Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress last night was banefully familiar.
I remember so vividly being appalled by the facile nostalgia of the Gipper. Reagan made up facts and used every dog-whistle he could. But above all it was that bit about “morning in America.” Last night Trump gave up a bit of ground on the inauguration’s “American carnage” theme and went for that same thinly disguised sunny appeal.
Apparently, when you are white, male and of a certain age it seems everything about ye olde America was superior and everything about America today is not. I was appalled then and I am appalled now by this kind of manipulative hallucinatory recall. Jim Crow, Mad Men sexism, homophobia, colonial war, the list goes on of what I am happy to see as _some_ progress since. But not so fast. We’re headed over the cliff into a make-believe that is far uglier than we’ve ever seen.
What Trump took from the Gipper has always been the Donald’s appeal: an underlying belief in the ethno-superiority of Euro-ancestry, shameless sexism, and the exploitation of fear and pure desperation. And just like the Gipper, he will somehow, magically, create solutions that larger hands have failed to produce. The lies are more virulent, more explicit, and vividly less shameless than Reagan, but the straight white line we can draw from the one to the other is unmistakeable. This time, however, it is far more dangerous and decisive for the fate of the republic and the world. We must rally to stop this because everything that is true is at stake.