There are many ways to escape the Trump era.  Mine is reading.  And most recently my son gave me Michael Lewis’s book The Fifth Risk.  Instead of distracting from the Trump era, it drove me deeper into it.

The narrative is about the Trump transition into management of the U.S. Government and how little those handling the transition know or cared about what they were doing.  They got away with it, at least so far, for an even more depressing reason: too many Americans, especially those who voted for Trump, don’t have a clue what the United States Government does and how it benefits their lives.

The single organizing principle then and now seems to be: whatever the Government was doing before we got here, unless it benefits corporate America, has to stop.

Underwriting this principle are rejection of science, distrust of public service and servants, privatization of even the most successful public policies and programs, and confidence in the willingness of the Trump “base” to accept destruction of the programs most specifically developed to help its members.

At its core is the cynical proposition that true believers will vote against their own and their children’s best interests in the interest of furthering a right-wing program of destruction.  Forget about the country at large and its future.  The image is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

Progress in our country has been brought about to some degree by corporate innovation but to a much larger degree by scientific explorations in the public as well as the private sectors.  Breakthroughs in health, nutrition, agriculture, technology, communications, and a host of other areas have, as often as not, emanated from a government laboratory and then made commercial and profitable by the private sector.

From the Oval Office to the lowliest political appointee in this administration ignorance of this bipartisan history is taken for granted, and the ignorant don’t want to know they are ignorant.

Historically, the only period to rival this involved the Know Nothings of the mid-19th century, also anti-immigrant and anti-fact-based reality.

Despite the many political analyses of the rise of Trumpism, none so far has solved the mystery of why close to a third of the country strongly supports a president who knows nothing about governing or government and who favors Wall Street wealth which his “base” is supposed to dislike and distrust.

There has been no serious rationalization from the White House for the systematic dismantling of Obama administration initiatives, cancelation of treaties and agreements with allies on trade, security, and cooperation (created by Republican as well as Democratic administrations), efforts to forestall climate catastrophe, and a host of other domestic and international policies meant to stabilize the world.  It is mindless destruction with no reason provided.

The “fifth risk”, project management, involves life or death issues such as nuclear waste disposal, food and drug inspection, carbon build up, and many others.  Those involved now in managing these projects don’t understand them or care about them.  The U.S. Government has been turned over to children and unqualified children at that.

To that must now be added yet another risk, the sixth risk which is the dismantling of government structures that support what up to now has been mostly a progressive national government that makes our country and our society better in virtually every way.

There is no justification for willful ignorance from the White House on down.

 

7 Responses to “The Sixth Risk: Willful Ignorance”

  1. Neil McCarthy Says:

    I’m with you on the means of escape. But I think the ignorance may be worse than willful; it may be blind.

    There are lots of ways ignorance manifests itself. People can be insensitive to others, oblivious to their concerns and feelings. People can be stupid or just not know better and be incapable of figuring that out. People can know what is true or accurate, but ignore it. Or people can not know what is true or accurate and not want to take any measures to discover the truth.

    When you ignore truth, it’s willful ignorance. When you refuse to even look for it, the ignorance becomes blind.

    I fear we are now in a period of blindness.

    Whatever were and are the policy differences that separate contending parties in present day America, it is unassailable that the success of the American project over the last two plus centuries (i) was not ineluctable and (ii) was subject to many close calls. The Revolution, Civil War, racism, depressions, environmental degradations and first Gilded Age inequality all fall into the latter category. They were threats to the success of the project and were resolved or at least mitigated only because of the hard work of determined groups and the ability of the American electorate to be educated and to come around to the point where articulated solutions were embraced and implemented.

    We now are living through a period, I think, in which that history is being blindly ignored by the vast majority of people. Instead of understanding the reasons for the genius of a Lincoln or FDR, both of whom were incredibly adept at both perceiving what was at stake and slowly creating the needed coaltions to respond to the crises at hand, or the amount of work that was involved in articulating and building up the progressive coalitions that emerged in the thirty years before the New Deal and upon which that New Deal was built, or the same enormous amout of work that created the back drop to abolitionism and (after the Civil War) the century long attack on segregation, or the equally enormous amount of work that created the environmental movement, most people today seem not to care. Kids are into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The humanities (history, philosophy, religion, literature) are afterthoughts, and in many cases not even that.

    This is more than dangerous. I woke up depressed on November 9, 2016 not so much because my candiate had lost (I’d been there many times before, even as a candidate myself) as because I could not believe the level of sheer irrationality necessary for her opponent to win. Trump was transparently the least qualified, ethical, curious, informed and educated candidate who had ever run for the Presidency in my lifetime. It wasn’t a close call. Yet he did win. And afterward, he transfored the GOP into a vehicle more than willing to shill for his ignorance, incompetence, dishonesty and fraud.

    Without blind ignorance, I do not think that would have been possible, regardless of Russian bots or Comey’s eleventh hour shenanigans or Hillary’s emails (for God’s sake).

    Anyone who has run for office appreciates the unpredictablity and irrationality of what often goes on “in the arena.” In a comment to his penultimate post, Sen. Hart responded to a query concerning the efficacy of a Sanders candidacy by noting that cab drivers in NYC had voted against Sen. McGovern, who promised to raise taxes on the wealthy in his 1972 campaign, because they thought they could one day be wealthy.

    Fair enough.

    But in today’s world, we’re way beyond that.

    We can survive Trump.

    We cannot survive blind ignorance.

  2. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Excellent contribution in the posting and comment herein above.

    In the UK, Thatcher privatised much that needed privatising and some which most certainly did not.

    The privatising agenda has become a profiteering absurdity, in the hands of those, in the States, who are in a state, of alienation from the values of civic responsibility that is at the heart of government sensibility.

    Those foolishly named leftish libertarians in some lands, now referring to their party as Pirate, are the anarchists take, on the just as foolish, right wing
    libertarian, authoritarian, version calling themselves Republican.

    Profiteering and piracy, pirates and profiteers, these are the wreckers, whether on the streets of Paris or in the Senate of Washington.

    A yellow jacket is fine if the wearer is not throwing a molotov cocktail. A yellow cowardice is not if the person , whether a member of the public or a politician, is throwing his country under the bus.

  3. Bill Pruden Says:

    Senator,
    I too find reading an escape from the current political chaos, with political history in particular offering inspiring and comforting reminders of what leadership can look like and of the nation’s historic resilience in times of challenges. That reality was made very clear when I too read Lewis’s Fifth Risk, a fine book but one which was deeply troubling for attitudes and ignorance that were discouraging in the extreme. That book, indeed, the news out of Washington on an almost daily basis, also leaves me with an ever stronger feeling, one that I would guess I share with my fellow history and government teachers, and that is a sense of bewilderment, if not personal failure, at the lack of knowledge and understanding of this nation’s history, heritage and political processes. Indeed, in addition to being engaged in the process, I have always felt that as a teacher I was helping to contribute to the development of the knowledgeable and thoughtful citizenry that are both the heart and soul as well as the engine that powers our American democratic experiment. None of our Founders nor the many who have built upon their singular foundation have ever done anything but affirmed the importance of and their faith in an educated citizenry. Yet increasingly that seems to be lost. Indeed, whether from neglect or a failure to recognize its importance. Teaching and learning about our history and our government seems increasingly to be set aside as the personal and societal benefit of such efforts–not to mention the knowledge–are deemed less important than skills that are more easily and transferable to the business world. Heaven forbid that our citizens not only understand how government works, but we develop the ability to discern truth from falsehoods to understand that there is a right and wrong in a country founded on the principles that make the United States so distinctive. Our governmental system operates through personal involvement and interaction. Yes, STEM and Tech education have a role, an important one in out modern world but they cannot substitute for the human interaction and the attendant human knowledge and understanding at the heart of our political process. We must not forget that if we are to right this ship of state that is heading into ever more dangerous water. As a teacher I will continue to try and battle the ignorance that is real, but I increasingly feel like a lonely voice in a wilderness increasingly stripped of any concern about the humanities. It is not a comforting feeling.

  4. Anna Valteran Says:

    Dear Senator Hart,
    Marry Christmas to you and all your family! God bless you!

  5. Neil McCarthy Says:

    To Bill Pruden:
    For the record, it’s not you who failed at all. You brought the horses to water. Some (many?) and, more or less obviously, the current occupant in the White House and many of his more extreme supporters and enablers, refused to drink.

  6. Gary Hart Says:

    I concur with Neil regarding your efforts, Bill. You are known as a conscientious teacher along with many others. Social media, entertainment, endless chat shows all distract young Americans in an age in which distraction has become a form of (anti)government. My next book is America Beyond Trump. That is where we must be looking. I send warmest wishes for a better New Year to one and all. Gary

  7. Anna Valteran Says:

    Thank you, Gary, blessings for the New Year to you!

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