I knew a politician who used to say that he inflated the skill and strategy of an opponent whenever he ran for office, typically worried about his opponent locking up volunteers, endorsements, and donors before he himself would get to the sources of those advantages. Inevitably, though, he found that his opponents were not ten feet tall or able to speak five languages while drawing vast crowds. My friend stayed focused and won a lot more contests than he lost. I’m trying not to overreact to the current upper dog status of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, both of whom are licking their chops over the recent November surprise. For now it is Advantage: Them. But the tables are going to turn. They will make mistakes. They will overreach. There may, in fact, be a January surprise for Mr. Putin in Russian cyber-world. For the nation, this is not like Governor John Kasich winning, not like U.S. Senator Marco Rubio set to enter the White House, a Republican from the system. This is completely different. We have not seen this before.
On the other hand, I would be glad to see Trump and Putin do what’s in the best interest of peace, love, and understanding worldwide, as I define those things—but I’m not feeling the warmth from them for my view of the world. I’ve looked at Mr. Trump a hundred ways and tried to find a positive element, but I cannot get past the “birther” thing and all that represents—the bullying, the racism, the monumental disrespect, the cynicism of it. Mr. Trump, I guess, wants us to dismiss it all as an extended prank, a cutting practical joke with no harm done. He always knew Barack Obama was an American citizen (wink, wink). President Obama in public has shown he can put that behavior of Trump’s in a compartment and sit and talk about other subjects with Mr. Trump. Barack Obama is a better man than me. I would have asked Joe Biden to answer the White House door and give the tour.
In view of the Trump Thing, and I’m still thinking, This can’t be happening and there must be a way to stop it before January 20—in view of this and recharged radical (not conservative) politics, the progressive minded people who believe there is a constructive role for the federal government should think hard about making their own “basket” for desirables that may not be the down-the-line, default-setting conventional Democratic Party way. I’m not convinced Senators Warren of Mass. and Sanders of Vt. can shift the battleship quickly enough. Sen. Schumer of N.Y., now Minority Leader in his chamber, is not the Democratic future in the U.S. Senate. It was “his turn,” right? Mr. Trump didn’t wait for his turn. We don’t have half-a-generation to wait on this. Eight years of Trump would be a third-of-a-generation. And the re-election of Rep. Nancy Pelosi of Calif. as Minority Leader in the U.S. House of Reps. gives me no confidence that Washington, D.C., Democrats got the November message. What is the next structure? I don’t know, obviously, but the pace is quick now and it feels as if there will be a strong response from progressives or liberals (are these labels out-of-date?) by next June. The Tea Party seemingly came out of nowhere after President Obama’s election. That faction was organized for a fight just a couple of months after Obama’s inauguration.
It’s going from bad to worse with each hungry fox Trump names to a chicken-coop cabinet job. Marjorie Arons-Barron on this blog described his leadership choices as “grotesque.” With no popular mandate, he is still setting up to dismantle decades of policy- and program-making at the federal level, a lot of it bipartisan-based like the EPA established under President Nixon. Likely to be upended are environmental protection, access to health insurance, non-carbon energy, equal voting rights, health and safety work laws, multi-lateral foreign affairs, reserved public lands, high quality public education, civil rights enforcement, urban development, immigration fairness, and adequate affordable housing. He’s ready to sweep the game pieces off the playing board in one arm swipe, emboldened by a unified Republican majority in Congress and a Supreme Court being teed-up for extreme anti-government decisions.
I expect Trump and the GOP in Congress will do a mega-infrastructure building program and package it as a form of national defense or homeland security (we need to move tanks around faster) in order to justify borrowing tons of money that they would never do in collaboration with Pres. Obama. If they act on this, then good. Just do it. We need high-speed rail, new municipal water systems, space-age airports, bridges all over the place, better police and fire stations, etc.
Federal action ripples and waves down to the local level. We’ll see the results in cities and towns. It’s happening fast—watch the first 100 days, classically. And there’s no countervailing structure at this time that I see with the capacity to hold much of it back. (I read that Republican attorneys and monitors were all over the recount process spurred by the Green Party’s Jill Stein. Were the Democratic Party lawyers out in force? The GOP was taking no chances. They won Florida that way in 2000.) When there’s no structure, people’s last resort is to go to the streets. Mario Savio in the 1960s said there comes a time when there is no alternative but for people to put their bodies upon the gears and levers to disrupt the “machine.” We’ve seen it in other countries. One national opinion writer this past week said America is about to be presided over by a minority political movement. How far will Trump’s group push their views and demands? Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, the Civil Rights hero, says there is a time “to find a way to get in the way.” Stand up, stand out, put yourself in the way. There may be nothing else to do in the short term. Women are already organizing a march in D.C. for January. That should be followed by a million scientists and a million environmentalists, a million bus drivers and a million union members, a million nurses and EMTs, millions of young people, millions of teachers, more.
I’ve been reading about World War I and the arrogance, stupidity, and lack of imagination of the old-men “deciders” who sent a generation of soldiers, young ones especially, to their deaths in the trenches of Europe. The war fed on its own insanity. A spark in Sarajevo set off a conflagration that raged across countries for years. Too many people followed the leader on both sides.
Our political selves cannot sleep-walk into Trump World. This is a fluke thing. A crazy fluke thing, a perfect storm of political malpractice on the part of national Democrats, including the President, and their party organization and a brilliant passionate revolt on the part of anti-establishment radical citizens with immense “will to power” who found a bold forceful leader, seized a unique social-and-economic moment, and squeezed through the victory gate with little room to spare. Trump got just enough, just enough. It was just enough to win by the rules. About 75,000 votes in three states that made the difference, out of about 128 million votes cast, roughly 65.8 million (Clinton) to 62.9 million (Trump). Give Trump and company credit, they found a way to win. They found a way to get in Hillary Clinton’s way. They played it as 50 elections, not one big referendum question: Is “The Donald” a bad man?
They have the right to take their seats all around the federal table. And there’s plenty of blame to spread on the losing side. But that doesn’t mean Trump gets to decide everything with his supporters for the next four years. We don’t go for the tyranny of the majority in the USA. It may be winner-takes-all for obtaining the elective office, but the winner cannot take anything he or she wants starting on day one in that office. The winner cannot grab everything unless the loser lets it all go. Don’t let go.