Trump: The Aftermath


Within months of reëlecting Nixon by the largest margin in history, Americans began to gather around the consensus that their President was a crook who had to go.

President Donald Trump should be given every chance to break his campaign promise to govern as an autocrat. 

Bipartisan congressional action on behalf of the public good sounds as quaint as antenna TV. The press is reviled, financially desperate, and undergoing a crisis of faith about the very efficacy of gathering facts. And public opinion? Strictly speaking, it no longer exists. “All right we are two nations,” John Dos Passos wrote, in his “U.S.A.” trilogy.

he crushed two party establishments and ended two dynasties. 

The Party’s leaders are all past the official retirement age, other than Obama, who has governed as the charismatic and enlightened head of an atrophying body.

The immediate obstacle in Trump’s way will be New York’s Charles Schumer and his minority caucus of forty-eight senators. During Obama’s Presidency, Republican senators exploited ancient rules in order to put up massive resistance. Filibusters and holds became routine ways of taking budgets hostage and blocking appointments. Democratic senators can slow, though not stop, pieces of the Republican agenda if they find the nerve to behave like their nihilistic opponents, further damaging the institution for short-term gain. It would be ugly, but the alternative seems like a sucker’s game.

Nearly seventy per cent of working-age Americans lack a bachelor’s degree. Many of them saw an establishment of politicians, professors, and corporations that has failed to offer, or even to seem very interested in, a vision of the modern world that provides them with a meaningful place of respect and worth.

Repealing Obamacare, which has provided coverage to twenty-two million people, including Jim’s family members; cutting safety-net programs; downgrading hard-won advances in civil liberties and civil rights—these things will make the lives of those left out only meaner and harder.

Trump, with his behavior toward women and others, would be an H.R. nightmare; in most offices, he wouldn’t last a month as an employee. 

Eliminating Obamacare isn’t going to stop the unnerving rise in families’ health-care costs; it will worsen it. There are only two ways to assure people that if they get cancer or diabetes (or pregnant) they can afford the care they need: a single-payer system or a heavily regulated private one, with the kind of mandates, exchanges, and subsidies that Obama signed into law. 

If the G.O.P. sticks to its “repeal and replace” pledge, it will probably end Obama’s exchanges and subsidies, and embrace large Medicaid grants to the states—laying the groundwork, ironically, for single-payer government coverage.

We watched him, in the second debate, prowling behind his opponent, back and forth with lowered head, belligerent and looming, while she moved within her legitimate space, returning to her lecturn after each response: tightly smiling, trying to be reasonable, trying to be impervious. It was an indecent mimicry of what has happened at some point to almost every woman. She becomes aware of something brutal hovering, on the periphery of her vision: if she is alone in the street, what should she do? I willed Mrs. Clinton to turn and give a name to what we could all see. I willed Mrs. Clinton to raise an arm like a goddess, and point to the place her rival came from, and send him back there, into his own space, like a whimpering dog.

They don’t think, she said, that Hillary can catch him now. I took off my watch to adjust it, unsure how many centuries to set it back. 

“What I don’t comprehend is, who voted for him?”

Mr. Trump has promised a world where white men and rich men run the world their way, greed fuelled by undaunted ignorance. He must make good on his promises, for his supporters will soon be hungry. 

Over time, though, the candidate’s rawness appealed to her, because she believed that he could shake up Washington. “After they’ve been in office, they become too slick,” she said. “I liked that unscripted aspect.”

This election has given me a renewed appreciation for chaos, confusion, and the limitlessly internal world of the individual. 

Trump’s descriptions and treatment of women didn’t seem to bother them. “I’m a strong enough woman,” Watson said. I often heard similar comments from female Trump supporters—in their eyes, it was a show of strength to ignore the candidate’s crudeness and transgressions, because only the weak would react with outrage.

It was hard to imagine a President entering office with less accountability. For supporters, this was central to his appeal—he owed nothing to the establishment. But he also owed nothing to the people who had voted for him. Supporters cherry-picked specific statements or qualities that appealed to them, but they didn’t attempt an assessment of the whole, because, given Trump’s lack of discipline, this was impossible. 

Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force. 

There are “people of color” everywhere, threatening to erase this long-understood definition of America. 

The confidence that you will not be watched in a department store, that you are the preferred customer in high-end restaurants—these social inflections, belonging to whiteness, are greedily relished.

So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.

the alligators are multiplying.”

Many of Trump’s transition-team members are the corporate insiders he vowed to disempower

The few remarks Trump made on these issues during the campaign reflected the fondest hopes of the oil, gas, and coal producers. He vowed to withdraw from the international climate treaty negotiated last year in Paris, remove regulations that curb carbon emissions, legalize oil drilling and mining on federal lands and in seas, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and weaken the Environmental Protection Agency.

For policy and personnel advice regarding the Department of Energy, Trump is relying on Michael McKenna, the president of the lobbying firm MWR Strategies. McKenna’s clients include Koch Companies Public Sector, a division of Koch Industries. 

Myron Ebell, an outspoken climate-change skeptic, heads Trump’s transition team for the E.P.A. Ebell runs the energy-and-environmental program at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an anti-regulatory Washington think tank that hides its sources of financial support but has been funded by fossil-fuel companies, including Exxon-Mobil and Koch Industries. 

Many on the transition team are registered lobbyists who are deeply invested in the system Trump says he wants to change,” Potter said. “It looks like the lobbyists and special interests are already taking over.”

When General Dwight D. Eisenhower was preparing to take office, Harry Truman predicted, “Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll find it very frustrating.”

with both houses of Congress in Republican control, the greatest obstacle to the President’s use of power would be not the separation of powers but, more likely, the isolated actions of individuals in government. 

Schwarzenegger, who had never held public office, proved incapable of reorganizing government, defeating labor unions, capping state spending, or weakening teacher tenure. His relationship with the G.O.P. soured. In 2011, he left office with his public approval rating at near-historic lows. 

McConnell’s blockade prevented the creation of the first liberal majority since the Nixon Administration. 

Democrats have never mounted a successful filibuster against a Republican Supreme Court nominee, and McConnell would probably abolish the practice if they even tried. 

All of us used to be kids. All of us were, at some point, silenced by someone bigger and louder saying, “Wrong, wrong,” but meaning “It’s not what you’re doing that’s wrong—it’s who you are that’s wrong.”

Nasty talk didn’t start with Trump, but it was the province of people we all viewed as idiots—schoolyard mobs, certain drunks in bars, guys hollering out of moving cars.

If you ever doubted the power of poetry, ask yourself why, in any revolution, poets are often the first to be hauled out and shot

Littler than my cohort, I learned that a verbal bashing had a lingering power that a bloody nose could never compete with. When a boy named Bubba said, “Your mama’s a whore,” I shot back, “So what? Your nose is flat.”

The vicious language of this election has infected the whole country with enough anxiety and vitriol to launch a war. 

The hardest thing about democracy is the boring and irritating process of listening to people you don’t agree with, which is tolerable only when each side strives not to hurt the other’s feelings. 

Unlike most elections, Trump’s election is something different: it ends an era of American idealism, a high-mindedness of rhetoric, if not always of action, which has characterized most twentieth- and twenty-first-century American Presidencies

the white men who voted in very high numbers for Trump or to the majority of white women who did, too

Many Americans, having lost faith in a government that has failed to address widening inequality, and in the policymakers and academics and journalists who have barely noticed it, see Trump as their deliverer. They cast their votes with purpose. A lot of Trump voters I met during this election season compared Trump to Lincoln: an emancipator. What Trump can and cannot deliver, by way of policy, remains to be seen; my own doubts are grave. 

 “The real trouble with us was never our system or form of Government, or the principles underlying it; but the peculiar composition of our people, the relations existing between them and the compromising spirit which controlled the ruling power of the country.” For Douglass, the aftermath of the fight to end slavery was a lesson about the persistence of inequality: it had already begun to take a new form, in proposals to deny constitutional protections to Chinese immigrants. Hatred of the Chinese, especially by those who wanted to exploit their labor, was, Douglass argued, new wine in old bottles, slavery by another name. 

When my parents lived in the Soviet Union, having a Jewish-looking “physiognomy,” as it was called, proved a daily liability. Standing in line for eggs or milk or ham, one could feel the gaze of the shopkeeper running down one’s nose, along with the implied suggestion “Why don’t you move to Israel already?”

Social media in the era of Trump is essentially Leningrad, 1979. Trump supporters on Twitter have often pointed out my Jewishness.

The surprise of 2016—post-Brexit, post-Trump—is just how ably the Russians weaponize those lyrics, tweak them to “Whites will rise from their knees!” and megaphone them into so many ready ears in Eastern and Western Europe and, eventually, onto our own shores. 

We hated minorities, even though the neighborhoods many of us lived in were devoid of them. I didn’t attend public school, because my parents had seen one black kid on the playground of the excellent school I was zoned for, and so sent me to a wretched parochial school instead. 

The jump from Twitter racism to a black church set aflame on a warm Southern night is steady and predictable. Putin’s team has discovered that racism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism bind people closer than any other experiences. These carefully calibrated messages travel from Cyrillic and English keyboards to Breitbart ears and Trump’s mouth, sometimes in the space of hours. 

In the end, financial institutions got trillions of dollars’ worth of help to stay afloat, far more than the government spent on economic stimulus, unemployment benefits, or mortgage relief. 

The size and influence of the half-dozen or so largest financial institutions grew substantially, and almost no one who led them was visibly punished. 

Astonishingly, the main political beneficiary of all this energy was Donald Trump, a plutocrat with a long history of taking on too much debt, stiffing his business partners, and not paying taxes. 

Trump is almost certain to enact policies that will exacerbate those difficulties. He will undo as much as he can of efforts like the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which returned some regulation to the financial system. He will cut taxes in ways that will increase inequality, and restrict trade in ways that will decrease prosperity. He will not reappoint Janet Yellen, the most unemployment-obsessed Federal Reserve chair in American history—after having subjected her to a barely veiled anti-Semitic attack, in a campaign ad that called her a tool of “global special interests.” It is yet another tragic consequence of the financial crisis that it has brought to power the politician most likely to create the next one.

His opening move—labelling Mexican immigrants rapists—immediately lost the left, and his demotion of John McCain, a former P.O.W., from hero to loser looked as if it would cost him the establishment right. But, after tussling with Megyn Kelly at the first G.O.P. debate, and suggesting that she had blood coming out of her “wherever,” he accomplished the unthinkable: he lost Fox News. How did this mango Mussolini expect to win the White House? Who was left to vote for him? Apparently, half the country.

 It was the Klan’s job to rescue white women from the black devils who were trying to rape them and create a mongrel race. The reality, of course, is that mixed-race Americans were largely the result of the cream being poured into the coffee, as it were, and not the other way around. 

Questioning Obama’s birthright, threatening to ban Muslims, painting entire immigrant groups as felons to be feared—these are not policy positions. They are incendiary words and images meant to ignite a movement. 

My girlfriends and I hugged one another, our eyes smeared and swollen. We hadn’t thought that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was specifically focussed on women, but we experienced her loss as a woman-specific disaster. The men in our lives seemed to feel the stab of it somewhat less.

fifty-three per cent of white women voted for a white-supremacist sexual predator

A sign floated above the crowd, flashing red, white, and blue in the reflection of police lights: “Why Don’t Sexual Assault Victims Come Forward? Because Sometimes We Make Their Attackers the Leader of the Free World.”

During the Obama Administration, in no small part because of the respect that the First Couple instilled for women and people of color, I had begun to feel, thrillingly, like a person. My freedom no longer seemed a miraculous historical accident; it was my birthright.

told me that she felt abandoned by the men in her family, who had voted for Trump

 “I’m afraid that a man will hurt me in public, and everyone around will think it’s O.K.,” she said. 

Beyond Trump’s extraordinary talent as a salesman, his singular dubious achievement has been to remain fully in character at all times. He has deliberately chosen to exist only as a persona, never as a person.

My two little sisters called me weeping this morning. 

my godchildren, who all year had been having nightmares that their parents would be deported

A few spoke about how frightened and betrayed they felt. Two of them wept. No easy task to take in the fact that half the voters—neighbors, friends, family—were willing to elect, to the nation’s highest office, a toxic misogynist, a racial demagogue who wants to make America great by destroying the civil-rights gains of the past fifty years.

Colonial power, patriarchal power, capitalist power must always and everywhere be battled, because they never, ever quit. We have to keep fighting, because otherwise there will be no future—all will be consumed. 

Comments

Popular Posts