Day seven

The jury is trickling in and the verdict isn’t looking good. People being named for key administration positions so far sound angry and authoritarian and are lacking relevant experience. His chief of political strategist is a self-avowed white supremacist. People with foreign policy and national security experience are reported to be turning away, describing the transition team as “angry,” “screaming,” and “unhinged.”

Mr. Trump also is refusing to separate himself from his vast business interests the way presidents, judges, and other high policy level public servants do. Apparently he’s not worried about conflicts of interest, which makes sense if his primary interest is marketing his brand and making money, and not taking the role and responsibilities of the presidency seriously.

I’m not sure it really matters, but I wonder how many of those protest voters for Trump who never seriously expected him to win are regretting their choice. It would be hard to admit, even to oneself. Maybe after they see more.

I also wonder if the media will help to normalize what today we recognize as very abnormal by taking what he says at face value or reporting his actions respectfully because he’s the president. Or if time alone will have that effect.

My hunch is this presidency, this administration, will be sufficiently erratic and controversial that we’ll regularly get yanked back to the reality of the mistake we’ve made and the price we’re paying. That probably will be a good thing. It’s better than normalizing what should never be normal.

Meanwhile, my incapacitating despair is being broken up by glimmers of hope, and those glimmers are arousing positive energy, resolve, and strategic thinking. But first, hope. Hope is sometimes a euphemism for blind faith, which can encourage naïvte and passivity, but hope is also a powerful human resource, an antidote to despair, and right now I’m glad to have some.

On day five after the election of Donald Trump I’m hoping….

1) The efficacy and value of oppositional, pitched battle politics will be reevaluated, and that stock in listening will go up. It turns out Democrats were as blind to the social-political realities in America as Republicans were in the last election. It seems only Trump was listening to the wide swath of voters feeling left behind.

Blind partisan advocacy is crippling our democracy. It has deafened leaders to the voices of citizens and divided the nation to the point of social implosion. It has obscured the vision of political observers and the press who we count on for insight and the factual rendering of events. It has gridlocked government, leaving leaders impotent.

To those who think the Republican takeover of government now proves that no-holds-barred politics has rewarded them with the power of majority control, I say beware of hubris and watch what’s about to happen. I strongly suspect the Republican obstruction of the Obama administration is going to look tame compared to reactions Trump’s presidency is nearly certain to provoke. It’s long past time we give up the illusion that overpowering opposition is the first, best or only way to govern a democracy.

2) The Donald’s narcissism will lead him into policies that make a wider population of Americans love him. He craves adulation and could increase it by expanding his base.  I don’t put much stock in this since he has no empathy and his opposition’s animosity is more likely to trigger revenge than accommodation. Still, we can hope.

3) There could be a social/cultural awakening to the fragility of civilization and what it takes to preserve it. This could happen, or even be happening as we speak, on two levels.

Politically, we must see now that allowing capitalist interests to exclude huge segments of the population from meaningful participation is a recipe for revolution. The corporatocracy might think they’ve won with Republican control of all levels of government, or at least that they can snatch their highest priorities while they have that control, but they shouldn’t count their chickens with the wildcard they have in the Whitehouse, and they must know, or will find out soon, there will be an equal and opposite reaction.

Socially, I have to believe that many people, like the Muslim woman mentioned in my last entry, who have slept through politics with the soporific that all politicians are the same and their vote doesn’t matter, will now realize the error in that view. The strengths and weaknesses of democracy are on display in ways that do or will directly affect them. For some, it’s a more painful effect than for others, but the realization is striking us all.

4) Trump the president’s inability to deliver on many of Trump the candidate’s promises might anger supporters into seeing more critically his showman character. They might face more realistically the complexities of their situations.

It’s possible the haters and bigots are a relatively small subset of Trump voters and will find their views and goals soundly rejected as they push crass expectations into mainstream political channels. This may end up the silver lining we’ve looked for since Trump began exposing all the ugly isms we’ve suffered through. I fear it could get uglier before it gets better, but at least we’ll all know more clearly what we’re fighting about.

5) Resistance to an Orwellian future so easily imagined under a Trump presidency might come from the federal government itself. All institutions tend strongly toward self-preservation, and bureaucracies are notoriously hard to change. Ask anyone who’s tried. This isn’t to say executive agencies can’t be forced into specific behaviors, but systemic change comes slowly under the best of circumstances. Additionally, in my experience (albeit in the third branch), government employees tend to think of themselves as working more for the public or the mission of the institution than for an individual. They spend their careers learning and doing a job while they watch politically oriented administrators come and go.   In some very real ways, these millions of federal employees ARE the federal government and could provide significant counter pressure to an overtly destructive leader.

6) Many voters, when challenged by Trump’s extreme statements, defended their support by saying he didn’t really mean them. Even if that was only said to avoid embarrassment, it’s possible, maybe even likely, that many Trump voters won’t support certain of his extreme policies, and that congressional Republicans could safely reject them.

This is not to say that much damage to progressive causes cannot or will not be done. I’m sure strategies for opposition, preferably early opposition, will be forthcoming. But, I’m coming to believe that the democracy itself can be protected even in the face of the worst-case scenarios. This may be wishful thinking, as hope always is, but it’s empowering and helpful and I’m grateful for it.

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