Bread and circuses

Trump follies keep us distracted as he lays waste to progressive policies

“Two things only the people anxiously desire: bread and circuses,” the Roman poet Juvenal wrote. He was lamenting the slide of the democratic Roman Republic into the autocratic Roman Empire and its citizens’ civic passivity as long as they were fed and entertained.

Instead of gladiator bouts at the Coliseum, the Trump administration gives us scandal on top of scandal, lie on top of lie—and we’re riveted. Thus, we’re distracted from seeing the significant, even dangerous, changes his downriver minions have made in federal policy.

As David Graham, writing in The Atlantic, notes, the Trump administration is “remaking the justice system, rewriting environmental rules, overhauling public-lands administration and green-lighting major infrastructure projects” such as the once-controversial Keystone XL pipeline. It is also, Graham adds, “appointing figures who will guarantee the triumph of its ideological vision for decades to come.”

Nowhere is this more evident than at the Environmental Protection Agency, which is working to, as The New York Times reports, “undo, delay or otherwise block more than 30 environmental rules, a regulatory rollback larger in scope than any other over so short a time in the agency’s 47-year history.”

Changes similar in scope and impact are occurring at the Justice Department, where Attorney General Jeff Sessions is harking back to the “tough on crime” mindset of the failed War on Drugs. The administration also has sought to weaken both the financial-regulation law Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. And the Interior Department has lifted a ban on coal mining on public land. The list goes on.

So don’t let yourself be distracted by Trump’s follies. He may play the buffoon, even be one, but he’s staffed his agencies with capable people eager to carry out his ideological vision.