Wednesday, November 09, 2016

President Trump: A terrifying development

JFK and the contemptible Curtis Lemay
Associated Press

The only time I was as frightened by a historical event as I am by the election of President Trump was during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. It is now clear that only President Kennedy's steadfast resistance to the military's pressure to attack Cuba prevented a catastrophic escalation of that crisis. There's nothing in his history to allow us to think that a President Trump has that kind of character.

Then there was the assassination of President Kennedy a year after the Cuban missile crisis, a month before my 21st birthday. The world---and my country---was revealed as a dark and scary place, a revelation that has never really left my consciousness. 

Growing up in the Bay Area in the 1940s and 1950s, I knew little about this country's awful history of racism, though my parents were decent people from whom I never heard the word "nigger." Racial issues were simply not discussed, though I thought it odd that all the black people in Marin County lived in Marin City. 

As I remember the history textbooks of the time, the Civil War was discussed, but Reconstruction was portrayed as a failure because black people weren't ready for freedom. There was little or no discussion of post-Civil War Jim Crow or the violence against black people that continues to this day.

In 1963 reading James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time put the country's history of racism in perspective for me.

A year after the assassination of JFK President Johnson's escalation of the war in Vietnam began, by which time I was already a draft resister in federal prison.

Donald Trump and his right-wing enablers in the Republican Party represent a unique threat to the country beyond the inevitable tax cuts for the rich, voter suppression, denying people medical care, a right-wing Supreme Court forever, etc. As President Obama pointed out, a man who can't even handle his Twitter account sensibly now has the nuclear codes within reach.

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In England

Darkness ahead

Getty Images

Jonathan Chait says it well:

...Never in my lifetime has the United States seen a period of darkness like the one that lies ahead of us. But we have seen periods of darkness before — segregation, McCarthyism, the internment of the Japanese, the Civil War, slavery. The American story is fitful progress punctuated by frequent reversals, some of which appeared at the time like they would last forever. None of them did.

The Trump years will be a horror. When I set out to write my long story in the magazine about Trumpism and the future of the Republican Party, I originally intended to focus on the immediate possibilities that lay before the Republican Party if it could capture full control of Washington. As this scenario grew less likely, I gave it less emphasis, but it is there. 

The Republicans will pass massive regressive tax cuts; they will take access to medical care from the poor and sick; they will deregulate the financial industry and fossil-fuel emitters.

And that is just the beginning, the best-case scenario. Trump is an impulsive, egotistical bully, intolerant of criticism and dissent and drawn to the ruthless application of power. Many liberals have been warning that American democracy is far weaker than we believed, and this was before any of us imagined a monster like Trump commanding the Executive branch. 

Trump will shake the Republic to its foundations. And the Republicans will shake it with him. If there is a central point I tried to drive home, it is that Trumpism grows out of a decades-long trend toward authoritarianism as the dominant tendency of Republican politics. I don’t know what American government will look like after four years of Trump — or if it will only last four years, or even if it will only last eight...

And Trump does not represent the future. He only barely represents its present. His party controls all three branches in large part because its voters are over-represented in the House, the Senate, and the Electoral College. He represents a rage against the direction of America they have no way of stopping. 

Even a complete halt to all of illegal immigration and a total deportation of every undocumented immigrant will not prevent the growth of nonwhites into an eventual majority. Republicans are increasingly focused on voter suppression and other anti-democratic measures to allow their shrinking cohort to rule. Trump is the perfect champion of their project.

But I do not believe they will win, at least not over the long run. As the shock of a Trump presidency set in, I told my children Tuesday night that I did not want to hear anything about fleeing. We are not going anywhere. And the America I have raised them to believe in will one day prevail.

See also The World Responds to Trump Winning the US Election

Mary Beard: Trump: when words lose all meaning

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