Or just same shit different day?
I fear for the former and hope for the latter. No, I don’t see much else on the horizon. It is no particular surprise that I do not like, or trust, Donald Trump. And that I very much did not want him elected President of the United States. I was very much in the ‘almost anyone but’ category. But, what may not be as obvious is that I don’t view him as an existential threat, per se. I leave that to the US Congress – the House of Representative and the Senate.
But before I talk about that, I think it would be a mistake to skip over the grim reality of the election’s aftermath. People are protesting. Okay, well fine, some people, perhaps not nearly as many people, also protested after Obama won (both times) – and to be fair that was particularly strange because he had won both the popular and the electoral vote. Which is far from the case now. Protesting is actually okay – good even. But understand that it is a catharsis. And it should be used to build the momentum necessary to fix the House of Representatives in 2 years, the White House in 4 years, and the Senate progressively over the next 6. Play the long game and understand that that is what you need to do. Most importantly understand that, although your pain and fear is justified, the election is over. Trump won, it was not rigged, and although the concept of the electoral college has become increasingly unpopular, our founders quite deliberately built a system that was not a true democracy. Ironic that the intent was to prevent what just happened from happening. Yes, Clinton has a solid lead in the popular vote, but for this election, it’s done. Those that voted for her were not demographically, and geographically, diverse enough to garner the necessary electoral votes. The same voters that threw swing states to Trump have a habit of throwing their votes back and forth between the parties waiting for someone to fix their problems. They want change, they need change, and they rarely get change that helps them in any meaningful way. So the voting shifts – they propelled Reagan to victory in 1980, Clinton in 1992, Bush in 2000, Obama in 2008. And now the shift has moved to the Republicans again because Trump promoted himself (successfully) as an outsider. In him, those voters saw the same change that those on the progressive side saw in Sanders. A way to break the hold that big money has placed on the government. A way to bring back jobs and prosperity to those that that have lost them to technology.
Of course, we should not normalize the intolerance that also prevailed in this election – and that may well require continuing protests. But those should necessarily be targeted at events, proposals, laws, something specific. It does not help anyone’s cause to protest an unpopular election outcome. It does not help to label all Trump supporters under a banner of hate and intolerance. In doing so, you alientiate the many that voted on single issues (or nothing more than a fear of Clinton) – and you need those moderates (or less extreme voters) to help you bring about a truly beneficial change. Those voters don’t like or approve of much of what you are protesting against, either, but by not recognizing the common ground, we only fuel a deeper split. Understand what needs to be changed – or prevented – and work ‘across the aisle’ with those that also see that need regardless of who they supported in the election. Use the organizing that has pulled together these demonstrations to keep pushing for change. But use it wisely and don’t let the momentum fade or you will not see positive change in the next election cycle.
Of course, this is a two way street. And the appalling dissonance from some of the Trump supporters in my life still manages to astonish me. When W was president, it was deemed ‘treasonous’ to criticize him (or Cheney). For 8 years of the Obama presidency, it’s been nothing but obstruction, continual criticism of quite literally everything he and his family said or did – and this was apparently okay because his presidency was somehow ‘not legitimate’. So now that he’s about to be replaced by a man with a loose view of the truth, shifting opinions on most things, who deliberately chose to ignore the more extreme elements in his base (actually encouraged them by continually talking about the ‘rigged’ election process), we should all ‘give him a chance’. Well, yes, we absolutely should. But giving him a chance does not preclude criticizing things he’s said or done. Giving him a chance absolutely does not mean remaining silent when there is a real, and legitimate, fear that women’s right, LBGTQ rights, 1st Amendment rights, basic human rights, are all at risk. Giving him a chance doe not mean silencing our voices. Paul Ryan was wrong – Congress does not have a mandate as a result of this election. They lost the popular vote for the executive branch, they actually lost a seat in the Senate (which was not really at play this time), and the House is too gerrymandered to not be controlled by the GOP for many elections to come. And the majority of voters (& even those that, once again, did not vote) need to be allowed to express their concerns – and should be listened to. Please understand, and acknowledge, that the fears of many right now are not irrational given the tone of Trump’s campaign – and even some of the things he actually said (or retweeted). Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, and many of you don’t because you understandably don’t see yourself this way, Trump’s win has emboldened several extremist groups – and those groups thrive on hate and now feel they have license to attack and torment those that disagree with them. And once it becomes more obvious that Trump made campaign promises that he likely had no intention of keeping unmoderated, and that he made others that are simply out ofthe scope of the executive branch, or too unconstitutional – or controversial – even for our current Congress to seriously pursue, you should be prepared for the backlash that will surely come from those extremists on the so called ‘alt-right’.
Which briefly brings me to the reality that rioting that has been occurring along with the peaceful demonstrations. Not at all, or even most, of the demonstrations (media hyperbole notwithstanding), but still happening. Violence is always wrong. Looting is a crime. And we ALL need to keep in mind that the people doing the rioting are no more legitimate than the alt-right were when they were suggesting armed insurrection if Clinton won. Any demonstration always seems to bring out those that thrive on violence (and sometimes they are incited to violence by outside agitators, also) – and those that use the peaceful protests as an excuse to violence and theft. T0 paint the left with the brush that they are hypocritical haters is as wrong as painting the right as a ‘basket of deplorables’. The vast majority aren’t in any case – and continuing with the hyperbolic moral outrage is counterproductive. Trump cannot fulfill his pledge to be a “president for all Americans’ when his own supporters are still spewing hate. He won the election. Yes, you don’t understand why people are scared, but it’s time that you also grow up a little bit and stop the anger that has carried you through the last 12 years (since Bush grew the government to an unmanageable size). The angry, hateful, rhetoric only serves to convince frightened people that they really do have something to fear. Unifying people takes unifying behaviors and words – not a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude. There is room at the proverbial table for everyone in this county – I refuse to believe it to be otherwise – but we have to live it – and that’s hard to do when some seem to be living in an Orwellian world where some of us are more equal than others.
And by that tortuous route, I come to the true danger that I see ahead. Congress. They are now largely unfettered – Trump is not as conservative as some might like, but he is unlikely to veto the craziness that our Congress is very likely to unleash in the next 2 years. After 8 years of not legislating, they will surely start now. Headed up by a group that is largely opposed to the Federal government controlling anything (unless it pertains to several key areas of individual freedoms). For those that are concerned about marriage equality, voting rights, women’s rights, access to safe abortions, healthcare, senior citizens, veteran benefits, marijuana decriminalization, death with dignity, true religious freedom (not the freedom to discriminate), curbing money in politicians, financial industry regulation, science, the environment, and an long list of other topics, all I can really say right now is stay on top of your representatives in Washington because it’s going to be a very bumpy ride. And we all need to make sure our voices are heard. It’s interesting to me that a couple of different conservative-leaning pundits have suggested the a newly elected President Trump is likely to be impeached (it won’t be hard to find grounds and Congress both dislikes and fears him), leaving the door open for the more establishment VP Mike Pence to take the reins. And frankly, that scares me more than Donald Trump does. But I’ll have more to say on the VP, and the other proposed members of the Trump administration in the weeks to come.
For now, this post has gone on longer than it should have (and somehow not long enough), so I’ll leave you to ponder these words from Samuel Adams in 1780:
“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”