Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Will of the Minority

The American people have spoken. And a majority voted for Hillary Clinton. Which would be great if we had a democracy in this country, but we don't. We have a republic, if we can keep it, and in a republic some funny things can happen. Like protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

But who's going to protect the majority from an especially rabid minority who now controls every branch of the government and has little reason to consider the effects of their policy proposals on the country at large? It will take some thoughtful opposition from the GOP majority to put a brake on what I'm sure will be some terrible ideas. And I have very little confidence that Donald Trump, the rather self-centered con man huckster who will sit in the Oval Office, will moderate his ideas in the interests of unity. He might, but I am extremely skeptical.

Consider his latest appointments. He is bucking the Republican establishment with his picks for CIA Director, National Security Advisor and Attorney General. That mix of Mike Pompeo, Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions should create an explosive brew of anti-Muslim sentiment, seasoned with a hatred of Hillary Clinton and a bias towards torture. And of course we have the very real prospect, I'd say a certainly, that Trump will nominate a climate denier for Interior and a hawk for Defense. I understand that the president-elect wants to shake up Washington, but he's doing nothing to help bridge the wide chasm between the majority who voted against him and the minority who set aside many of the things he said in the campaign that show him to be less than a moral leader for this country, including support from the far right voices of hatred. Does he care that a shift of 70,000 votes would have cost him the election? Probably not, but ignoring those voters will turn out to be perilous for him.

What's also becoming clear, and will be clearer as we get into the first months of his term, is that just because Donald Trump said he was going to do certain things like rip up trade agreements and set punishing tariff rates, doesn't mean that the world will stand still for them. China and Mexico have weapons at their disposal to make things difficult for our economy and the people whose manufacturing jobs Trump has promised to create. Getting rid of NAFTA will actually cost the country jobs. Plus, if the bond market continues to firm up, that will mean higher interest rates on mortgages and automobiles which will then require wage hikes and probably higher inflation. All we'll need is disco and polyester to complete the 70s throwback. How fun. And if you thought the Carter family was interesting, just wait. The Trump family will be far more entertaining and one of them will conduct themselves so badly that they will be disowned via Twitter by the midterm elections.

Despite the hopes of the liberal press, and even some of the conservative media, Donald Trump is no moderate. He will try to deport millions of people, demonize Islam, ignore his more enthusiastic right wing hate group supporters when he should be strongly condemning them, criminalize abortion in many states and open up more public land for commercial use. The rest of the GOP will then take a knife to social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which are exactly the programs that Trump's core supporters rely on. How terrible it will be when they realize, too late, that the Republicans actually want smaller social programs. Yes, we will likely get better roads, bridges and other infrastructure improvements and some jobs for the people who are hurting, but at what cost?

All of this will also come in an atmosphere where Trump will complain loudly and often on Twitter about the unfairness and inaccuracy of anyone who opposes him. This weekend's Hamilton incident is a case in point. We can debate whether the cast should have broken protocol and addressed Mike Pence, but in an era where Republicans and Democrats talk past, over and under each other, getting a message directly to the incoming Vice President was a smart move. Trump's response, that Hamilton is an overrated show, tells me volumes about the thickness of his skin and his artistic appreciation. And besides, the real point was to stop speech and to stifle dissent. 

For someone who doesn't command the will of the majority, that is dangerous.

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