The good, the bad, and the ugly.
It’s taken me a week to begin writing something about the shocking, disturbing and thoroughly disgusting electoral college victory by Trump. Almost everyone I know is depressed and discouraged. Some are quite frightened. And yet, we can’t do what Trump said he’d do and refuse to accept the election results because we lost, in spite of significant and serious examples of voter suppression. Even before this election, several Republican-controlled states moved quickly to initiate unreasonable and unnecessary voter ID laws following the ridiculous Supreme Court decision to eliminate important parts of the voting rights act. There are now numerous examples of long-standing legitimate voters having been purged from voter rolls. In spite of that, Clinton got more than one million two-hundred thousand more votes than Trump. We must eliminate the Electoral College.
One tiny bit of optimism is that maybe Trump was simply exaggerating and lying about many things he preached. It is well documented that he lied much more than any other candidate. He seems to say whatever he thinks will benefit him at the moment by appealing to the emotions of his most volatile followers. He is already backing off some of his more outrageous campaign statements – maybe the wall will be a fence in some areas; maybe he will deport only Mexicans who have committed crimes (something already being done); maybe he will only modify Obamacare and keep parts of it rather than repealing the whole plan; maybe he will ban immigration of Muslims only from terrorist countries rather than all Muslims or even emphasize stronger vetting rather than a complete ban; maybe prosecuting and jailing Hillary Clinton is no longer necessary.
Another ray of hope is that Trump will learn his limitations as President and the constraints and requirements of U.S. and world circumstances. His ignorance of government operations, Constitutional obligations and world affairs is massive, and he bragged about it as a virtue. As he learns from government and intelligence experts how much he doesn’t know, we can hope he is sensible enough to not blunder into monumental mistakes. We can hope his overly sensitive, reactionary, immature, and volatile temperament will be restrained by others. However, based on a year and a half of past behavior, that hope is slim.
He now says he wants to support family leave, maintain Social Security, reinstate Glass-Steagall, and raise the minimum wage. Those are all good things. However, he is selecting a transition team who opposes all of those.
Trump’s impulsive, hostile, bullying, vengeful temperament is very troubling. He talked about ordering the military to commit war crimes, he bullied and viciously attacked anyone who disagreed with him or opposed him, he talked about tracking all Muslims in America, and he flaunted the idea of being an autocrat. Other strong-man dictators have demolished government institutions very rapidly once in power. Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan have all welcomed his election. Russians say they continued contact with the Trump campaign while spying on the Clinton campaign. We don’t know if we can trust Trump with national intelligence. Our system of checks and balances are much more robust than those in most other countries, but many traditions, such as White House transparency, frequent briefings and press conferences are cultural and not required by law.
Trump’s hostility towards the news media threatens our constitutional freedom of the press. He has already blamed the press for the public protests. The rise of strong-man dictators in other countries has begun with blaming religious minorities, immigrants, the media, and anyone who didn’t support the winner as traitors or as a cancer on the nation. The next step they take is to find ways around the Constitution and the laws. We’ve never had a President-elect like this before. We must not ignore the warning signs of our own destruction.
Even after being sworn in as President, Trump will not be immune from the many lawsuits he already faces. Trump is being sued in a federal civil court over alleged fraud in his Trump University real estate seminar program. His charitable foundation has been accused of being a scam and is facing legal scrutiny. The FBI has reportedly looked into his ties to Russian officials. He is facing litigation from members of his Jupiter, Florida, golf course who say they were cheated out of refunds on their dues and from a former employee at the same club who claims she was fired for reporting sexual harassment. A GOP political consultant has sued Trump for $4 million claiming he defamed her. A class action suit says his campaign violated consumer protection laws by sending unsolicited text messages. And he is still being audited by the IRS. No one knows where any of these legal actions will lead, but they will certainly take time from his duties as President.
Some of the things Trump has proposed and some he is now doing can have devastating, long-term consequences. Trump has stated that he considers climate change a hoax and will pull all support from the Paris climate agreements, approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, stop clean energy funding, and dramatically expand fracking, coal mining and oil drilling, even in environmentally sensitive areas. He has chosen prominent climate skeptic Myron Ebell to lead the EPA and Mike McKenna, an energy lobbyist who has worked for Koch Companies and Dow Chemical, to head the Energy Department. These anti-science people and policies can do great harm to the entire world. Once climate change has progressed beyond a certain tipping point, the devastating results will be impossible to reverse.
Rick Scott is being considered for HHS secretary. He tried to enact draconian drug-testing measures on welfare recipients in Florida. He was also in charge when his hospital corporation committed what at the time was the largest health care fraud in U.S. history. Obamacare has brought health care inflation to historic lows and extended the Medicare trust fund 11 years. However, Trump and his team favor “free market” plans to replace Obamacare. That means turning over healthcare decisions to for-profit insurance companies and minimizing regulations that protect consumers.
Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is executive chair of Brietbart News and has made Brietbart more alt-right and white nationalist. The North Carolina KKK has announced a victory parade for Trump’s presidency and the American Nazi Party is applauding Bannon’s selection.
Another Trump selection is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, famous for radical anti-immigrant and voter ID laws. He wrote a law in Arizona that compels police to ask for papers from anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. Under this law, any person of color or anyone with a foreign accent can be required to prove their status and be jailed until they can do so. It allows police to treat people differently based solely on their appearance rather than on their actions. Kobach’s anti-voter efforts in Kansas were rejected by a federal appeals court in the District of Columbia for being unconstitutional.
Now we will almost certainly have an ultra-conservative Supreme Court majority who will further devastate basic American values and principles for many years. Trump favors eliminating Roe v Wade and favors punishing women for having an abortion. As Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence criminalized women for having abortions and said he “longs for the day that Roe v Wade is sent to the ash heap of history.” Ken Blackwell, who was picked to head domestic policy, refers to Planned Parenthood clinics as “killing centers.”
Trump incited and encouraged followers who are scared, paranoid and discouraged and want to see change at any cost. They want a strongman authoritarian ruler. Tump’s aggressive bigotry appealed most strongly to racists, nativists, sexists, bigots, and zealots who are anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and anti-women. We are already seeing the consequences of his violent rhetoric. Middle school students have mocked a group of special education students lined up for gym class. Muslim students have been physically attacked for wearing hijabs. Students from immigrant families were handed “deportation slips.” Students of color are facing increased racial harassment and intimidation. Transgender students have reported verbal assaults. A transgender woman in Denver found Nazi graffiti and Trump’s name spray painted on her car. Even if Trump softens his demeanor, his loyalists may not. His election may legitimize disgusting behavior by those already inclined.
The Republican party’s sole purpose has been to freeze the government while President Obama is in office. They halted government progress and then pointed to the stalemate to prove that government was ineffective. Now that they control both houses of congress as well as the presidency, they will be all for massive government action.
Protests and political action are based on American principles of freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and the right to petition the government. Stand your ground, volunteer, support progressive organizations and progressive causes, and stay connected to mobilize as necessary. We will NOT turn this country over to Donald Trump. He definitely does not have a mandate, and he does not represent what makes America great. I have lived through many other depressing and discouraging times. Together we can live through this, minimize the damage and make America smart again.