Insane Clown President: Matt Taibbi on Social Justice in the Age of Donald Trump

Spare Change News was able to track down busy journalist and author Matt Taibbi to talk about President Trump’s potential impact on social justice, healthcare and homelessness. Taibbi also spoke about his new book, released in January, titled “Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus”, which gathers his reporting for Rolling Stone during the presidential campaign and original essays.

Taibbi, who won the National Magazine Award for Commentary in 2008, said the goal of the book is to “explore the seismic shift in how we perceive our national institutions, the democratic process and the future of the country.”

SCN: Thanks for answering a few questions for us—especially when many of us are struggling for context in a difficult time. To begin: let’s talk about Trump’s impact on America’s ability to care for the people who you wrote about in your 2014 book, “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.” How will his agenda cause additional suffering for those already at risk?

MT: If we’re talking specifically about homelessness, Trump is limited in the damage he can do because most of the remedies are state programs. But certainly, his presidency is likely to see a surge in things like community policing—he’s a great believer in community policing.

I seriously doubt he’s moved by the plight of the indigent mentally ill, so this is likely to be an era where the main response to people who are at the extreme edges of poverty and ill-health are likely to come from the criminal justice system.

What about his healthcare repeal/replace promises? Will he just use Ryan’s proposals to keep the party happy or will his new “Swamp” cabinet inform his actions?

That’s hard to answer. My take on Trump with healthcare is that, like reproductive rights, his feelings are more ambiguous than those of the mainstream Republican Party. But politically, he seems committed to trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and one can imagine he would buy a lot of cooperation from “mainstream” Republicans he might not otherwise have earned by doing so. [Editor’s note: Trump experienced one of the most shattering defeats of his early presidency when he and Paul Ryan withdrew the American Health Care Act (the bill they hoped would replace Obamacare) from a House vote on March 24. The pull followed reports of widespread unpopularity.]

He’s not going to many intelligence briefings—do you think he will just pay attention to what interests him and the rest will fly under the radar? Will this Twitter-esque attention span help us in protecting so-called “liberal agendas?”

I think the idea that Trump will be so distracted by Twitter wars with Meryl Streep and the like to really do serious damage is wishful thinking. The president has awesome power. It’s hard to imagine him not using it.

The Russia story continues. You once wrote that “Bush was their (the GOP’s) moron. Trump is his own moron”—is that still true, and if he’s actually Russia’s moron, what does that mean for disenfranchised Americans?

I’m not convinced as of yet that Trump is anything but the unthinking idiot beneficiary of Putin’s geopolitical whims. If indeed he were compromised, that would be an urgent problem not just for the disenfranchised but for everyone. But I’d be careful about buying that line. So far, the case for that that’s been made publicly is very weak.

At Spare Change News, we’re all about hope. Do you see any glimmers of hope? Will young people mobilize based on the Bernie factor? How can we ensure the homeless and poor of America get a fair shake in Trump’s America?

I think the Sanders campaign showed that the next generation of voters is far more interested in correcting the imbalances of our society than, say, my generation has been. The Sanders run showed that young Democrats want more for their tax money than subsidies or job exports to China and India. They want education and opportunity, freedom from debt, massive domestic investment, etc.

Trump notwithstanding, I think this is a hopeful sign, that the next generation will demand more from their government. They want more of a say, too, and I think they’ll get it.

In the 1980s, when homelessness was a big issue in places like New York, it was more of an academic curiosity for upper-class liberals who felt guilty passing suffering people in the street.

Now, the entire former middle class is tenuously hanging a step or two away from total economic ruin. People are outraged by the growing gap between rich and poor because they worry they could be next. So, I think there will be more genuine sympathy and effort in that direction.

Primarily known for his work at Rolling Stone Magazine, Taibbi has reported on politics, media, finance, and sports. His previous books include New York Times bestsellers “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,” “Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America” and “The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics and Religion.”

Insane Clown President” is published by Random House and is currently available online and in bookstores.

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