We flew in here blind and I don’t know if there is a pilot to get us out of this mess.
If we were inaugurating a normal right-wing Republican administration, our response would be obvious. We would congratulate the new President, cooperate on issues of agreement, push back where we disagreed, and build for a respectful and successful opposition in 4 or 8 years. This is what we do when the pendulum swings, as it always has, and Americans of different political positions put country above self.
This time is different
Donald Trump is a skillful liar who has shown no regard for the Constitution or the Office of President except as a means of ego gratification and personal enrichment. He has proposed violating the Constitution by revoking citizenship for flag burners, using torture, violating treaties, and enabling politicians to sue newspapers for writing hit pieces. Trump favors eminent domain to seize private property for private use. Trump is using the Presidential transition to strengthen his personal business relationship with foreign governments.
How we got here
Donald Trump skillfully gained votes by openly manipulating and lying on immigration, trade, jobs, and other subjects. Media calling out the torrent of unbelievable lies gave Trump more publicity, and some believed the lies. Trump voters may have seen Trump as the least bad candidate, others may have believed the hollow promise without a plan, to make America “Great Again,” and others may have believed Trump’s constant lies about his opponents and fake news by Macedonian youngsters and elsewhere. This is the reality of the election we just lost but is not the end of the story.
We cannot blame Trump for being Trump, we cannot blame Russian spies for doing what they did to expose Hillary’s secrets, and we cannot blame voters who did the best they could. Those were the circumstances of the election along with decades of stagnating wages, the decline of American civics, and addiction to “reality” TV and dancing with “stars” like Donald Trump. We Democrats failed to deal with those and other early warning signs.
By late 2015, Democrats were aware of the decline in the rust belt, Russian hacking in the election, and Trump’s stoking racist anger over a Black in the White House. A few Democrats sensed arrogance in the “inevitability” of Hillary’s election, but this did not figure in the thinking of those who get paid to win elections.
By August 12, 2016, the specific counties where job loss was connected to support for Trump were spelled out in detail in a 3-page spread starting on the front page of the Wall Street Journal (online the day before). The same day the Washington Post rushed to press with a more nuanced view of the geography of Trumpism and job loss and other variables. Either way, Hillary’s “firewall” was leaking like a sieve and this was public knowledge.
In the summer the end may already have come for Democrats by missing all the early warning signs, but October 7 was the day we fell off the cliff. That day we were emboldened by the Washington Post’s release of the video of Donald Trump’s 2005 lewd conversation about women. Party insiders were overconfident. Ten days later, Democratic strategist James Carville said the Trump campaign had “died” and “Democrats have a chance to win the whole enchilada,” as part of an effort to shift funds to House and Senate candidates.
The same day Hillary’s campaign manager Robby Mook said, “Donald Trump is becoming more unhinged by the day, and that is increasing prospects for Democrats further down the ballot.” States to which campaign funds were redirected were ones with important Senate races, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Iowa, and New Hampshire, five of which Democrats lost. Clinton appeared on October 3 before a crowd of 2,600 in Akron, Ohio, a state she lost by 8.1%, and she appeared on November 2 before a crowd of 10,000+ in Phoenix, Arizona, a state she lost by 3.5%.
We screwed up then and we have an even bigger problem now. To see how we can fix something when we knew or should have known it was broken in the first place, and we did not fix it then, makes me skeptical of easy solutions.
Donald Trump may do some good. In an effort to create jobs, he could foster the repair of crumbling infrastructure. In an effort to reduce spending he could insist on higher participation by allies and reduce military empire building. When the new administration discovers that the job losses in the rust belt were due about 85% to automation and 15% to trade with China, they could modify their response. When they realize that more people have been leaving the U.S. for Mexico than the other way around, they may advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. When Trump voters realize in two years that there has been no effective progress in expanding jobs, the new administration may feel the pressure to steer a different course.
Normally when Trump or anyone does something good, common courtesy and trueness to our goals will be to applaud him when he does. But do not be manipulated by someone who grossly disrespects other human beings, does not respect or understand the Constitution, and is a chronic liar. There is a huge disconnect between what Donald Trump says one day and the next. Trump has shown repeatedly that he can change his mind on things. But this does not mean a change in position. When he softens a harsh posture such as on punishing women who have abortions, it should be no comfort. It may be a bargaining position or an attempt to distract us.
Do not listen only to Trump’s total self-contradictions. Listen to the practical inconsistencies. He did not like the War in Iraq (after he did like it) and he did not like results in Libya. So you think he would reduce the threat of war?
No. Trump would undermine NATO, allow more countries to have nuclear weapons, tear up the Iran deal making it more likely that Iran would reach nuclear strike capability, and acquiesce to Russian territorial expansion. None of these are stabilizing actions in a world on edge. Donald Trump, a New Yorker with experience living in the modern age said he had no problem with transgendered people using whichever bathroom in Trump Tower. But he selected Mike Pence for Vice President and Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, neither of whom is a friend of equal rights. So it is right to be skeptical if there is anything good that will come from a Trump Presidency.
The best good to come from a Trump Presidency
The best thing to come from a Trump administration is that he could get locked into a stalemate with the extreme right in Congress. Don’t count on it. There will be some showdowns, but the game of politics for most politicians is survival. Conservatives who think they can tame Trump are in for a bad surprise. Mr. Trump has been inclined to reward cowards and punish those who question his policy, in a surgically effective way, to amass political strength. As President he will have enormous power to use all the levers of the Executive with very little balance of powers.
The worst bad to come from a Trump Presidency
It took 52 days for the Democratically elected government of Germany to pass the Enabling Act of March 23, 1933, after the appointment as Chancellor of Adolph Hitler. The Enabling Act gave total and complete power of government to the Cabinet, in effect the Führer. We must be watchful of any efforts to reduce the power of Congress, including Trump’s desire for term limits. Anything to weaken Congress or the Supreme Court is bad. There is also the troubling area of emergency Presidential power which is not defined in the Constitution but may be necessary for national security, whether or not it is ratified after-the-fact by Congress or the Supreme Court. It is not inconceivable that, if there was another 9/11 attack, the presumptive President-Elect would suspend Civil Liberties.
It may be a mistake to focus on Donald Trump. We may have an even bigger and longer term challenge. Due to the Electoral College system and gerrymandering, there has been a deep division in the nation which has given more voting rights, more welfare, and less tax responsibility to Red states.
The U.S. Constitution gives 3 Electoral College votes to 240,809 registered Wyoming voters and 55 votes to 19,411,771 California voters. Constitutional apportionment for President is thus based on the whole number of Wyoming persons and about one fifth of the number of California persons. A California voter gets 23% of the vote of a Wyoming voter.
To make it worse, as pointed out by the New York Times’ Steven Johnson (“Why blue states are the real ‘Tea Party,’” December 3, 2016, New York Times), most of the states that voted for Hillary, “are paying the highest proportion of the country’s bills while ranking lowest in terms of voting power in the Electoral College.”
For example, Blue state New Jersey generated $12,564 in Federal revenue for $9,279 benefits; Red state Alaska generated $6,697 in Federal revenue for $14,375 benefits. Who are the Welfare Queens? The Red states.
Donald Trump got 63 million votes, so barely 19% of America’s 325 million people voted for him and 81% did not vote for him.
How 19% of a Democracy can rule the other 81% needs mathematical explanation. Many people who could have voted did not try to vote, others had been stripped of their constitutional rights due to past crimes which they had repaid, or they were wrongfully denied the right to vote because of flawed purges and draconian voter identification laws. Still others were children and alien residents. But that still means that 19% of Americans are ruling the other 81%, which, when broken out by region, shows the rulers pay less in taxes and get more in welfare in Red states.
In the darkest days of Apartheid in South African, the ratio of those who ruled to those were ruled was 20:80. That was unsustainable. The White Apartheid rulers realized the instability of such a small minority of people ruling such a large majority. Reforms were implemented but too late to stop the rising tide of civil disobedience. Apartheid took over four decades of determined work to abolish. But there was light at the end of the tunnel. Get ready for a long, dark passageway.