By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – If there were a symbol for President Donald Trump’s administration, it would be a wrecking ball.
An out-of-control wrecking ball.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
In just the past few days, the president blithely has thrown the healthcare market – about one-fifth of America’s economy – into chaos. By signing an executive order ending the subsidies that made the Affordable Care Act work, Trump gave insurance companies license to jack up premiums on the working poor and elderly – probably by at least 20 percent.
Instead of being pushed off a cliff, Americans who can’t afford newly exorbitant premiums will be allowed to jump.
Trump already had done a great deal to destabilize the healthcare market. Now he’s completed the work and sent it into freefall.
In doing so, he stuck it not just to millions of Americans who voted for him but to his own Republican Party, the members of which daily grow more nervous about facing the voters next year.
To make matters worse for the GOP, the president reached out to Democrats for help in crafting a new healthcare package, even though Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of Congress and could enact any change they want into law.
Trump’s subtext in doing so was barely hidden: He thinks Republicans in Congress are too incompetent to get anything done.
Not satisfied with that bit of careless demolition, Trump also decertified the Iran nuclear arms deal, adding further instability into a region that trembles and shakes with every shift in the breeze.
Then he tossed the entire bag of flaming fertilizer into the laps of the same Republican members of Congress he’d just pulled the chairs out from under with the healthcare executive order and told them to clean up the mess.
That mess, of course, isn’t just untidy. It’s potentially deadly.
Not that such concerns matter much to this president.
Trump goes about his days in a state of perpetual early adolescence, swinging wildly this way and that, heedless of the destruction he leaves in his wake.
Perhaps that’s because he’s always had someone else – or many others – to clean up after him.
It’s tempting to think there is no plan or purpose to any of this, but that clearly is not true.
Trump’s victory has been read as a reassertion of America’s deeply ingrained legacy of white supremacy – and thus a repudiation of this nation’s first black president.
The very tenuousness of Trump’s victory last November – if fewer than five votes per precinct in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had shifted, Hillary Clinton would be hearing “Hail to the Chief” every time she enters a room – adds to the sense of reckless desperation this president and his followers seem to feel.
They don’t just want to succeed Barack Obama.
They want to obliterate all memory he ever occupied the White House. They want to pretend that history never happened, that an African-American never held this country’s highest office.
To do that, Trump must undo whatever Obama did, regardless of how successful some Obama actions and policies might have been.
In some ways, the more successful Obama’s policies were, the more offensive those policies are to some of Trump’s most unsavory supporters.
You know, the “fine people,” to use Trump’s words, who wear white sheets and celebrate traitors who fought in defense of slavery.
There are people who have called for Barack Obama to rejoin the struggle, but the former president is in a difficult box.
He doubtless has figured out that Trump’s unstated agenda is to try to erase the Obama era from the books, so the former president knows any statement he makes or stand he takes is likely to be counter-productive. In this odd reality, if Obama discovered a cure for cancer, Trump would come out in favor of carcinogens.
And Trump, not Obama, is the one who now has the power of the presidency at his disposal.
Moreover, Trump has demonstrated there are few people he isn’t willing to harm in pursuit of achieving this bit of historical amnesia. He’s hammered his own party and his own voters in his quest, and their pain hasn’t given him a moment’s pause or regret.
That’s the way it is with wrecking balls.
They don’t care how much damage they do.
Or to whom.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.