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These are certainly confusing times indeed. In fact confusion seems to be the natural order of things as we approach the Trump era. So in advance of his coronation we are now debating the merits of the federal intelligence infrastructure versus Wikileaks. What is happening?

Trump Backs Assange

Will Intelligence Prevail?—Lance Simmens

I mean I entered a career in politics and government 40 years ago with more than a healthy skepticism of entrenched bureaucratic manipulation of “classified” data. I had suffered through the doubts surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, questioned the incidents surrounding the Gulf of Tonkin that cemented our involvement in Vietnam, endured the FBI harassment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and ultimately his assassination, agonized over the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, and watched the systematic unraveling of a corrupt Richard Nixon through the Watergate hearings.

Yet still I felt the absolute compunction to get involved in order to make things better. I was part of the Jimmy Carter revival show in ’76 and it is almost inconceivable in retrospect to think back to an election where both candidates, Carter and Ford, were truly honorable men with merely different notions of how to take care of the peoples’ needs. Truly either one could have, would have moved the country forward. The key difference was basically which one would do a better job. But beyond the Presidential pick was at least some semblance of confidence that there was a government composed of civil servants to protect against the overzealous caprice of any one individual.

Today the institutions that are supposed to protect us are seriously questioned. Juxtapose that with our most current election where a sizable portion of those supporting the losing side did so because they believe she would do less harm, not necessarily more good, and you have the seeds of a simmering revolt. How far down the rabbit hole had we travelled in such a relatively short period of time?

Here we are debating whether our national intelligence apparatus is more or less reliable and believable than Julian Assange!

And now here we are debating whether our national intelligence apparatus is more or less reliable and believable than Julian Assange! And incredibly we have a Republican President-elect who has open disdain for our government and has publicly professed trust in a former Soviet KGB operative, who may be behind the largest and most successful cyber-attack upon an election in history. And when you question evidence, whether it is incontrovertible proof that climate change exists and is caused by humans or that your intelligence community is unanimous in its judgement based on evidence that a major adversary is screwing around with your electoral process, you wind up with government by whim or gut instinct. That is a dangerous and tricky path to wander down.

My head is literally about to explode. If you are conflicted it is reasonable, if you are not you are intoxicated by a kool-aid far more toxic and powerful than you can know for you have lost all faith in our democratic system. Now I am not an apologist for the system. It is capable of doing truly draconian and irresponsible things and has done so on occasion. It has been dysfunctional for the better part of the last decade or more and the vast corruption of partisanship that has steadily deteriorated our ability to do the people’s business has driven the people mad, literally. These concoctions can be deadly.

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So now here we are, positioned at the edge of a cliff. The best we can do is not fall off, because there is no soft landing and we are perilously dangling with the prospect of a Thelma and Louise moment. Not that we are suicidal, rather ego and lack of perspective and experience are taunting us. In his quest to show how ruthless and vindictive he is, as though they are admirable traits, Donald Trump is willing to gamble with other people’s money and lives. Getting even is more important than humility in Trump world. Imagine how that will play out on the international stage? There is simply no margin for error when misperceptions or miscommunication or simple carelessness can drive humans to do inhuman things.

What is staggering to me is the distance between his values and the values that I was imbued with as a youngster. I actually believed in the power and goodness of a political system, a system of governance, and a public policy structure that would surely advance equality, justice, and opportunity. For a long time I believed that the structure, the solidity of the institutional superstructure that was conceived and built by the Founding Fathers and improved upon by legions of change-makers, would prevail against the vagaries of selfish and egotistical political actors. This was a major concern of the men who convened the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, to design a system that would protect against the whims of a King, an individual subject to any number of maladies, insanity, jealousy, ego, spite. All human qualities.

But alas we have witnessed the demise of that fanciful notion. My skeptical and overtly conspiratorial millennial sons have for years accused me of being part of the problem not the solution, to my great consternation. God knows I tried and I have multiple professional scars to prove it. But the bad guys have prevailed. Unless we can mount a grassroots movement the likes of which we have never witnessed in the country we are indulging in an ignorance and willful deniability that will transport us back to the dark ages of human existence.

I write these words carefully for I am an optimist by nature and have never believed in a sky is falling prognosis. But to look at the actions of the juvenile that is about to assume the most powerful position in the world and the caliber of those he has chosen to control the levers of the machinery that guides the ship of state is frightening. This is high stakes poker for sure.

The people may have the juice to effectuate a reversal of fate but only if in fact they recognize that it needs to and can be done. There is little to suggest that the sophistication of the polarized state that our politicians have created is ripe for reform. Change in the abstract is about the extent to which most Americans are prepared to support. Homework on the issues is not an American strength. Denial is a strong inducement that rewards inaction and prevents constructive change. And right now we are essentially a nation in denial.

Piercing that veil of deniability will require deft precision outlining alternative solutions that are clearly understood and presented in a way as to not exacerbate the sharp divide and political polarization that is tearing this country apart. The enormity of this challenge cannot be overstated, to borrow a phrase that has gained some currency, it is Yuuuuge! But it is needed now more than ever.


Lance Simmens