Bonkers, Paranoid, & Potentially Trapped Donald Trump vs Mike Pence — Who Would Be Worse?

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I saw the following title on Google News and broke out with a quiet but spontaneous midnight laugh: Is Donald Trump bonkers, paranoid or trapped? The answer is quite likely “all of the above,” of course, which is probably why it was so funny. However, I think the bigger question is, “Who’s more dangerous as president — Donald Trump or Mike Pence?” I’ll get back to that question after quickly running down the idea that Trump is bonkers, paranoid, and/or trapped.

Bonkers? Well, it certainly seems like the Fox News fiend has watched a few too many episodes of Fox & Friends and has been too heavily influenced by Rush Limbaugh, Infowars, and Breitbart. But consuming stupid, fake news isn’t the same thing as being bonkers. A psychological evaluation could help us to determine if Don J. Trump is really bonkers, and we can’t make any claims regarding that topic without such an evaluation. But come on … do we need the results of a physical to determine if LeBron James athletic?

Paranoid? Again, many of Trump’s signs of paranoia may be tied to overconsumption* of Fox News, Infowars, Breitbart, etc., but it does seem highly probable that Trump’s conspiracy theories and paranoia go far beyond what he picks up from extremist propaganda sources. As just part of that, why is he so obsessive about loyalty? Why does he so easily believe crazy, crazy ideas like Obama’s not American, Obama’s a Muslim pretending for years to be Christian, Obama sympathizes with ISIS, Obama was wiretapping Trump Tower phones during the campaign, and Obama is behind the Trump administration’s many leaks to the press? I know, those conspiracy theories all have something in common, but Trump also claimed (and seemed to believe) that lead isn’t dangerous and was only banned because of a Mafia-linked conspiracy, that global warming is some kind of gigantic Chinese hoax, that Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in the assassination of JFK, and that Trump lost the popular vote in the 2016 election by ~3 million votes because ~3 million people voted illegally (pretty much all for Hillary).

Naturally, it is hard to tell when Trump truly believes a conspiracy theory or just pushes it for his own benefit. However, there’s no denying that he seems to be paranoid and seems to have a strong tendency to believe conspiracy theories. Again, my first article about the 2016 US elections — long before many political experts thought Trump could win the election — was actually titled, “Could The US Really Elect A Conspiracy Theorist?

Quite a funny thing, though — Trump argues that none of the CIA-backed and FBI-backed claims about Russia interfering with the 2016 US elections were true.

Huh? The King of Conspiracy doesn’t trust the US intelligence community about a conspiracy that was apparently as obvious as daylight? Several separate US intelligence agencies came to the exact same conclusion, but Donald J. Trump thinks it’s all a lie? Of course, that denial could be part of Trump’s tendency to believe that things inconvenient to his ego are conspiracies, but it’s still a dramatic example of extremism for the president of the United States to believe Russia over the CIA and FBI. In a related manner, it’s also a dramatic surprise that Trump is apparently unable to say anything critical of Vladimir Putin — even when the criticism is put on a tee by his Fox News friend Bill O’Reilly. If this were a Hollywood movie, I think we’d know who the bad guy is at this point, yeah?

It’s also much more than a theory at this point that Trump, his campaign, and his administration have had many ties to Russia. This point doesn’t need to be reiterated, but I recommend the following stories for more background on this:

All of Trump’s Russia Ties, in 7 charts

Connecting Trump’s Dots to Russia

Tracing the Trump Team’s Russian Relations

Who is Carter Page?

Is Trump trapped by the Russians? Is our president to some degree or another a puppet of Putin? It’s hard to say, but there are a lot of signs this is the case.

Additionally (but I think by chance more than anything), while some Trump supporters and Republicans seemingly don’t want to accept it, Trump’s top aide (which many people presume is more powerful than Trump in practice — since Trump doesn’t deal with details) has stated more than once and quite recently that his key goal is to deconstruct (read: destroy) much of the US federal government. That plays rather nicely into Putin’s hands, but it’s also a key factor in examining the Trump vs Pence question.

That big question is, are Trump’s attacks on US democracy — on the media, on the judicial system, on US intelligence agencies, on our voting system, and on our government — more harmful than what we’d get if Mike Pence became president? While it’s easy to say “yes!,” I think the answer might actually be “no.”

Donald Trump is a blatant bully, a polarizing “bad boy,” a living assault on civic decency (and on many of the qualities that are supposedly very important to moral Christians), and a hugely fact-challenged liability to the Republican Party. Remember, Republican Party leadership tried very hard to keep Trump from being their nominee, and at least one former Republican president didn’t even vote for him in the general election. Trump’s attacks on Meryl Streep, Arnold Schwarzenegger, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Saturday Night Live, civil rights icons, Gold Star families, judges, the CIA, the FBI, Obama, etc., etc., are a great liability to the Republican brand and future Republican campaigns.

Mike Pence smiles a lot. He looks friendly. He seems nice. He doesn’t look threatening or polarizing. He seems to spend much of his time cleaning up Trump’s messes and trying to comfort the people and countries Trump  has terrified. If Donald J. Trump set another negative record — quickest ejection from the White House — a lot fewer people would be outraged by President Mike Pence. However, that’s not to say a lot would be different when it comes to policy. …

Mike Pence is apparently a Republican extremist in sheep’s clothing. Even internationally, he is very hawkish — despite the ever-welcoming smiles. Whereas the United States was founded on the idea of keeping religion out of politics, it seems Pence’s main focus as a politician is to turn fundamentalist Christian ideology into policy. His other main focus is reducing government involvement and funding in practically every area of society.

Pence is one of those extremists in the Republican Party who seems to think government is inherently bad. Deregulate everything! What this translates into in practice is essentially the same as what “President Bannon” is pushing with his “deconstruction” goals. Don’t protect people from corporate pollution. Don’t regulate oil, gas, and coal companies to keep them from poisoning our water, polluting our air, and destroying our climate. Don’t regulate Wall Street to keep it from crashing the economy again. Don’t regulate Big Ag to protect our food and water supplies. Pence poses much of the same threat to US society and global human society as Trump & Bannon pose, but he would do it all with a smile, which would minimize backlash and minimize the extent to which the public wakes up to this massive anti-democracy scam.

Unfortunately, much of US politics isn’t tied to policy at all — it’s image and identity. This is why an apparent con man with no government experience, with numerous business failures, without party support, without pundit support, but with a multi-decade branding campaign focused on the idea that he’s a successful businessman was able to become president. This is why rural America obsessively votes for the party that is focused on helping urban billionaires and multinational corporations at the expense of rural America. This is why our democracy is deteriorating.

But this is why I’m afraid a Pence presidency could be more harmful than a Trump presidency. Pence’s smile and respectful demeanor would tell more of the country, “Okay, all is alright in Republicanland — Republican politicians aren’t corrupt billionaires and millionaires launching a full-frontal attack on the US middle class (not to mention other countries).” Less of the population will think, “What the hell happened to the GOP? Republicans have darted off to a very corrupt, uncivilized, undemocratic, immature, dark, & dangerous place.”

I have no problem with efficient government, deregulation where it makes sense, privatization where private business can do it better, and a conservative approach to certain societal issues. But …

Putting the oil & gas industry in charge of protecting the public from oil & gas health hazards is insane.

Putting Wall Street in charge of protecting our economy from Wall Street is insane.

Putting a pharmaceuticals pawn in charge of protecting the country from Big Pharma abuses is insane.

Putting Betsy DeVos in charge of the Department of Education is insane.

Putting a totally unqualified person (a neurosurgeon) in charge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (seemingly as a cynically racist joke) is insane.

Putting someone in charge of our public lands who wants to give our public lands to private industry is insane.

Donald Trump makes that insanity more obvious.

Mike Pence would sugar coat it and may make the majority think that it’s okay for corporations to abuse the public and risk societal collapse.

I’m afraid to say that I think Mike Pence would be more dangerous as president than Donald Trump, since he probably wouldn’t stimulate nearly the societal backlash and political involvement, but would do similar damage, including when it comes to energy and the climate. I’m also afraid to say that I think Pence will become president in the coming year or two.

Nonetheless, with all of the Pence concerns on the table, what is the effect of the widespread fear, hate, civil collapse, and attacks on democracy that Trump is producing on a practically daily basis via his Twitter megaphone, his nonsensical press conferences, and his spokespeople’s lies and misleading interviews in the mass media? One can only wonder…

*I’m pretty sure any consumption is overconsumption.


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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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