Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016, Bound Together in Separate Bags, Thrown in the Same River

Just typing thoughts as they come to me on last night’s election.

First, I’ve read only one example of the “he’s not my president” thing so far and, bluntly, I think that’s stupid. It was stupid, even childish, when Red Staters said the same about President Barack Obama, or when they mulled over a “revolt” if Hillary Clinton got elected (“Sir, the peasants are revolting!” “I know!”). It announces a delusion. If you live in the United States and if you’re a U.S. citizen, Donald Trump is your president. Dealing with that reality is Step 1.

For what it’s worth, I think The Daily Beast got it essentially right. The only way the entire system fails is if everyone starts treating the nation’s institutions and fundamental rights with the same, short-sighted contempt as movement conservatives.

All that said, yes, I honestly believe Donald Trump will be a terrible president. He might even prove a destructive one, but fingers and every ass hair tangled and holding one another for comfort. Setting aside emergencies – e.g., international crises, an unexpected natural disaster (again, imagine the man who wrote this letter to John Travolta attempting to comfort you (he will not succeed)), any and all manners of Trump scrambling when (not if, when) the shit hits the fan – a review of his stated, preferred policy agenda reads to me like a List of Terrible Ideas, most of them based on a combination of denial (see: global warming) and false premises (see: what’s happening to U.S. jobs). In run down of “winners and losers” from Election Night, Vox rolled a couple of the worst ideas under each category and, chillingly, their chances for getting through a federal government that Republicans now control, along with most statehouses.

Among Vox’s list of “winners” is among the most noxious ideas that festered throughout the 2016 campaign, white nationalism. (And we had several from which to choose.) As I was tweeting away my angst last night – and watching that poor Barron Trump kid fidget/quietly die on stage – I posted a pair that read like so:

“I’m going to say this before I know what happens: Trump winning is not the worst. Let ‘em govern. Let the failure fall on their heads.”
“No, doubling down. A @realDonaldTrump win is the best-case scenario. Tricky times ahead, and now let the paper tiger owns [sic, SHIT!] the failures. Enjoy.”
In response, I got the following:
“Sorry, but that’s spoken like someone who isn’t a target.”
That person (@silentrex) is depressingly correct on his(? – going that way because “rex”) specific point, but that comment was intended to get at the breadth of what I expect as fallout. If a Trump presidency goes as badly as the worst-case that’s swimming around my head, the entire country will be hurting – and, to be clear, that includes the “working-class white voters” who elected him. Who will hurt still worse. What’ll it look like? No idea, and we’ve got four years ahead to sort through and survive, but my short answer goes like this: I’m just waiting for the first bad thing to happen. We’ll see where things go from there.

Back to silentrex’s point, I’ve spent the morning playing a grotesque game of “which group has the most to fear”? My first impulse is Muslim-Americans – emphasis on the Americans, for all the fuckheads out there – but that’s mostly as immediate, random targets of hate crimes. Latinos/Hispanics will bear the brunt of suspicions/harassment on immigration status, African-Americans will bear most of the insult and indignity of ‘stop-and-frisk,” and what I expect will be an excruciatingly short-sighted decline in accountability for incompetent/violent police officers, courtesy of their re-energized police unions, and both the LGBT community and over half the goddamn nation besides – e.g., women, your wives, sisters and daughters (remember them, asshats?) - will endure the slow erosion of hard-earned rights thanks to what all signs point to being a sharply atavistic Supreme Court.

And that’s before the entire conversation gets to the toxic tone set by Donald J. Trump, a clear…just piece of shit human being, and his pathetic, knuckle-dragging masculinity. Trump gives new life to the troglodyte notion that “boys will be boys,” uncontrollable in the face of their desires and uneducable when it comes to restraining them. And courts will keep asking gross and irrelevant questions like, “what were you wearing,” and “then why were you drinking?” Why not ask the boys, “what the fuck makes you think that was all right?” And, to our nation’s disgrace, the answer will be the sitting president told Billy Bush it’s OK. (Sure it was a carve-out for celebrities, but, in the internet age, aren’t we all striving to be famous?)

At any rate, that “who has it worse” game is wrong on every level. It’s appalling over half of white people elected someone to beg the question.

As for the person who lost, Hillary Clinton, she is/was a generationally awful candidate. She was a kind of “perfect storm” candidate for the moment: not only did she personify the Establishment, the long, distorted narrative of her life and career made her the perfect foil for at least half a dozen paranoiac conspiracy narratives. Every corner she cut, whether at the State Department or the Clinton Foundation, was seized as another example of perfidy and unaccountability. Were the emails bullshit? Yeah, for the most part. Or, to hit that from another direction, if you don’t believe that most government officials are “small-c” corrupt in roughly the same way, hey, that’s your choice. I just think you’re naïve.

There’s more, of course, and there will be more down the road. Half the country has four years of very, very angry typing ahead. Before wrapping this up, I want to pick at something that I haven’t yet seen fleshed out and, in one particular sense, acknowledged. Of all the terrifying, shitty things Trump said on the campaign trail, for me, none tops this (shit; word salad; can’t find a clean quote):
“’Study over things,’ Trump advised his rally crowd Tuesday. ‘Don't go for the mainstream media.’
 “’Good news,’ Trump added, ‘most of them won't be around for much longer in my opinion. They're going down.’”
Trump directs his fans to the Internet for the same reason that the Soviets published Pravda. And, in an irony that’s entirely apt for this new fucked-up world, people absolutely incensed by the idea of bias now enthusiastically go “study over things” on sites that pedal just another kind of bias. All these bold, independent thinkers will now get their news from what amounts to a government organ.

But here’s the thing I don’t think people have fully internalized. Say a recession hits, one lead by the markets getting spooked by Trump, and one further deepened by, say, the promised jobs not showing up, a collapse in consumer confidence, etc. Trump will tell his followers, and the country at large, that this is nothing more or less than “international bankers” trying to thwart his presidency. And he will have outlets to pump that line and, as we’ve seen, tens of millions of people will buy it. The mainstream media will push back, along with the Left, but – here’s what people either forget or don’t want to admit – large numbers of Trump supporters, and Republicans generally, discount anything from certain outlets. In a sense, then, Trump has created an information loop, and a space for pedaling it (again, the internet), that has at least short-term potential to shield him from all fault. Failing that, it provides him the bullhorn to direct the fault to others. That’s certainly how the campaign panned out.

And that’s the final troubling thought. Everything about not just Trump’s campaign, but his career as a whole, features him covering up his failures, whether by lies, bankruptcies, lawsuits, or all three. Given that, it is entirely reasonable to assume that he will hide his failures – which are now America's failures – for as long as possible. Think the housing market crash, or the crisis in the banks, only with a still-longer government cover-up. And, again, when he fails, he’ll do absolutely everything in his power to direct all the blame to anyone but himself. We, the American people, are now his “investors.” And barring a miracle – and, hell yes, I pray I’m wrong about all the above – we’ll all be left holding the bag, just like his investors.

The United States of America has elected a sociopathic con-man. There is a chance this will pan out, but, as people keep pointing out, there’s a reason why Trump didn’t release his tax returns.

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