My stomach has been in knots for four days and shows no signs of improving. I feel like someone close to me has died. I’ve been on news sites since Wednesday morning, in the newspapers, on the television news channels both here and abroad. I’ve seen the growing protests. I’ve signed petitions. I still can’t believe what happened.
FaceBook has a new secret page with over three million members the last time I looked. The individual cries for help are harrowing. We try to support the victims, the harassed, the fearful. They say it means so much to them to know that we care. I don’t really see how me saying I care for a victim in Chicago means anything to that victim. Nevertheless I continue to try to comfort them. There have been over 200 election-related incidents of violence and harassment reported. The petitions are last ditch efforts to try to get the electoral college to vote Clinton on December 19th. But even if they did, the disaster would not be averted. There would be riots, not demonstrations. And a President Clinton would be even more obstructed by the now entirely Republican Congress than President Obama was for eight years.
We are stuck. Can I even say, President T—-? No.
For days now, I’ve read hundreds of opinions on both sides as to why this happened. We were so sure that a message of inclusion, of love, of working together, of rationality, of experience, of lifelong public service would easily win over a message of division, of hatred, of isolation, of experience not in the public sector, but only in businesses that, moreover, ended in bankruptcies, and a bragging about sexually assaulting women (if they’re beautiful enough).
I’ve come to the conclusion that none of it mattered. Not the false equivalency that I complained and pointed out so many times in my FB posts. Not Clinton’s lifelong commitment to helping people and her outstanding experience and readiness for the position, not the hatred Trump spewed, not the insane birther lies, not FBI Director Comey’s illegal interference in an election, not Putin’s coziness with Trump, not the Russian hacking of the DNC headquarters, not that Trump is spectacularly unprepared for the most difficult job in the world (would I want a taxi driver to perform heart surgery on me?), not the now famous “grab them by the pussy” comment. Yet that disgusting statement alone should have ended Trump’s run. Back in 1988, Gary Hart resigned from the Democratic primary when a photo of him on a boat with a woman not his wife surfaced. So quaint! Instead, white female Trump supporters were wearing tee shirts saying “you can grab my pussy.” I wanted to somehow let them know that they were not beautiful enough for Trump, but that would have been unkind.
It wasn’t only poor white working class males in Middle America who voted for Trump and won him the keys to the White House. They helped. It was the women. Only 43% of white women voted for Clinton. 53% voted for Trump. And it wasn’t just the poor and disenfranchised. It was 53% of all white women. Educated or not. They voted for a disgusting human being. What am I to say to them? That I dedicated my vote to my grandmother Sophie, my mother Marta, my sister Hanni, my daughters Suzy, Heike, and Julia, my daughters-in-law Jenny and Charla, my granddaughters Victoria, Madeline, Sofiana, and Caia? That their vote hurt me? That their vote hurt my children? My mixed race and Asian children? It didn’t matter. None of it mattered. They voted for a disgusting human being.
As Unai Montes Irueste points out on laprogressive.com, “no Democratic candidate could have won” because this was white backlash. Just look at American history. The backlash against emancipation resulting in Jim Crow, the civil rights act of the 60s resulting in voter suppression laws. Even recent history is plentiful: the Black Lives Matter movement resulting in the silly All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter as if they didn’t matter all along. America is well on the way to becoming a truly multiracial country. But we’re not there yet. According to the U.S. Census, the white majority will be gone by 2043. Another 27 years more or less. Is Trump a last ditch effort by white racists to retain power? Is it that no party has ever retained the White House for more than eight years?
If that is the case, then none of the ugly campaign speeches, behavior, and character of Trump mattered, and none of the lifelong service of a capable and experienced woman mattered. Trump would have won no matter what. I didn’t see it coming.
Now that we have what we have, what do we do? There are calls for unity, for coming together. My friend Edi is wondering how she can be expected to talk to the KKK even though that is, of course, a rhetorical question, and none of us will ever talk to the KKK. I told Edi we are the losers. We do not start with the building of bridges. The winner, if he wants to unify the country as he says he does (until he walks it back as he did so many things in his campaign), has to start. He has to ask us to come into his fold, and we will tell him under what circumstances we might. Anything else is groveling, and we will not grovel.
And the demonstrations are ongoing. And Michael Moore is developing a strategy to get rid of Trump as soon as possible. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. We’d have a President Pence, a known bad quantity. Trump is, as yet, an unknown quantity. He has begun to roll back some of his campaign rhetoric. He is no longer repealing Obamacare, but keeping two of its most important provisions: no denial of insurance to patients with preexisting conditions and children remain on their parents plan until they’re 26. According to Trump, “it will cost money.” Yes. It will. Maybe he could try to impose a tax penalty on people who refuse to buy insurance Oh, wait. I think I forgot something Trump never knew.
Other signs portend disaster. Masha Gessen, a Russian American journalist, talked with Rachel Maddow about recognizing signs that a country is slipping from democracy into autocracy. “The [American] system is defenseless against a candidate who runs in bad faith,” she said. She tells us Trump ran his campaign as an autocrat and has given us no reason so far to believe he will not be an autocrat. She mentioned specifically two press incidents: Trump not allowing the press corps to accompany him to the White House on his first visit with Obama and tweeting that the protests were incited by the press, “so unfair!” The first is a threat to press freedom, and the second a ground laying whine to justify a later denial to give the press access to his decisions. Both are dangerous. There were, of course, also a number of incidents during the campaign where Trump revealed his contempt for the press.
Richard Engel, a foreign correspondent at MSNBC who has lived in Muslim and other countries, talks about how to recognize this erosion of democracy and the rise of totalitarianism. First, you beat up on religious minorities, then you blame everything on immigration, then you blame the media for problems. Next, you criticize the media for being un-American, and call anyone who didn’t support you a traitor. Then the word “cancer” enters the vocabulary. Then we’ll see mass rallies by his supporters that look intimidating, and finally he’ll go directly to the people and call for referendums that will go around the constitution which will give him, as the ruler, more power. Engel has studied the rise of extra constitutional powers. Eastern European countries like Hungary with President Viktor Orban is a good example. Eastern Europeans warn us to be careful, watch for patterns. Engel says we’ll see if any of that happens and wonders if we are immune to it as most countries have not been.
But we’ve already seen the attacks on religious minorities, the blaming of immigrants, the media, the shutting out of the media. On Wednesday, he announced that yes, a database tracking Muslims would be a good idea.
But Trump is good for the economy!
Trump is using three of his children as well as his son-in-law on his transition team. There is no law to say this cannot be done just as there is no law that states a presidential candidate must release his tax return. All other candidates in recent history have released reams of their returns to show that there will be no conflicts of interest when they are elected president. Not so Trump. Ivanka and Eric and Donald Jr. will run the Trump Foundation as a “blind” trust so that the father cannot make presidential decisions that would benefit his own foundation. But Ivanka and Eric and Donald Jr. will choose the people who will make decisions that will benefit their foundation. They will “be very careful not to have any conflicts of interest.” So the American government will now become a Trump Family business venture. On one hand, I hope that he runs it like The Celebrity Apprentice and that Mike Pence is the first one whom he tells, “You’re fired.” Pence is, of course, elected, but a VP can be put in a pretty diminished position. (I am evidently even more opposed to Pence, but that’s for another column). On the other hand. Is there another hand? There is no other hand. Because an autocrat’s other hand is in his pocket.
I wonder what the generals are thinking. We’re going to torture again and we’re going to use nuclear bombs. And the generals will have to “follow my orders.” But maybe, just maybe, those were campaign promises from an ignoramus to the baskets of deplorables. I cannot imagine, I refuse to imagine, that the reasonable white women who didn’t care that they have now given the ok to have their daughters’ genitals grabbed by men like Trump, but who simply wanted to pay less taxes would even for a minute be ok with using a nuclear bomb on any country, that they would be ok with their own sons and daughters getting tortured in foreign countries, because that is surely what will happen if America breaks the Geneva convention and Trump sends them to war.
God Help America! God Help the World!
Note: I’ve read hundreds of sources, hundreds of personal FaceBook and Twitter messages. I cannot possibly trace all who helped me arrive at my opinions and conclusions. Important ones were Unai Montes Irueste of laprogressive.com, and guest interviews Rachel Maddow conducted on MSNBC.