Norman Mailer: A Great Writer at the 1968 Democratic Disaster


August 29, 2018

Image result for America will out live Donald J. Trump

Donald J (J for Jenuis) Trump

Norman Mailer: A Great Writer at the 1968 Democratic Disaster: Looking back to 50 years Ago when I was student in America (Din Merican).  America will outlive Donald J. Trump

Fifty years ago this week, the Democrats held their National Convention in Chicago (August 26th to 29th), an assembly torn apart by pro- and antiwar factions in the hall and violent clashes in the street. It was the convention that, in effect, turned the country over to Richard Nixon and led to six more years of war in Vietnam. From a contemporary point of view, the only element that redeems the event from complete sorrow is the scathing and poetic book that Norman Mailer wrote about it, “Miami and the Siege of Chicago,” one of the essential works of American reporting.

Image result for Norman Mailer “Miami and the Siege of Chicago,”

Mailer got going as a political reporter in 1960 when he covered the Democratic National Convention that summer—the Kennedy convention—for Esquire. His piece was called “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” and it caused a sensation. Here was this hipster intellectual and novelist from New York, immersed in the city’s literary life, in the Beats, in Dostoevsky and Hemingway and Faulkner, facing down the great American dullness of delegates and mediocre speeches and the booze-and-cigar fog of compromise and bargain. What was he doing among such fellows?

A convention is a gathering of established and occasionally insurgent people from big cities, suburbs, and small towns, and from all levels of income and power. For Mailer, it was fascinating—the faces, the bodies, the voices, the sound of crowds, the décor and smell of the gathering places, the backwash, the undertones, the unconscious of the event. The very ordinariness of convention politics was richly significant if you bothered to wonder what it all meant. Mailer unlocked his powers of evocation, and, by the time he was done, no one, not even the wrathfully witty H. L. Mencken, had ever written of political people—both hacks and powers—with such uproarious verve, with so tactile a command of surfaces and so great an interest in the national mysteries. Mailer had the richest sensibility in American prose (Gore Vidal, by contrast, seems dryly witty and ungenerous). In this report, Mailer functioned as a critic of souls.

At the center of the convention, there was John F. Kennedy, who was something of an enigma—an unknown who nevertheless gave hope:

Kennedy seemed at times like a young professor whose manner was adequate for the classroom, but whose mind was off in some intricacy of the Ph.D. thesis he was writing. Perhaps one can give a sense of the discrepancy by saying that he was like an actor who had been cast as the candidate, a good actor, but not a great one—you were aware all the time that the role was one thing and the man another—they did not coincide, the actor seemed a touch too aloof (as, let us say, Gregory Peck is usually too aloof) to become the part. Yet one had little sense of whether to value this elusiveness, or to beware of it. One could be witnessing the fortitude of a superior sensitivity or the detachment of a man who was not quite real to himself.

Image result for Norman Mailer “Armies of the Night.”

Seven years later, with Kennedy dead and the country in turmoil, hope had become fleeting and ever more precious. In October, 1967, Mailer went to the March on the Pentagon—an ebullient protest against the war in Vietnam—and produced his nonfiction masterpiece, “Armies of the Night.” The text was composed of two enormous magazine pieces (for Harper’s and Commentary), and I’m hardly alone in considering it one of the great American books. Despite Mailer’s despair over the war in Vietnam (four hundred and seventy-five thousand Americans were there in late 1967), “Armies” is an amazingly sprightly book. At the Pentagon, the intellectual and spiritual heart of the antiwar movement (the political people, the professors, the students radicals) were joined by hippies from New York and California reciting Hindu chants—an attempt to levitate the Pentagon three feet off the ground and cleanse it of its evil. Why not try it? Nothing else had stopped the Vietnam War. The march was propelled by an antic spirit of creativity and daring. Mailer was charmed by what he saw; stirred, too, by the courage of the resisters, some of whom stayed the night and got clobbered in the morning by military police. He was even moderately pleased with his own behavior, since he did not run from the police but charged into their midst and got himself arrested.

In “Armies,” Mailer thrust himself into the narrative as actor as well as observer. It was the halcyon days of the New Journalism, when such writers as Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, and Truman Capote used fictional techniques to make narrative journalism come alive with temperament, observation, and opinion. But Mailer’s writing reached heights of complication that the others didn’t try for. As an observer attentive to everything, he was hit from moment to moment with new perceptions, which changed his consciousness as an observer, forcing him to make still fresh observations and new distinctions—a positive feedback loop whose results were closer to Faulkner and Joyce and Whitman than to journalism of any kind. The writing was literally inimitable.

The hopeful mood did not survive the dreadful Spring of 1968. First, President Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not run for another term (March 31st), which produced a moment of euphoria. But that blessing was followed, in merciless succession, by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., (April 4th); riots in more than a hundred cities; students at Columbia University erupting (April 23rd), which ended with the cops beating heads; and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (June 5th). By summer, the country seemed to be unravelling. In early August, in a reactionary attempt to ravel it back up again, the Republicans held their convention in Miami and nominated Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. The Democrats followed, and nominated Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie. Humphrey, the former liberal lion, could not bring himself to break with L.B.J. and turn against the war, an intellectual and moral failure that doomed his campaign from the start.

 

Settling into Miami, Mailer savages the humid city, a place that had once been a wilderness (“The vegetable memories of that excited jungle haunted Miami beach in a steam-pot of miasmas”). Then he goes to work on the Republican delegates, the Nixonites:

Their bodies reflected the pull of their character. The dowager’s hump was common, and many a man had a flaccid paunch, but the collective tension was rather in the shoulders, in the girdling of the shoulders against anticipated lashings of the back, in the thrust forward of the neck, in the maintenance of the muscles of the mouth forever locked in readiness to bite the tough meat of resistance, in a posture forward from the hip since the small of the back was dependably stiff, loins and mind cut away from each other by some abyss between navel and hip.

Such rigidly sexless people, Mailer says, were locked into their belief in an American infallibility blessed by God, and they couldn’t begin to question the war. They couldn’t even see the war; Nixon helped them not see it. But then Mailer gives the devil his due, noting with chagrin (many of us felt it) that Nixon was intelligent, sometimes subtle—the 1968 version of him was an improvement over the obvious phony and opportunistic anti-Communist demagogue he had started out as twenty years earlier. Mailer prints excerpts from Nixon’s acceptance speech, engaging in a line-by-line dialogue with it. Not all of Mailer’s remarks are satirical or hostile, and he leaves the convention in a puzzled state. Was Nixon evil or not?

The Chicago section begins with a description of the city’s magnificence. The architecture, the river, the blood-drenched stockyards (which were then still open)—Mailer outdoes Upton Sinclair in the mucky poetry of slaughter. The stockyards were not so far from the International Amphitheatre, where the convention was held, and the fabulous Mailer nose, which never slighted an interesting odor, registers the acrid scents of butchery. It is the first of many apocalyptic metaphors. L.B.J. controlled the Democratic machine for his fawning Vice-President—the nomination was never in doubt—but the convention was still a very disorderly affair. Angry delegates roiled the hall, Yippies promising revolution and anarchy (“L.S.D. in the water!”), disaffected student radicals hurled bricks at the police. It was the Pentagon crowd aroused this time by violence and nihilism.

 

 

Part of the ill temper was produced by the death of Bobby Kennedy only two and a half months earlier. Kennedy would almost certainly have bested Humphrey to the nomination and, if beating Nixon, would likely have turned the country against the war. A film about him is shown to the delegates, and Mailer notes:

As the film progressed, and one saw scene after scene of Bobby Kennedy growing older, a kind of happiness came back from the image, for something in his face grew young over the years—he looked more like a boy on the day of his death, a nice boy, nicer than the kid with the sharp rocky glint in his eye who had gone to work for Joe McCarthy in his early twenties . . . . He had grown modest as he grew older, and his wit had grown with him—he had become a funny man, as the picture took care to show, wry, simple for one instant, shy and off to the side on the next, but with a sort of marvelous boy’s wisdom, as if he knew the world was very bad and knew the intimate style of how it was bad, as only boys can sometimes know . . . . Yet he had confidence that he was going to fix it.

The maturation of Bobby Kennedy filled in, so to speak, the aloof indeterminacy that Mailer had noticed in his brother Jack eight years earlier. Even in his absence, Kennedy provided an emotional lift to the antiwar delegates that Eugene McCarthy could not provide. Eugene McCarthy! His student followers adored him. Demonstrating great courage in taking on L.B.J., he had declared his candidacy the previous December; he was one of the factors causing the President to drop out, and, after Kennedy’s death, he was the only one who could have stopped Humphrey. But McCarthy seemed fatally indifferent to the task. Mailer recalled his manner at a fund-raiser in Cambridge:

The crowd at the party, with their interminable questions and advice, their over-familiarity yet excessive reverence, their desire to touch McCarthy, prod him, galvanize him, seemed to do no more than drive him deeper into insulations of his fatigue, his very disenchantment—so his pores seemed to speak—with the democratic process. He was not a mixer.

McCarthy was maddening. In public, he was diffident, unemphatic, he would not play the game; he wouldn’t even make a rousing speech for his supporters. Mailer visits him at the convention and realizes, however, that he is a not weak at all—on the contrary, he’s extremely tough, fatally tough, a man more intent on holding to his style than on saving the nation in crisis. Even at the time, his temperamental mildness seemed tragic, and something he said at the convention—“We’re not asking for much, just a modest use of intelligence”—is now positively heartbreaking. A modest use of intelligence! The sentiment seems utopian. Even Mailer couldn’t have known how thoroughly intelligence would be destroyed by power in the Trump era.

Against the mildness of McCarthy, there was the vicious power of the Chicago machine controlled by Mayor Richard Daley. The mayor was determined not to have his city, his convention, dominated by Jewish and Wasp media élites from the coasts, by Commies and hippies with their long hair and free sex and foul mouths. Politics is property, as Mailer says, and Daley’s property was enforced by the police on the street and his own goon squad in the hall:

Some of them had eyes like drills; others, noses like plows; jaws like amputated knees . . . . No small matter to have the Illinois delegation under your nose at the podium, all those hecklers, fixers, flunkies, and musclemen scanning the audience as if to freeze certain obstreperous faces . . . . The guys with eyes like drills always acted this way, it was their purchase on stagecraft, but the difference in this convention were the riots outside, and the roughing of the delegates in the hall, the generator trucks on the perimeter of the stockyards, ready to send voltage down the line of barbed wire, the police and Canine Corps in the marches west of the Amphitheatre.

Fist fights break out in the hall between pro-war and antiwar partisans, Dan Rather and other media figures get roughed up, while Daley’s forces in the street use barbed wire, clubs, and tear gas to quell the demonstrators, some of whom were provocative and taunting (“Dump the Hump!”), others no more than indignant.

On the night of August 28th, in front of the Hilton Hotel, the Democratic headquarters, the police assaulted demonstrators, including passersby and people merely staying at the hotel. But in all this, Mailer is a witness, not a participant. He ducks the messy demonstrations for all sorts of reasons, the most salient of which is that he’s not going to write forty thousand words for Harper’s in the next few weeks if he gets clubbed on the head. But he also wonders if he isn’t simply “yellow”—too old and too established to fight. He loathes what’s happening during this war but he doesn’t, he admits, loathe his country, which has rewarded him well. He’s forty-five and he has two houses, six children, and a complicated set of obligations to collaborators of all sorts. He’s no revolutionary.

He stays inside the Hilton, and observes what he can—a lesson in making the most of a specialized perspective. The Hilton, under siege, is coming apart.

The Hilton heaved and staggered through a variety of attacks and breakdowns. Like an old fort, like the old fort of the Democratic Party, about to fall forever beneath the ministrations of its high shaman, its excruciated warlock, derided by the young, held in contempt by its own soldiers—the very delegates who would be loyal to Humphrey in the nomination and loyal to nothing in their heart—this spiritual fort of the Democratic Party was now housed in the literal fort of the Hilton staggering in place, its boilers working, all motors vibrating, yet seeming to come apart from the pressure on the street outside . . . .

The laundry, the elevators, the telephones—nothing in the hotel works well and, in a further indignity, the tear gas unleashed by the police drifts into the air-conditioning system, where it joins the odor of stink bombs thrown by protesters. “Delegates, powerful political figures, old friends, and strangers all smelled awful,” he writes.

Talk about the backwash of the event! This is tragicomedy at a Shakespearean level. The appallingly violated Hilton and its denizens are not only a metaphor for the Democratic Party, they are a metaphor for the nation in a time of war, assassination, riot, and betrayal. Daley turns the police loose. “The police attacked . . . like a chain saw cutting into wood, the teeth of the saw the edge of their clubs, they attacked like a scythe through grass, lines of twenty and thirty policemen striking out in an arc, their clubs beating, demonstrators fleeing,” he writes. A later investigatory commission termed the excessive violence “a police riot.” At the time, people said, “It’s Vietnam, right here on Michigan Avenue.”

The day before, Mailer had spoken to a bedraggled group of demonstrators. He was apologetic and even chagrined. He had finked, not been with them, and he would not, as we have seen, be with them that night in front of the Hilton. But the crowd cheered him anyway, and, at the end, several people shouted, “Write good, baby!” No kinder sentiment has ever been publicly hurled at a writer. “Miami and the Siege of Chicago” is a companion volume to “Armies of the Night”—not as extensive, as grand, but in no way inferior in descriptive and rhetorical power.

Mailer is much out of fashion now, though the Library of America, reissuing his work, is doing its best to keep him alive. Surely his prescience about many things is startling. Consider: at the Republican convention in Miami, Mailer experiences a moment of irritation. He and the other reporters were kept waiting by the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, a disciple of Martin Luther King, Jr.,:

The reporter became aware after a while of a curious emotion in himself, for he had not ever felt it consciously before—it was a simple emotion and very unpleasant to him—he was getting tired of Negroes and their rights. It was a miserable recognition, and on many a count, for if he felt even a hint this way, then what immeasurable tides of rage must be loose in America itself?

This modest bit of candor would be of zero significance to us were it not for what follows on the next page. Blacks, Mailer writes, were trying to make whites guilty. But how guilty?

Since obsessions dragoon our energy by endless repetitive contemplations of guilt we can neither measure nor forget, political power of the most frightening sort was obviously waiting for the first demagogue who would smash the obsession and free the white man of his guilt. Torrents of energy would be loosed, yes, those same torrents which Hitler had freed in the Germans when he exploded their ten-year obsession with whether they had lost the war through betrayal or through material weakness. Through betrayal, Hitler had told them.

 

This premonition of Donald Trump and of what Trump has “loosed” in his audience was written exactly fifty years ago. At the moment, not one word of it seems excessive. “Miami & the Siege of Chicago” was composed at the worst time in our national life, though the current moment is a close second. Reading it gives not only pleasure of a literary sort but strength and solace. If the country could survive 1968, it will survive Donald Trump, too.

  • David Denby has been a staff writer and film critic at The New Yorker since 1998.

7 thoughts on “Norman Mailer: A Great Writer at the 1968 Democratic Disaster

  1. Today,a lady Washington Post reporter called Donald Trump a “PARIAH” and president non grata.In just two years,Donald Trump has turned himself into an international pariah.

  2. LaMoy,

    1968. American students woke and pricked the conscience of their politicians to the horrors of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It was the best and worst of times. America overcame the trauma and emerged stronger.

    2018, 50 years on, Americans have to deal with Donald Trump and his bloated ego. Soon enough when the stock market takes a plunge, they will take to the streets. Having seen what had occurred then, I will boldly predict that America will outlive Donald Trump. He will have to eat the humility pie. Witness the outpouring of national grief with the passing of Senator John McCain of Arizona. Take heed of his final statement to you and other Americans. –Din Merican

  3. In the coming months,Donald Trump Jr,Eric and Ivanka Trump and Jarod Kushner will definitely be indicted.Orange jumpers will suit these corrupted Trump family members.Donald Trump will be indicted after he gets kicked out of the WH.Or maybe he will be the first sitting president to be indicted.Manhattan DA and NY State AG will soon be going after Trump Org for money laundering and Trump Foundation.No pardons by the president or future presidents as these are all state crimes.Good riddance to bad garbage.

  4. It is not over until the fat lady sings the saying goes. All of us must have a sense of history and go through it layer by layer. Each layer tells a different story but the actors may be the same. Many of these things are coming out in the open because of the Internet Age. We are living in interesting times and we have to make that call where to place each layer that is being posted in the Internet where unlike the MSM information is treated as the views of one man or at that of a group of like-minded people.We will see.

  5. Din:

    Call me a hopeless optimist, but I’m sure the US and the rest of us will survive this insane presidency. I simply do not believe that Donald Trump will fundamentally change the US or even the world.

    He’s too chaotic for that. Above all, though, Trump is not America. I have come to this realization especially from my recent traveling to many different parts of the country for the coming midterm election, meeting with candidates. America is incredibly large, diverse and pluralistic. It has a strong rule of law, and it is still a wonderful democracy, with a rather unruly and self-confident population. All sorts of strong institutions and rules are in place to ensure that a president’s power is kept in check. As such, I’m certain that no president has an easy time governing America.

    Of course, Trump has his cultist followers and political supporters, and they would probably even walk over burning coals for him. But the rest of the country either has no clear opinion about Trump or is clearly against him. What I have witnessed is that these people haven’t simply disappeared or shut up now that he’s in power. Many question his policies in the media, at universities, in Congress and in liberal states such as California or New York. They slow Trump down by filing lawsuits against his actions, annoying and distracting him and mounting protests. Some Americans may be pessimistic about the country’s future, but I see all these things as impressive symbols of the strength of American society and democracy.

    Trump is not America. Trump surely imagined his presidency would be far easier than it has been when, a year and a half ago, he gave his dark inaugural speech on the steps of the Capitol in Washington. At the time, he promised to do everything differently, to completely renew America – politically, economically and socially. He proclaimed his own groundbreaking Trump Revolution, but what we have witnessed so far could at best be described as a “mini revolution.”

    The economy is running smoothly, but that’s the result of a normal economic cycle. And Trump’s tax plan probably would have been implemented in the same way by any other Republican president. And rather than abolishing his predecessor’s Obamacare health care reform, he has merely improved it for the worse. On the issue of immigration, meanwhile, he has so far only presented at best hardline, patchwork solutions. What’s more, it’s very unlikely he will obtain funding for his much-touted infrastructure plan or to build a wall on the Mexican border without the Democrats’ consent.

    His foreign policy stirs considerable confusion – take the Middle East conflict or his threatening rhetoric toward North Korea, for example. But the cornerstones of American foreign policy remain untouched: He’s still sticking with NATO, even though he called it “obsolete” during the election campaign. Trump is even trying to rein in Russia. At the same time, the trade war with China that’s “good and easy to win” is going no where.

    Of course, one can still get worked up about the nonsense Trump churns out every day. His tweets are mostly idiotic, and his attacks on the press, the way he has handled the Russia scandal and his in part overt racism are all unworthy of a president. He hurts people and he’s a major nuisance to many Americans.

    In my view, however, the real problem with Trump’s policies is a completely different one: Under Trump, too many important things simply remain unresolved. Be it the US or the world, this presidency is lost time for us all – hopefully for four years and not for eight.

    America is a great and very rich country. In all fairness, Trump is also justified in his criticism of some things. That’s probably why he won the election. And although every American president has a massive workload on his plate, Trump seems to have difficulty getting anything done. In many ways, the country is regressing rather than progressing under his leadership.

    The health care system is indeed insane – a “disaster” despite Obamacare. The premiums are not affordable. The pharmaceutical industry demands skyrocketing prices, and the same drug can cost anywhere from $70 to $600 depending on the insurance plan you have. A routine check-up at the dentist can cost as much as $400. People pay high premiums for their insurance and yet they must often still pay thousands of dollars out of their own pockets if they have an operation.

    And then there’s the poverty in the cities and in some rural areas. I’ve been to Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. You see parts of these states that are so run down that you inevitably ask yourself: What have the presidents of the last three decades really done to address this issue?

    Take the issue of immigration. Why, I wonder, does the US allow so many people from desperately poor regions of the world into the country who are then largely left to determine their fates on their own? And why do highly qualified foreigners sometimes have such a hard time obtaining a work visa? Take the story I once told in this blog about the Malay young lady who came to my office without an appointment. I decided to hire her as an assistant chemist but she had a hard time getting her H1-B visa, and she couldn’t afford a lawyer. Because I’ve a soft spot for people from my birth place, I got out of my place and made a big exception for her, and told the legal adviser of my company to send a legal aid to help her out. For that, she treats me like a father figure.

    America lacks a coherent immigration strategy. Nobody really seems to care about the newcomers from Latin America or Asia and whether they learn the language or land decently paid jobs. They often live at the margins of society, with the American Dream well out of their reach. In San Francisco the Chinese community has organized volunteers to teach newcomers simple conversationalist English. And community leaders have organized fund raising to conduct cooking classes and placement centers to help newcomers to get a job in the kitchens of hospitals, hotels, school cafeterias, and restaurants. All without any government help. But the Hispanic community is generally poorer and can’t provide these services.

    One would think that the Republicans and Democrats would have to pull together to come up with working solutions. But they don’t – and therein lies the problem. Instead, the atmosphere remains toxic, as evidenced by the Trump administration. Trump is unfit to be a leader. Rather than bring people together, he deepens the trenches. NBC News reported that Trump is threatening America with violence if Republicans lose the midterm election.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/trump-told-christian-leaders-he-got-rid-law-he-didn-n904471

    But Trump is not America. And this also means that there’s more to America than Donald Trump. Life goes on in many places, people continue to focus on the more mundane aspects of their everyday lives. Does the subway run on time? What’s the price of gas? What’s new at school? How are things at work? It may be hard to believe, but the world doesn’t spend all its time occupied with Trump’s scandals on Twitter. People live through crises like the “shutdown-showdown” with little more than a shrug. The Americans already know well that their politicians stand in each other’s way. That isn’t new. Gridlock also happened under previous presidents.

    At the end of the day, Trump is just one American among many. The everyday life of most people does not change fundamentally just because he’s now in the White House. The Americans I meet every day are as friendly, open-minded and courageous as everCall me a hopeless optimist, but I’m sure the US and the rest of us will survive this insane presidency. I simply do not believe that Donald Trump will fundamentally change the US or even the world.

    He’s too chaotic for that. Above all, though, Trump is not America. I have come to this realization especially from my recent traveling to many different parts of the country for this coming midterm election, meeting with candidates. America is incredibly large, diverse and pluralistic. It has a strong rule of law, and it is still a wonderful democracy, with a rather unruly and self-confident population. All sorts of strong institutions and rules are in place to ensure that a president’s power is kept in check. As such, I’m certain that no president has an easy time governing America.

    Of course, Trump has his cultist followers and political supporters, and they would probably even walk over burning coals for him. But the rest of the country either has no clear opinion about Trump or is clearly against him. What I have witnessed is that these people haven’t simply disappeared or shut up now that he’s in power. Many question his policies in the media, at universities, in Congress and in liberal states such as California or New York. They slow Trump down by filing lawsuits against his actions, annoying and distracting him and mounting protests. Some Americans may be pessimistic about the country’s future, but I see all these things as impressive symbols of the strength of American society and democracy.

    Trump is not America. Trump surely imagined his presidency would be far easier than it has been when, a year ago, he gave his dark inaugural speech on the steps of the Capitol in Washington. At the time, he promised to do everything differently, to completely renew America – politically, economically and socially. He proclaimed his own groundbreaking Trump Revolution, but what we have witnessed so far could at best be described as a “mini revolution.”

    The economy is running smoothly, but that’s the result of a normal economic cycle. And Trump’s tax plan probably would have been implemented in the same way by any other Republican president. And rather than abolishing his predecessor’s Obamacare health care reform, he has merely improved it for the worse. On the issue of immigration, meanwhile, he has so far only presented at best hardline, patchwork solutions. What’s more, it’s very unlikely he will obtain funding for his much-touted infrastructure plan or to build a wall on the Mexican border without the Democrats’ consent.

    His foreign policy stirs considerable confusion – take the Middle East conflict or his threatening rhetoric toward North Korea, for example. But the cornerstones of American foreign policy remain untouched: He’s still sticking with NATO, even though he called it “obsolete” during the election campaign. Trump is even trying to rein in Russia. At the same time, the trade war with China that’s “good and easy to win” is going no where.

    Of course, one can still get worked up about the nonsense Trump churns out every day. His tweets are mostly idiotic, and his attacks on the press, the way he has handled the Russia scandal and his in part overt racism are all unworthy of a president. He hurts people and he’s a major nuisance to many Americans.

    In my view, however, the real problem with Trump’s policies is a completely different one: Under Trump, too many important things simply remain unresolved. Be it the US or the world, this presidency is lost time for us all – hopefully for four years and not for eight.

    America is a great and very rich country. In all fairness, Trump is also justified in his criticism of some things. That’s probably why he won the election. And although every American president has a massive workload on his plate, Trump seems to have difficulty getting anything done. In many ways, the country is regressing rather than progressing under his leadership.

    The health care system is indeed insane – a “disaster” despite Obamacare. The premiums are not affordable. The pharmaceutical industry demands skyrocketing prices, and the same drug can cost anywhere from $70 to $600 depending on the insurance plan you have. A routine check-up at the dentist can cost as much as $400. People pay high premiums for their insurance and yet they must often still pay thousands of dollars out of their own pockets if they have an operation.

    And then there’s the poverty in the cities and in some rural areas. I’ve been to Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. You see parts of these states that are so run down that you inevitably ask yourself: What have the presidents of the last three decades, including Barack Obama, really done to address this issue?

    Take the issue of immigration. Why, I wonder, does the US allow so many people from desperately poor regions of the world into the country who are then largely left to determine their fates on their own? And why do highly qualified foreigners sometimes have such a hard time obtaining a work visa? Take the story I once told in this blog about the Malay young lady who came to my office without an appointment. I decided to hire her as an assistant chemist but she had a hard time getting her H1-B visa, and she couldn’t afford a lawyer. Because she was from my birth place, I made a big exception to tell the legal adviser of my company to send a legal aid to help her out. For that, she treats me like a father figure.

    America lacks a coherent immigration strategy. Nobody really seems to care about the newcomers from Latin America or Asia and whether they learn the language or land decently paid jobs. They often live at the margins of society, with the American Dream well out of their reach. In San Francisco the Chinese community has organized volunteers to teach newcomers in simple conversationalist English. And community leaders have organized fund raising to conduct cooking classes and placement centers to help newcomers to get a job in the kitchens of hospitals, hotels, school cafeterias, and restaurants. All without any government help. But the Hispanic community is generally poorer and can’t provide these services.

    One would think that the Republicans and Democrats would have to pull together to come up with working solutions. But they don’t – and therein lies the problem. Instead, the atmosphere remains toxic, as evidenced by the Trump administration. Trump is unfit to be a leader. Rather than bring people together, he deepens the trenches. NBC News reported that Trump is threatening America with violence if Republicans lose the midterm election.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/trump-told-christian-leaders-he-got-rid-law-he-didn-n904471

    But Trump is not America. And this also means that there’s more to America than Donald Trump. Life goes on in many places, people continue to focus on the more mundane aspects of their everyday lives. Does the subway run on time? What’s the price of gas? What’s new at school? How are things at work? It may be hard to believe, but the world doesn’t spend all its time occupied with Trump’s scandals on Twitter. People live through crises like the “shutdown-showdown” with little more than a shrug. The Americans already know well that their politicians stand in each other’s way. That isn’t new. Gridlock also happened under previous presidents.

    At the end of the day, Trump is just one American among many, president or not. The everyday life of most people does not change fundamentally just because he’s now in the White House. The Americans I meet every day are as friendly, open-minded and courageous as ever – regardless whether they like Trump or not.

    In American politics we have a pendulum theory: It states that the political mood in the country sometimes swings in one direction, and then in the other. From that perspective, Trump’s successor would have to be a reconciler, wise, friendly and successful. That would be a welcome change.

  6. Immigration is the number one issue for developed and countries and those that are on the cups of becoming one. It is twin edged and depending on its side it could kill the goose that lays the golden eggs for the migrants and maybe, just may be, for those already inside the gates. And just like world trade it also requires its own set of rules. That is what is at issue and not the personalities in the news because they will be gone by the time the full impact takes hold 10-15 years down the road.

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