The bumper car presidency

Published 9:55 am Friday, February 3, 2017

Every presidency is as different as the times are different. And the Trump presidency is far too new to project accurately how it will lead over the coming four years. But the early indicators, those personality traits of the new president, suggest this may be best described as the bumper car presidency.

Bumper cars are the rubber girded small cars in amusement parks, designed for the sole purpose of hitting into each other. For some, the hitting is the pleasure of the experience. President Trump, so far at least, seems to relish the hitting.

Trump’s tweets are largely for hitting his critics with short, but very personal insults. It is almost his trademark. Bumper car politics.

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When the president claimed his inaugural attendance was the largest in history, he was intentionally bumping against every other president suggesting he was, in that way, exceptional.

Bumper car politics. The president was so persistent in this claim that he sent his press secretary to berate the press for not agreeing that the invisible crowds were huge. When that did not succeed, the President personally called the U.S. Park Services Director and demanded more pictures that would show a larger audience than was present, or the impression of a larger audience. Bumper car politics.

When President Trump then claimed he actually had more votes in the election than Hillary Clinton (she won 2.9 million more votes nationally) after eliminating illegal votes, he was using bumper car politics, insisting that the election was fraudulent and undermining our electoral system for the false claim that somehow his victory was a mandate (it was the fifth smallest electoral margin and he won the election without a plurality of votes). His aggressive demand that his claim be accepted was another example of bumper car politics.

The president’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, then told the media they were being too negative towards the new president and that was discouraging to the administration. The president was reported to have said he was having trouble enjoying his presidency given the negativity of the press. What made this bumper car politics was the irony of President Trump, the leader of the birther lies about President Barack Obama, claiming the unfairness of treatment.

The president then, by executive order, created the Muslim ban of seven predominately Muslim nations with little thought invested in communicating to his own government or to our allies around the world. This resulted in chaos at airports around the world, protests at many airports, and unclear orders on how the order was to be implemented. The administration stood its ground claiming the order was working quite well. And it was, if bumper car politics was the goal.

This week, the president nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch, a highly qualified radically conservative judge to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch has as his claim to fame that he is more conservative than the late Anthony Scalia, who was the benchmark for far right Justices. In advocating for Gorsuch, Trump suggested no one could deny the credentials or the character of the judge and therefore Gorsuch should win a speedy confirmation. The same statements could be made for Judge Merrick Garland, who was never granted a hearing in over 300 days as a nominee. Bumper car politics, ignoring a highly qualified judge only to demand the Trump nominee be treated entirely differently.

Finally, the administration issued a statement putting Iran “on notice,” whatever that non-diplomatic term might mean, without working through the U.N. or our partners in the Iranian nuclear agreement. The administration, in its impulsive statement, said it would not take a military response off the table. Bumper car politics at its most dangerous.

Until now, bumper cars were for amusement.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.