The power to ignore Donald Trump

The opposition to President Donald Trump has an effective arrow in its quiver but does not know how to use it. It is the power to ignore him. There are signs that some are beginning to do it, starting with the Europeans who are imposing humongous taxes on American corporations, with France in particular levying a landmark tax on Google and Facebook, despite threats by Trump of retaliatory taxes on French wine. The French action is aimed at stopping multinationals from avoiding taxes by setting up headquarters in low-tax European countries. For its part, the Trump administration cries foul and calls the French tax discriminatory against U.S. business. Will the French and other European exporters, like Germany and Italy, be deterred by the increasing threats by the American president? Put another way, will American consumers react like their president regarding the higher cost of French and Italian wines? Higher American tariffs on French wine, German automobiles and Italian parmesan cheese may not scare the daylights out of European exporters but they do demonstrate that even the allies are starting to stand up to Trump’s America First on trade, climate change and the annihilation of Iran.

Europe is not alone in ignoring the American president. American automakers have agreed to California’s fuel efficiency standards instead of Trump’s. When the Trump administration signaled that it intended to roll back Obama-era rules on fuel efficiency standards, by setting it to 37 miles per gallon, four big automakers got together secretly and agreed with the California standards that require them to make vehicles that get 51 gallons per mile by 2026. Needless to add, the oil and gas industry lobbied against the rollbacks and Trump did not miss the opportunity to destroy another piece of Obama’s regulations. The former president was striving to set the requirements at 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. President Trump does not like being ignored and has now intensified his diatribe with California by challenging the ability of that state to set stricter standards than the federal government. The bottom line, however, is this: do American motorists favor the California standards over the interests of the oil and gas corporations? The answer should be obvious.

On a larger scope, pertaining to the incendiary struggle between Trump and the Democrats, any assessment must start with the recognition that Trump’s narcissism – which manifests itself through the incessant focusing of all eyes upon him all the time – takes the oxygen away from the Democratic campaign to unseat him. The Democrats are thus unable to detach their opposition from Trump who is taking advantage of the stupefying detachment of the public from an unprecedented level of insults and racial attacks by the president. What is happening in America is that the cascading insolence from the White House is driving the prevailing narrative of the president versus “them.” It is an incredible paradox when the chief magistrate of the nation can utter racist comments that would cause the average American worker to lose his job.

And yet, the Democratic contenders are not able to escape the trap that Trump has laid for them by keeping the race issues at the forefront and preventing Democrats from concentrating the electorate’s expectations on health insurance, infrastructure and education. Time and time again, Trump sends out a tweet of a disparaging nature that inflames the Democrats and starts another news cycle where the Democrats react by heatedly talking about it but doing nothing to change the president’s narrative. By answering him angrily, the Democrats make it possible for many voters to accept those insolent tweets and invectives as a normal part of the political confrontation. In this light, another resolution condemning Trump’s attack on Oversight Committee chairman Cummings would hardly change votes. For that matter, the same could be said about an impeachment resolution. The strategy of the Democratic leadership, that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is endeavoring to shape, is to keep president Trump from controlling the narrative. One thing is ignoring Trump’s insults; another is putting all your marbles on condemning the excesses of a presidency that feeds racial divisions. Instead, the Democrats should address the efforts of the average American to put food on the table, to be safe and to look with hope to the future. Immigration, protection from outside interference in American elections, stronger safeguards for labor and a commitment to stop climate change should replace the obsession of talking heads about President Trump’s “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Will the Democratic candidates adhere to a discussion that is not only respectful of their legitimate differences, but conditioned by the need to ignore the ego of the president and to face the issues of the future? This, and only this, should be the way to regain the White House and possibly the whole Congress.

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