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The nation under Trump


Happy anniversary.

A year ago, Americans did what had been considered both unthinkable and impossible and elected Donald Trump president. Since then, one head-spinning news development has been followed by another, and it's hard to tell what kind of country we're living in now.

The latest in a series of gun-caused tragedies, in a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, left 26 people dead – including eight from a single family – and 20 more injured. Predictably, President Trump blamed "mental illness" rather than guns, as if he had access to the health records of the gunman, as if all mentally ill people are violent, as if all violent people are mentally ill. As if he had been pushing for adequate insurance coverage and adequate funding for research and treatment of mental illness.

And the National Rifle Association and conservative Republicans continue to promote a bill requiring every state to recognize concealed-carry permits of gun owners from states where concealed-carry is legal.

In international news, on Sunday the Times' Nicholas Kristof quoted several Korea experts who warn that the odds of a US war with North Korea are much higher than most of us think. One of them – Richard Haas of the Council on Foreign Relations – puts the odds at 50-50. Senator Lindsey Graham, Kristof wrote, has said that if North Korea continues to test its intercontinental ballistic missiles – which it surely will – war is "inevitable."

A few days earlier, the Times informed us about yet another scientific report confirming that global warming is happening and saying that "there is 'no convincing alternative explanation' that anything other than humans – the cars we drive, the power plants we operate, the forests we destroy – are to blame."

The same week, the Secretary of Energy for the United States, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, talked about Africa's serious need for better access to energy – and said fossil fuels are the solution.

"It's going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa," Perry said at a forum. He cited a girl who told him she needed electricity so she wouldn't have to read by the light of a fire. Then Perry added his own touch: electricity is also important, he said, to prevent sexual assault, by shining "the light of righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts."

Republicans try to take access to affordable health care away from people, and craft a tax bill that rewards the rich and penalizes the middle class. The president complains about not being able to influence the Department of Justice and the FBI.

I'd like to think this is not the kind of country that most Americans want. And indeed, while Trump's base still supports him, his overall approval ratings are extremely low. But we're a long way from the next presidential election. Most Republicans in Congress apparently figure they're getting enough of what they want that they'll continue to tolerate him. Impeachment is no solution, because Mike Pence would promote many of the same policies from a less volatile West Wing.

The carnage that guns are causing, the causes and catastrophic effects of climate change, the risks of Donald Trump's ill-informed approach to foreign policy: the facts are available, and credible news media are reporting them daily. But for too much of the American public, truth is what we want it to be, and social media and Fox News are as credible as the Times.

A year and a day ago, I could hope that the country was better than this, that the election results would shock political leaders of both major parties, that we would all pull together and get back on track. Now, I'm not so sure. Donald Trump didn't spring up out of nowhere. The Republican leadership knows what it is doing. And the Democrats are fragmented and seem thoroughly confused.

Happy anniversary.