Dear Ivanka—Sorry about the brand name


The party of, by and for the billionaires is proving a very important point: the love of money trumps the love of your neighbor.  The winners in this floundering version of government are the wheeler-dealers of the industrial-military complex and the losers are the very people who were beguiled into believing that Donald Trump was their champion. Fixing the enormous inequality between the haves and the have-nots is not on anyone’s agenda.

There are lots of ways to look at what is going on and lots of personalities to fixate on. A big-picture perspective shows something more fundamental. The issues that beset this country (and many others) are rooted in a deep values clash. It boils down to the dichotomy of materialism versus spirituality.  One value says: gold rules. Another says: apply the Golden Rule. In one system, everything is about personal gain and insulating oneself from others’ suffering. In the other, there is no such thing as separation from the other, and the goal is alleviating as much suffering as possible, even if it involves sacrificing oneself.  

Trump’s election appeared to be the victory of materialism. His campaign celebrated the triumph of money, his own fortune and that of a gang of multibillionaires who opportunistically fed into his campaign. All of this is well chronicled in Jane Mayer’s book “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” A political takeover was a decades-long dream of the radical right. With Trump’s presidency, it became a reality. 

The unexpected outcome of the 2016 election turns out not to be that he won, but that he and his buddies are totally incompetent. The skills involved with being a successful hedge-fund manager or real estate mogul or business tycoon backfired when applied to public service. The public relations mess that currently entangles the President, his family and key appointees is overshadowing any of the glamour associated with high office. The problem was created by their ridiculous hubris in thinking that business tactics could be applied to governance. 

While his entourage was in Saudi Arabia, they made billions of dollars in deals, enumerated by a May 22 Bloomberg article titled “Guide to $400 Billion in Saudi-U.S. Deals: Black Hawks to Oil.” It was business in paradise for the oil developers. The whole point of the trip was to anchor deals in the land of oil money and gloss over any issues of human or women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Once again, it was guns and dollars at work to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

The women on the trip, Trump’s wife and daughter, did not speak out on behalf of women’s struggles. In fact, Ivanka clearly had her own agenda. For her, the thrust of the Trump presidency is to guarantee the success of the Trump brand lasting beyond his business life. The tarnishing of his name is a concern, and you can bet it is not an easy time being a Trump. 

Naturally, it never occurs to any of them that Trump’s real reputation might ride on something besides his business portfolio. What makes a great leader a legend is what he or she accomplishes for others, not for themselves and their cronies, in their time in power. That Golden Rule stuff again.

I’m sorry to tell you, Ivanka, that polishing the Trump name is a lost cause. The worst thing that could have happened did: your father actually got elected to a job for which he has neither the talent nor the temperament. It’s all going downhill and the word “disaster” keeps cropping up. The art of the deal does not apply when the losers are your constituency. Soon enough, the reality of the Trump disaster will seep down to its roots.

Meanwhile, we have to understand that this is not just about a handful of self-involved billionaires, but a world-view that supports the idea that there should even be people who gain such wealth that they manipulate the political system to institutionalize their dominance. We have to question the foundation of the money system and its inherent corruption. Revolutions occur when the polarization between those who have super wealth and those who struggle for basic survival reaches a tipping point of instability. 

Vastly more Americans in rural and urban areas are facing unimaginable difficulties meeting simple needs for shelter, health care, nutritious food and basic opportunities to improve their lives. Alarming statistics describe their plights and the negative effects of Trump policies on their prospects. It’s the hard-heartedness of the Trump agenda that is getting polished as the brand is getting slammed. This loveless crusade is generating hate crimes and trauma.  

Nevertheless, love persists. That’s the bottom line, and over and over again it is being drawn as the line in the sand, sometimes with blood and sometimes with flowers. Eventually, love will prevail because it is the source and, unlike money, its source is infinite. 


Elizabeth Whitney is a researcher and writer living in West Marin.