateful aspersions.

For those who wish to protect a government centered on rationalism, in the spirit of our Founders, this psychological warfare, this "no, it's you" mindset, is the ultimate test.  Patience, virtue, dignity, all can slide into petty invective in the face of such hair-pulling intransigence.  Any resort to insult or anger, however slight, only validates the stance of the gaslighters in their own mind.  If all you can do is mock them, clearly you have nothing better, no solid argument.

Maddeningly seamless aggression that accepts no blame, while thriving off double-standards and division. This is what those who wish to defend bipartisanship are up against.  Perhaps most frustrating of all, this tactic could work.  From ancient times to the present, kingdoms glued together by fanatic loyalty are not uncommon.  The last presidential election showed that a core constituency could be yoked to 'big lie' fear more easily than anyone thought.  Victory could be had by demonizing the 'other.'   

The genie is out of the bottle.  It is possible that in 2020 campaigns, some Republicans contenders will go much farther, moving past even the most threadbare insinuation to outright endorsement of white nationalism.  It will earn them the fanatic praise of millions, if they have the twisted charisma to wield the dark ideology.  In a way, Trump's corruption and  incompetence are a gift.  They give us a chance to prepare.  To address and redress, to heal and inoculate.

The death-swell of 20th century fascism, its dethroning of empires in an orgy of all-out slaughter, including the fire-bombing runs and the apocalyptic use of fission; how it bred the horrors of the genocidal concentration camps; has not stopped the grim specter from rising again.   

Those who wish to push upwards, against our current state of descent, need to remember two things.  This is the ultimate test of patience, and everything you believe in is at stake.


Monday, December 31, 2018

Poem: Fugitives

I'll be posting an op-ed piece here soon.  But for now, here is a poem from my collection, Gordian Butterflies.  Best to all!




hurt are we,
our guilt like dirty steak knives
that slew sacred cows.

unseen are we,
a battle on Andromeda,
mischievous in nooks
of faint mausoleums.

no preacher freed us,
no Sappho or Sartre,
no Buddha-rung gong
rippling our revival--

no crucifix,
no lysergic diethylamide,
no death or exodus
or creed--

we just saw.
exhumed ourselves,
swept off the webs
of skyscrapers
and cell phones,

washed off the dirt
of What-Must.
we looked at a world
beyond stress-chewed faces

and saw it was good.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ethics Versus Fear

I was unable to get this published in the State newspapers, but that means I get to put it here.  Thank you for your time!


Ethics Or Fear

An ethic is a belief system founded in right and wrong, whether concerning conduct or mindset.  Colloquially it is based in the heart, a nurturing soil of sentiment, reason, and spirit.  Morality can be willfully broken or blind, in which case it ceases to be ethical.  On the other hand, critical thinking can merge with passion and, importantly, honesty, to comprehend life with agape and awe.  Einstein spoke to this confluence of intrapsychic forces when he wrote, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and science."

In the 2016 election, two million more voters chose Clinton than Trump.   In effect, they were voting for equality, a concept rationally argued by the Founders.  Equality has had a recent surge, rippling the world consciousness.  The #MeToo Movement exemplifies this incipient transformation.  So does the quest for LGBT rights.  In the second most populous country in the world, India, gay sex was recently decriminalized.  All this is huge.  Massive social protests based on benevolent philosophies are major players today.  After several millennia of relative stagnation, civilization has been rocked by Enlightenment ideals, a keystone being women's suffrage, achieved in the US in 1920.

Central to this ethical ferment is a profound and widespread sense of empathy.  Indeed, caring and cooperation are common across the animal kingdom, having a strong basis in natural selection.  In humans, empathy often combines with a spiritual element, accessed through religion, meditation, or a primal awakening to the majesty of nature.  Such feelings and attitudes exist across all cultures.  Combined with principled government, they establish norms of reason, based on dignity, respect, and hale stewardship of the planet Earth.

Another way to govern is through fear.  When President Trump spoke in his inaugural speech of ending "American carnage," he framed reality as a brutal competition.  An arena, one where you must win at all costs.  In some cases, the end does justify the means.  Whether this is an ethical argument or not, however, depends on clear-headed appraisal, not reckless and unthinking panic. 

For Trump, to win is not to do something ethical.  It is to seize material success.  This has been channeled, in part, into the rhetoric of jobs.  To have a job is to win.  However, no distinction is made between a fulfilling job and a soul-numbing one.  No thought is given to environmental consequences.  Or to health benefits.  Or to the increasing deficit.  No quarter is yielded to the fate of future generations.  In sum, no vigilance is maintained over the moral compass of the country.

Ethical governance opens the mind.  Fear-chained governance closes it.  The cost of wearing such stress-sewn blinders is not only psychological, not only impairs reason; it has also the practical effect of undercutting our ability to adapt in a complex, changing world.  As ice sheets melt, as mass extinction proceeds, as Texas-sized garbage patches gyre in the oceans, as catastrophic fire and storm punish our failure to admit the insights of science, our mendacious President fixates on an irrational threat to a mythologized white culture.  Nothing good will come of it.


Friday, August 17, 2018

The Beauty


Why does the world have to be so beautiful?  It makes the cruelty so much harder to take.

                                             --Andreas Reddington.


Monday, July 23, 2018

A Dangerous 'What If'

Some pundits in the national liberal media are getting a bit closer to the view I have espoused for a long time:  that Trump's followers subconsciously crave a dictator who pushes white nationalism (hence their impervious loyalty).  See, for instance, Richard Cohen's latest op-ed:

However, the national pundits are still missing some crucial psychological dynamics.  Below is an op-ed I wrote.  It was rejected by the largest newspaper in my state because, in the words of the Editor:

I generally avoid pieces that attempt make psychological diagnoses or analysis of people. That's something I feel only a person's personal counselor can do.

I think this is wrongheaded.  It mistakes a psychological theory for a diagnosis.  Theory is subject to both reinforcing and negating evidence.

Anyway, here is my op-ed.  Thanks for your time.


A Dangerous 'What If'

In mainstream media, political leaders and followers are usually viewed as at least somewhat privy to their own motivations.  The voyage of democracy hangs its sail on the competency of voters, those who steer their own fate and, together, the course of the country.  It is a noble ethos, grounded in the autonomy of humanism.  In regard to enlightened liberty, reflective decision-making is vital.

However, there is another side.  Enter the field of psychology.  We humans can be subconsciously driven.  Marketers rely on this, knowing that what people say, or even think they believe, is often different than the truth.  In the mental health professions, it is taken for granted that the mind can fool itself.  Denial.  Compartmentalization.  Projection.  We don't like to admit it, but the icon of a deliberate thinker  is only part of a much larger picture, one in which our reason often bows to murky or intangible forces.  

I want to consider what some would consider an outrageous if.  Namely, what if both Donald Trump and his followers are driven by motives they can't see?  We live in pivotal and perilous times, ones that are also mystifying to many, and there is a lot a stake.  It seems prudent to take at least a moment to ponder the full potential of human frailty, and its grave cost.

Although many have called Trump inconsistent, he has pushed a steady theme of white nationalism.  It hardly seems necessary to justify this anymore.  It is evident in his rhetoric, which is laced with dog whistles, many of them not so insinuative.   The MAGA motto is brilliant in this context as a subliminal ploy.  What if Trump is fueled by a powerful desire to become a dictator, a cynosure of infinite adulation, and white nationalism is his ticket?  And what if his hardcore followers have a corresponding wish, to dwell in a police state that revives and secures a nostalgic white patriarchy?

It would follow then that Trump--who has been described as a narcissist in an anthology co-authored by over two dozen experts--would push a racist agenda to increase his gratification.  Many commentators have noted that Trump fishes about for ways to push the edge, testing to see what coaxes his base.  A feedback loop emerges between orator and constituency.  Trump titillates a deep-seated need and vice versa.  It is a loop in which neither player knows (and so can not admit) what drives them, even as they are pulled into a closer orbit, step by step.  If this is what is happening, the taboo against openly racist views is itself under assault in our country, and subject to grievous and constant decline. 

It would be wonderful, frankly, if all this wrong; if Trump has no implacable desire to be a dictator; if his millions of fans are not anchored by psychic chains to white nationalism.  Hopefully there is no mutual seduction going on.  However, Trump has already declared that he can shoot someone in the street and not lose loyalty.  I won't enumerate the abundance of rude and vicious things he has said, attacking a wide range of previously untouchable targets.  He lies openly and copiously at rallies.  His fans don't flinch. 

The next test will be the Chinese tariffs.  If Trump's base suffers monetarily, yet still backs him 100%, it is another indication of complete trust, as in an adored father figure.   The 'outrageous if' gains force the more evidence accrues to support it.  On the other hand, a counterexample would undermine it.  So far, to my mind, no such counterexample exists.

As a final caveat, research tells us that ignorance is smart.  The difference between ignorance and awareness is not intellect.  It is how intellect is employed.  Denial is not only strong, but superbly deflective.  Taking a psychological perspective adds to a sense that things are far worse than generally thought.  On the other hand, facing the darkest alternative could be galvanizing, and allows for the best, strongest defense of democracy.