WASHINGTON — Anyone who thinks politics is something arcane that happens in Washington or the state capital and has nothing to do with real life got a jolt in recent days.
Donald Trump has begun, in earnest, a trade war with China that will affect millions of consumers in America and thousands of farmers. Ultimately, it will raise prices consumers pay for almost everything (which amounts to a huge tax increase for low-income and middle-income Americans). It will mean many farmers will not be able to sell their crops for a fair price and may go out of business.
At the same time Trump has been talking about a possible war with Iran, a country that may already have nuclear technology and has grown increasingly anxious about U.S. sanctions imposed after Trump pulled out of the deal with Iran that kept it from making nuclear weapons. Five other nations are still abiding by the agreement.
Unlike the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, no other country would stand by the United States in a war with Iran.
Meanwhile, Trump is also rattling sabers over Venezuela and North Korea. He is blithely talking about sending a hundred thousand troops…somewhere…sometime…somehow. It took 500,000 soldiers to fight in Iraq; Iran is much larger.
Trump also is continuing to side with Saudi Arabia in its bloody war against Yemen, where thousands have died as U.S. bombs fall from the skies.
On the homefront, Alabama proudly has passed an abortion law so restrictive it doesn’t even permit exceptions for rape or incest. Technically, a woman could no longer have an abortion once she found out she was pregnant. A doctor who performed an abortion in the state could be subject to as long as 99 years in prison.
The Alabama law is vaguely written on purpose to make sure it goes to the Supreme Court. There, Trump’s two picks for the highest court in the land are conservative and may end up overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion in America.
The court is not likely to take up the case before the 2020 election. But if Trump is re-elected, he would get to name at least one more justice and possibly two more, giving conservatives total control of the court —and Americans’ daily life — for generations.
It is notably ironic, of course, that the very people so determined to make a woman carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and bring up children who may not be properly cared for are the very people who oppose strengthening gun control laws and refuse to do anything to stop the killings of children in schools. In another stomach-turning irony, they are the very people who don’t want others to have affordable health insurance and who cut benefits for unwed mothers and their children.
Cleaning up the environment and preventing more catastrophic natural disasters increasingly caused by climate change are now political footballs. Trump calls global warming a “hoax,” pulling this nation out of the Paris climate accords and ensuring that the world will get dirtier and more dangerous. Species are being driven extinct at a faster and faster rate. He has appointed oil and gas barons to be stewards of the environment, loosening the protections it took decades to put in place.
At the same time more states are passing restrictive laws on birth control and abortion and access to medical care, the national government is conducting a war on immigrant children. Dreamers, children of undocumented parents, are terrified of being dragged out of college or away from their jobs and deported to violent countries they do not know and which no longer receive U.S. aid. And in far too many cases children whose parents try to seek asylum in the U.S. are snatched away and put in camps and may never see their parents again. This is being done in the name of the “rule of law.”
Fear is causing a lot of this. Fear of others. Fear of losing a job. Fear of violating principles even if they harm others. Fear of what others might think. Fear of others having more or less.
But some of it is caused by bullying. It is so easy, with power, to be a bully, to impose your will on others, to do what suits you at the expense of others, to ignore facts and the lessons of history.
America’s history is rife with bullying and fear. Millions of black people, women, immigrants, Native Americans and religious minorities suffered because of it.
And here we go again, but politics today is making it even easier for the powerful to prey on the weak, unless, of course, the weak reassert the power they may have forgotten they have.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.