Sunday, November 13, 2016

On the Election: This Is Bad, and It's Going to Get Worse.

Remember when Ronald Reagan--the actor--was supposed to represent the nadir of presidential victors? How could we elect a former actor? What a laugh riot.

This is not funny. This is bad.

I've read and watched a lot of news and I'm still having trouble reconciling the people who decided in the end that Donald Trump would make a good president. Don't get me wrong; I fully understand that many Americans are angry and frustrated, have lost their homes while wealthy bankers got bailouts, have seen their communities lose resources, jobs and hope, and generally don't see Washington as a place where problems are solved. I get that. I feel it too. But it takes a special leap sans parachute to go from that to seeing Donald Trump as the best person to solve these problems.

I especially don't understand how anybody associated with women (mothers, daughters, sisters) could vote for him after what he said about them. Those kinds of comments disqualify you from being a moral, upstanding person who will represent all Americans. Yet more white women voted for him than Hillary. Many of the articles I've read quote women as saying that he was going to bring back jobs. Or they just didn't like Hillary. Or maybe it was Comey's letter. It still doesn't excuse what he said. or make him in any way presidential.

The same thing goes for the other groups that Trump verbally assaulted during the campaign and the bitter, angry tone in which he not only said ugly things, but the way he tolerated that speech, and actions, in his followers. He ran a stupefyingly xenophobic, hateful campaign, but because enough people decided that despite that, he was the only candidate that would bring back their coal and steel jobs, that they could rationalize him away as refreshingly honest. It's no wonder that schoolchildren were actually afraid the day after the election.

But the joke will be on those who think that Trump will change Washington. Almost immediately, the same lobbyists and interest group attorneys who genuflect before Republican winners were back in the capitol, eager and willing to do whatever bidding the Trump trolls will ask of them. They will serve themselves at his table, but this time in the name of the oil and gas industries and, yes, the same multinational corporations that have no interest or intent in bringing jobs back to the United States. Trump will talk about ripping up trade deals and slapping 35% tariffs on Chinese goods, but that will produce higher prices, higher interest rates and higher anxiety as the world sees America as an adversary, not a friend. Choking off immigration will further erode our economy because new residents are a major source of strength and growth, and if you think that American citizens are eager to pick fruit, clean hotel rooms and do the dirty work at slaughterhouses, then you are in for a rude awakening.

And then there's the reason why Hillary lost in the states where she needed to win. Much of the reason is in the numbers below.

Republican votes by the year:
2008 59,930,551
2012 60,934,407
2016 59,022,040

Democratic votes by the year:
2008 69,438,98
2012 65,918,507
2016 59,245,315

Democrats didn't come out in the numbers they did for Obama, and it turned out that the Hispanic juggernaut and African-American support was a myth too. Even with President Obama stumping for Hillary in North Carolina and Florida. That, to me, was a sobering lesson. Not even Obama could get his coalition out in sufficient numbers. I guess too many people in key states just didn't like Clinton.

Then there's this piece of political stool-softening that tries to paint Trump as essentially a pragmatist who will likely jettison his most incendiary campaign proposals and rule from the center-right. I don't believe a word of it. Trump is not experienced enough in the ways of governing, nor do I think he really understands at more than a headline level what's involved in legislation and how it can hide some explosively nefarious provisions. With both Ryan and McConnell, but also the farthest-right and alt-right voices clamoring for his short attention span, he will be at the mercy of the Republicans who have been slobbering over themselves in anticipation of controlling the levers of power for the first time since 2006.

They will send him cuts to Medicare, Social Security, AFDC, Medicaid and any other social program they can get their hands on, and he'll probably sign most of them into law. He has promised to work first on an infrastructure bill, but the GOP regulars, allergic to any new revenue, will demand that a costly measure such as that be paid for with corresponding tax breaks to businesses and cuts to other programs. Guess which ones? The GOP will also attach their greatest hits such as cuts to Planned Parenthood, overseas family planning projects, and school programs other than abstinence education while restoring aid to religious institutions, And did you say women's health programs and abortion? By 2020, we might be wistfully remembering a country that had a heart.

As if the talking heads haven't been discredited enough, the news organizations are saying that the angry, tweeting, inappropriate, insulting, profane Donald Trump is a character that he will retire, a la Stephen Colbert. That one smells too nasty to even consider. The Donald Trump of the past two weeks is the real imposter and it's only a matter of time before he loses his cool and his credibility (what he has) over some perceived slight or media report. He's already advocated for laws that would make it easier to sue for libel, and, like Nixon but with a real personality, he will do something about it. The media will continue to play lap dog for him and find false equivalencies by comparing him to other presidents. There is not comparison. He is the Singularity.

But there is good news. More voters supported the Democratic vision of the country, as evidenced by the popular vote. And Trump's margins of victory in the states that mattered--Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan--were tiny and were also based on promises that he will have a difficult time keeping. If he and the GOP also decide to repeal the Affordable Care Act and millions lose their health insurance, then the GOP will be toast.  And then there's the future of the party. Right now, it's difficult to see who will emerge as the face of the Democrats in the coming years. Sanders can be the driving ideological force, but the party will need a younger face to run for president.

The best news, though, is that this means that the Democrats will likely gain seats in Congress in 2018 because the party in power usually suffers midterm losses. This bodes well for the Senate especially, where the Democrats will need to defend far more seats than the GOP. In the meantime, I expect new Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to hold the line against the far right.

This will be a difficult four years for the country, andwe will even survive this, but only if we agitate, agitate, agitate.

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