Sunday, November 13, 2016

How Bad Will It Be?

We're in deep manure.

Fortunately, I live in Doña Ana County. Trump's snake oil didn't sell here. We elected good people to the statehouse: Nathan Small, Angelica Rubio, Jeff Steinborn, Rudy Martinez; and, finally, Joanne Ferrary beat the Doctor! We defied oil companies and banks. 

But millions of voters were sufficiently angry or distressed to toss the U.S. Government in the toilet. They had reasons. (Had Clinton won, I'd still be urging both parties to take seriously the disaffection expressed in votes for Bernie and Trump.) 

People knew Trump was an unqualified wack-job. But they disliked Hillary and “the Establishment.” They wanted to punch both in the nose. They liked Trump for being a bull in a china shop; but they (and we) live in that china shop. 

What happened? Polls weren't rigged. Trump's polls and Fox News also indicated Trump was losing. Some voters dissembled. They held their noses and voted for Trump, but weren't comfortable saying so. Others decided late.

Most Trump voters I know are neither racist nor stupid. I talked to several, though most avoided saying how they'd vote. Some were women. One was a Hispanic friend I play pickleball with. He doesn't hate anyone (except me when I win) but has family working the border. Some religious friends said God uses even bad people for His purposes. I suspect some cast a “protest vote,” comfortable that Trump wouldn't actually win.

People voted less for Trump than against Washington – and Hillary, the wrong candidate. Thirty years of conspiracy theories and partisan attacks on her didn't help; but the distrust runs deeper. Her husband had an almost pathological need to be loved or admired. Great politician. Hillary was reserved, private. Running for President meant being someone she wasn't. People sensed that. (Al Gore was smart and qualified, but uncomfortable following the family's political tradition. George Bush was unqualified, but comfortable. People liked and trusted him. As with Romney, folks never warmed up to Hillary.)

It's ironic. Clinton isn't particularly dishonest, for a politician. Trump's rarely in the same zip code as the truth. 

Misogynism was probably involved. A man who mocks and gropes women won handily among men. And Comey's October Surprise probably pushed Trump over the top. A previously ethical guy who may live in infamy. But in a complete democracy, with no electoral college, the narrow popular-vote winner (Clinton) would be hiring cabinet members.

One important takeaway is the deep divisions between city folk and country folk, blue counties and red. Wholly different realities. We need bridges!

Our country and the world will suffer, ruled by an impatient narcissist who knows nothing about government. Will he do crazy things or just let himself be guided into bad policies by the very right-wing advisers he trusts? (His own instincts aren't ideologically pure.) Generations will have to live with his Supreme Court justices and ostrich-like view of climate change. Putin will play him like a Stradivarius. Will our children emulate his greed and discourtesy? 

Trump talked as if he'd bring back criminal libel laws, to control the press. Which you'd figure our Constitution would prevent, but with a Republican Congress and a Trump Supreme Court?

I hope and believe Trump won't be historically bad. Hitler was elected too. By angry people who didn't all share his racism and paranoia. I don't think Trump's quite such a hater; and our democratic traditions are deeper than Weimar Germany's.

Still, November 8th was a nativist step back from tolerance and understanding. Voters struck back against corporate globalism; but the corporations will do fine. 

New Mexico is my refuge. But I'm scared.

[The above column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, November 13, 2016, as well as on  the newspaper's website  and on KRWG-TV's website.  I welcome comments, criticism, and questions here or on those sites.]

[My working title for this post was "How Bad Will It Be?", and I'm in a rush this morning, so I'll stick with it; but I don't really answer it in the column, because obviously I can't.
I do say it won't be Hitlerian.  Trump doesn't have Hitler's long-standing political resentment.  He doesn't hate ethnic groups the way Hitler does.  But he did exhibit prejudice against blacks in his businesses. And he has obviously found it convenient as a political candidate to say horrible things about other ethnic groups.  But I think it comes more from expediency than from deep-seated hatred.  He's not obsessed.  
Unfortunately, he comes to the Presidency with a unique sort of power: very few debts, even to other Republicans, and a victory that clearly was his own, not the party's.  The conventional Republicans who loath him mostly didn't give him a lot of help, and both he and they know that, so he has some independence.
He's closest now to some of the really farthest-out right-wing people on the spectrum. That's whom he may trust.  And that bodes ill.  But his own politics are more moderate, to the extent that he's thought about politics at all.  Yeah, he loves the rich and powerful; but his attitudes on gays and abortion and other social issues were moderate before he started seeking the Republican Presidential nomination.  Will he hunker down with his Alt-Right advisers or execute yet another change?  Does he secretly hope for the approval, admiration, and respect of the political pros the way he once hungered for respect from the upper-crust New Yorkers when he moved from Queens into Manhattan against his father's advice? I think he'll be more agreeable to letting them run a lot, so long as they genuflect and express their awe of him as a Great Man.
Either way, it'll be bad: time's running out on doing anything about the climate, and whether he pals around with Breitbart or Ryan we won't do anything for another four years; the Supreme Court will get worse and be worse for at least a decade; gays will lose out big-time, if Pence has anything to do with it, as he likely will; women's rights are likely to suffer, although we can hope his family may neutralize some of the right-wing influences on him in that area. 
Further, his election will encourage the haters among us.  I've heard women, immigrants, blacks, gays, and Muslims express their fears, and those fears are more than reasonable.  I share them.

Sadly, Trump will exemplify for our kids greed and arrogance. Most people who loathed Obama's policies recognized his personal grace and decency. Most people who voted for Trump recognize his negative personal qualities.]

[I mentioned the oddity of religious folks supporting Trump, and their explanation that God will use him.  I've never gotten a very clear answer from anyone when I ask how they know God plans to use Trump for good -- as opposed, say, to the devil using him for evil.  But I've been given plenty of examples of people who weren't the greatest in different ways (Churchill being a drunk before God used him to save England; Lincoln something undesirable, I forget what, before being used to save the Union; also the Apostle Paul (who wanted to kill Christians, at first), Cyrus in the Book of Isiah.  Or Samson, or Gideon.  One friend wrote me in a facebook message that "When God chooses one, they are changed and captive to fulfill his will. We all have shortcomings and some worse."  Well, Trump's shortcomings exceed those of most folks, but nothing God can't deal with -- if He chooses to.  He might decide we deserve what we get because we responded to a campaign based on hatred and intolerance and threats of violence.  Or he might have been trying to warn us with Trump that he wanted to use Hillary -- also a very imperfect person, as most of us are -- for His purposes, despite her shortcomings.   I'll try again to figure out how we can tell who God means to use.]

[The analogy of this election to Gore-Bush.  I do think personal connection moves a lot of voters, who either don't care about the issues or care more about feeling good about saying "That's my President."  The Gore-Bush difference was enlightening:Gore came from a powerful political tradition, and went into it as another might go into a family business; but he was never fully comfortable with it, kind of like the pre-med students I knew in college who really wanted to be poets or actors but couldn't cross their parents; and it showed, he seemed awkward somehow.  George Bush was a reformed alcoholic, the son no one had ever had any hopes for, the "good guy" who'd never make anything of himself, and when he ran for President he was surprised and happy to be emulating (even surpassing) his father's political success, when everyone had thought Jeb might do that.   A lot of folks found him charming, but couldn't relate to Gore.  Bush, like Reagan, seemed more open and friendly and comfortable to be around.  Trump, in a different way, was too.

Someone asked me election night "How do we get through this?"  First, by waiting to see how things go.  Second, by not letting our political grief affect our daily lives too deeply.  Also by being alert, watchful, and prepared; by keeping in closer touch with people with good hearts; by being ready.  If there's a contradiction there, sorry.  Life is full of those.  Like cancer, this will pass.  Or it won't.  Either way, we will do the things we can do to treat it (speaking out, despite undoubted efforts to shut us up; attending more diligently to making things better in our wonderful state and wonderful town until we can do something to help our wonderful country) and try to live each moment the best we can, without thinking about the sword hanging over our heads.  

For others' reactions, everyone from Garrison Keillor to Coach Popovich has screamed "Aww, fuck!" in more elegant language than that. New Yorker editor David Remnick calls Trump's ascension An American Tragedy, and closes:
"It is all a dismal picture. Late last night, as the results were coming in from the last states, a friend called me full of sadness, full of anxiety about conflict, about war. Why not leave the country? But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do."
I also particularly liked Aaron Sorkin's [creator of West Wing] letter to his daughter.  Though, speaking of daughters, one friend told us that while she was excited about the local victories of our friends, her three-year-old daughter said, "Mommy, it's okay to feel happy and sad at the same time."

Also see Michael Moore's Five Point To-Do List or recover Michael Moore's Five-Point Morning After To-Do List on Facebook

1 comment:

  1. Try this on for size regarding Hillary Clinton.

    Brit Reporter Jonathan Pie Gets It, Breaks Down Exactly Why Trump Won

    Meanwhile, you may want to consider signing this petition...