Driving up to see a play last night, ordinarily a 50 minute drive, traffic on I-15 was stop-and-start the whole way, because of accidents. I saw the aftermaths of seven crashes. The one that sticks with me was a minivan, crushed, with a Mom and four little kids huddled together in the middle lane, just behind their destroyed car, while a cop tried to get them somewhere safer. The kids were all crying. The Dad was lying on the ground. That’s all I saw. I got to the play, and told a friend about all the accidents. “Checking their cell phones for election results,” was his immediate response. Could be, though it was early for that. Still, that one crash stays with me. Those crying children.
That’s where we are now, we Americans, huddled together crying behind the wreckage of our country. We had two possible candidates for President, one superbly qualified, but with many dedicated enemies, the other completely unqualified, but with a message that, for some people, for some reason, resonated. “We’re losing our country,” he said. “We white Americans, real Americans, we’re falling behind. It’s the fault of the Others, the brown-skinned, the Spanish speakers, and also the worshippers of a different God than Jesus. Washington’s corrupt, so corrupt that reform isn’t possible. What we need are hand grenades. Explosions and chaos: that’s how we make America great again.” An appealing, if appalling pitch from a lifelong con man.
And look what I just did. Cast this in partisan terms; accused my political opponents of racism. I should apologize, I suppose. I should work to heal, express love and unity and solidarity, invoke our shared patriot ideals. How do we do that, though, when we see the core base of Trump’s support? Check out Breitbart.com (the website whose CEO was also CEO of the Trump campaign, the website that provides a home to the alt-right, the website of the most savage misogynists (Milo Yiannopoulos, take a bow!), and of the various post-modern iterations of the KKK. It doesn’t feel like we elected a President. It feels more like we chose a new Grand Dragon. Or Imperial Wizard, or whatever nomenclature is au courant with the Klan.
So, no, I don’t feel much like seeking common ground. Normally that would be my instinct and preference; not this time. Nor do I feel much like mourning. We lost. We took it on the chin. It’s time to get off the canvas. It’s time to fight.
We don’t have a lot of viable political resources, and Trumpism provides a target-rich environment. We’re going to have to pick our fights. Here’s what I suggest:
Much has been made of the enmity of Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. Don’t believe it. They’re going to work together, because so much of what they want overlaps. Paul Ryan’s agenda is clear enough; he wants tax cuts for rich guys, he wants to cut the social safety net into ribbons, he wants smaller government and less spending, except for defense. He’s going to get it; his program will pass. We should let him; urge the Senate not to filibuster the Ryan budget. Let corporate taxes fall, person income taxes for rich guys lowered, cuts in discretionary spending. In the meantime, Trump will go ahead and start trade wars with China, South Korea, Japan, Mexico. Consumer prices will rise precipitously. And funding will be passed to built a Great Wall.
The results will be catastrophic. As Paul Krugman mordantly predicted this morning, if we’re lucky, the result will be a world-wide recession. By 2020, the myth that businessmen can run a country or that Republicans can manage an economy will be exploded once and for all. Donald Trump will be a one-term President. Our country has survived recessions before; we’ll survive the next one. And then President Warren will step in and set things right.
What we have to hope for is that we can contain the disaster–incur moderate, but not permanent damage. What we have to pray for is that Trump’s legacy doesn’t include hyper-inflation and complete world-wide economic collapse. He’s going to be the worst President in US history; that’s a given. We have to hope that’s all.
So we can’t fight him on economic grounds; or at least we shouldn’t. What we want is an economic debacle sufficient to discredit conservative economic orthodoxy forever, but only that. We want a fiasco we can recover from. And yes, there will be suffering, yes, there will be homelessness, yes, forty million Americans will lose their health coverage, yes, people will die. That’s all unavoidable. It will be our task to point out, as often as necessary, who caused all that destruction. And blame, not just on Trump. Ryan, too, conservatism generally.
As a patriot, I suppose I should now say “or, I could be wrong.” And that’s certainly true; I might be wrong. What if Trump is a good President; what if the economy thrives under his stewardship. Well, all right then. That would be swell. That would be groovy. And since it ain’t gonna happen, let’s not worry about it.
No, let’s not fight Trump on the economy. Let’s stand back and let the inevitable calamity take its course. Give more to the foodbank; volunteer at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. No, where we need to fight is in matters of race and prejudice.
We need, more than ever, to comfort and support and embrace our Muslim brothers and sisters. We need to oppose Trump’s immigration ban. We need to oppose his mass deportation scheme. We need to insist on keeping the progress we have made in race relations and civil rights. We need to fight for our Latino brothers and sisters. Above all, we need to protect and support the LGBTQ community. We need to work with moderate, virtuous Republicans (who exist, and in profusion), to ameliorate the worst of Trump’s racism and misogyny. We need decency and kindness and toleration and love. Show it, demonstrate it, fight for it. If the Senate is going to use the filibuster (and they should), use it to fight racism. Use it to block deportation.
Donald Trump is a liar and a buffoon. He’ll expose himself often enough. We need to fight the next two years to keep him from destroying America, and we need to fight like crazy in 2018 to deprive him of Congressional majorities. And then, in 2020, as our country gasps for air, we need to win.
We need new, aggressive leadership in the Democratic party. That new generation of leaders could include you. Get on it. Right now, though, let’s not feel sorry for ourselves. Organize. Fight. Convert people. And win.