My Twitter feed is full of attempts at hopeful messages among aghast liberals: “Sleep well. Tomorrow, we organize.” These people are fucking kidding themselves.
And Facebook, my cohort of somewhat less-liberal (but still mostly Hillary-supporting) friends and colleagues, are telling me that I’m being extreme in my reactions, and it’s not the end of the world.
It isn’t? Let’s start with this. With the agreements we’ve made during the Obama administration, the world was just maybe going to be able to restrict itself to a global increase of 2°C. Trump’s stated policies put us on a track to 4°C or higher. 4°C is when the global food chain breaks down. Sure, I’ll be dead before that happens, but do you have children? Thinking maybe of grandchildren someday? They’ll live it.
Meanwhile, I’ve seen a dozen mentions of Obamacare, as if that’s what’s on the table. Has anyone listened to any Republicans? The mainstream goal is to dismantle the New Deal and the Great Society with privatization and state block grants. God only knows what the evangelicals and the Trumpistas want to do; I haven’t been listening, because I thought we’d never be here.
The fact is, everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike, are living in a fantasy world where certain things about America remain true no matter what happens. We’re exceptional. We’re an example to the world. We’re the leaders of the free world. We’re all the things that were taught to us in grade school, at an age when it’s not learning history, it’s learning mythology.
Lies. Today proved that this is a load of complete and utter bullshit, made forgivable only because four generations of Americans who passed it down believed it too.
All of that mythology is based on national actions and global institutions that built that. No one ever convened a meeting at the United Nations and said the president was the leader of the free world. The president held that position, insofar as he actually did, because we were the most powerful nation on Earth, and our allies tolerated that position. We worked for the common good, often enough, that it was allowable for America to hold the position of power it did.
And it’s not just military power, although that’s a hell of a large thing. The dollar is the world’s reserve currency. The national debt is the safest place to invest. The American economy is large enough to tolerate even Great Recessions. All of these things combined are what made America exceptional among nations.
All of these things are now in jeopardy, if I’m to take at face value the things that Trump has said during his campaign. And even if I don’t, I have zero confidence in his ability to assemble a team that won’t manage these principles into oblivion.
Meanwhile, at home, I’m trying to think of historical precedents for which established legal norms are not at risk, and the most recent thing I can come up with is women’s suffrage. We trust in Congress not to make radical changes, or we trust in a president to act as a brake on those changes, or we trust in the courts to be the arbiters of the rule of law. All of those mechanisms have either failed tonight, or are going to in the next four years.
If you believe, as I do, that even the mainstream Republicans govern from an ideology that is divorced from reality—and which will now have additional Republican insurgencies to deal with from even more discredited and reprehensible points of view—you expect this presidency to fail, and fail badly. It’s not a question of cheering on that outcome; it’s a realistic assessment that no one who is about to control the levers of power has any experience with actually governing.
And what happens to the Trump supporters when that happens? If the recession that apparently started yesterday takes hold, whom will that hurt? Everyone in the middle class on down. What happens when Republican economic policies pass, and the red states discover to their horror that they’ve actually been relying on a safety net that paid them more than they paid out?
I’ll tell you what happens: they listen to Fox News, and Breitbart, and a dozen new sites that I haven’t heard of now, but which will be mainstream by 2018. They listen to Trump, who will react exactly as we can expect him to act when his numbers drop: by blaming the immigrants, or the Senate Democrats, or the few levers of power he doesn’t yet control.
If that sounds like blaming the Jews, it’s exactly like that, in that I won’t be in the least surprised if that explicitly happens.
Twitter reminds me that the Republicans haven’t swept federal power since 19281, which was also the last time we elected someone with no elective or military experience. Many people are noting that this was followed by the Great Depression; my understanding of history is that there wasn’t exactly a one-to-one correlation between those events, but that Hoover’s mismanagement of 1929 certainly made 1930 onwards as bad and as long as it was.
Whatever problems that come next, and there will be problems, are going to be met by the same level of incompetence, but this time, with all of the character flaws, corruption, lies, and outright manipulation that marked the campaign. Chris Christie is in charge of the transition team. Rudy Giuliani—the person whose name gave birth to Giuliani Time, when police sodomized a black man with a broomstick—will be in charge of Justice.
The country would be unrecognizable in four years’ time, except that with the quality of our media, the outrages of 2017 will be normalized by 2018, and so on through the term. The last time we had a Republican president, America tortured its military captives as a matter of policy, and we’ve been debating that ever since.
There is nothing we can’t normalize.
The sole historical bright spot I can conceive is that Hoover was followed by Roosevelt, and desperate times led to the beginnings of the social fabric that we are about to blow to hell. Perhaps that will happen again. But Hoover didn’t have the modern American military, didn’t have nuclear weapons, didn’t have the fractious news media, and didn’t have the worst parts of the Internet. And by most accounts, Hoover was a decent man. We are set up to fail on all of these counts.
I have no doubt that some form of political resistance will form. I am certain that someone will come up with a strategy to attempt to slow the disaster, and that Democrats and perhaps even horrified Republicans may coalesce around such. But at the moment, the best we can hope for is that the Republicans, so surprised by their victory, will fractionate as badly as we all expected them to in the face of a loss, and that Chuck Schumer turns out to be a master of 4-dimensional chess.
These are thin hopes. I would be happy to hang my thoughts and political efforts on something better. But I suspect that no one, least of all the people who voted for it, have any fucking clue what we’re in for.
1Update 11/11, 2:39 PM: I’ve been reminded since, and I can’t believe I forgot, that the Supreme Court decision which handed the election to W also gave him the 50/50 Senate when he already had the House.