On Trump

Four years ago, a friend and I were smoking cigars in the Helmand desert, waiting to hear from the United States.  The very real results of foreign policy surrounded us—hundreds of British and Danish troops, a memorial to the SF medic killed in the first fight for Gereshk, the buzz of drones and screech of jets overhead.  If you’ve never been to Afghanistan, to Helmand, it has the general ambiance of the apocalypse.  Yet that election never felt apocalyptical:  Obama won, which is what I sought; a Romney win would have made me sad, and that’s about it.

Trump is different.  Trump feels like the apocalypse.  Huge truths I have foolishly believed in are being torn down.  Trump’s hands are bloody, and he has sacrificed all that is good and right for power.  And now I have to understand it.  I never have to come to terms with it, but I do have to understand what may have fatally poisoned the country I love.

First, Trump voters have to own the hate.  Terrible, insipid articles are crawling out from the darkness now as the media tries to normalize a vote for Trump.  I’ve read a few—the Muslim-American who voted for Trump (the article contains precious few reasons), the ex-Bernie Bro who “just couldn’t,”—give me the articles on the real Trump voter, not these sideshows.  The rich, white, and slightly empowered.  I want to hear their reasons…Because “you have become responsible forever, for what you have tamed.”  You heard Trump call Mexicans rapists, you heard Trump insult women, you heard Trump invoke mass killings and violence—and you followed for what?  To shake up the system?  Because you disliked Hillary?  If you disliked Hillary, why not vote for a third-party?  Johnson promised something different, and he never tweeted racist memes or called human beings “dogs.”  But you didn’t, you voted Trump.  So if you say, “I’m not a racist, and I voted for Trump,” that may be true, but you implicitly through your vote supported hate, and that is scarier to me than the out-and-out racist.  That’s how you slip.  You become inured to injustices perpetrated on the other, because it’s not you.  It’s not your family.  You lose your moral compass, you compromise your values for expediency.

In my vote for Hillary, I recognize the compromise I made.  I knew how close she hewed to Wall Street.  I know she voted for the Iraq War—and that hurt.  But she was obviously prepared to be the President.  She had always done her homework.  She had to work harder than any male, especially a white guy, simply to receive a temporary guest pass to the club.  As someone who appreciates intelligence and hard work, I respected her.  And I will always vote against fascism.

But now we live in Trump’s America, and I feel lost.  I have represented the United States three times in my life because I always believed the promise of a better world.  That we can be the “shining city on the hill” that includes everyone.  That the American dream is welcoming of all—and we can do the hard work to make sure that the door opens wider to include immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ—the tired, the poor, the dispossessed.  Trump is the closing of that door.  Oh, as a white male I can certainly still enter, but without the people I care about—and what sort of party waits for me on the other side?

Now, we are beginning to hear from the media.  How this outcome was inevitable.  How the Democrats have abandoned rural voters.  How we have to listen and reach out and heal.  Unfortunately, numbers don’t support that.  2 percentage points separates a Trump victory from a Clinton one.  That’s not some undeniable truth that the right understood the grievances of America, but that the left either didn’t vote, or didn’t understand the vote.

Those 2 points…they will haunt us for years.  And within the hand wringing and recriminations of the current “acceptance” crowd, they seem to ignore those 2.  How many voters just couldn’t see a woman president?  How did the gutting of the Voting Rights Act affect those 2?  How do years and years of gerrymandering change the game?

I don’t want to put the blame on the left—there are already too many columnists doing this, and asking us to figure it out…in Trump’s America, onus is always on the victim.  We have had failures—we cluster in large cities in blue states, we rely on demographics, we have lost the “working man’s” vote, we believe in a false meritocracy that strips power from many.  Some of these will not change—no one who has moved to Seattle or San Francisco is going to move back to Indiana or Ohio…show me how that will change under a Trump presidency?  Show me the game-changing entrepreneurs who want to leave the critical mass of ideas, technology, and financial support, for Alabama.

America’s strength of economy is built on services and entrepreneurship.  And entrepreneurs cluster.

But we have also been implicit in the demonizing of unions.  An alliance with Wall Street and business means we accept “right to work” as meaning workers’ rights.  We gutted unions; the same unions that used to be the stalwart of support for uneducated (academically) workers.  Trump offered nothing to these underserved who had agreed long ago to let their protections slip away as we worshiped at the altar of “job creation,” but he did give them something to blame—migrants, political correctness, people of color.  Democrats must re-engage unions and begin to fight for their rights again, instead of simply bowing before corporations.  Billionaire techies and financial wizards may talk as if they are friends of the left, but their actions must reflect it.  We must reforge the left as representative of our views, instead of simply a vessel laden with both our precious and precarious rights and outsize interests.

We have to stop buying this narrative of the “poor Trump voter.”  It is dangerous and doesn’t acknowledge facts.  The dispossessed in Kentucky may have voted for Trump, but so did the possessed.  They wanted to keep what was theirs in that unique form of American individualism that screams, “THIS IS MINE!”  How can America be the sum of its parts when we all believe we are each uniquely responsible for and possessive of our part?

I take some relief in Trump’s ineffectiveness as a leader.  He has already shown his willingness to appoint the exact same lobbyists and revolving door flunkies that so many who voted for him despise.  He fires those who disagree with him; he can’t actually cut deals.  His version of populism falls apart when called upon to govern.  He will surround himself with sycophants, true, but even so, his temperament will unfold like a Shakespearean tragedy.  God willing, it does not take down the rest of the country with it.

But to ensure his failure, we have to fight.  The right blocked Obama at every turn.  We must challenge our leaders to do the same.  Don’t ask me to embrace the change and normalize this hate-filled President.  He is awful as a person—the most telling for me is his lack of pets: Can you see Trump with a dog?  His lack of curiosity about the world is antithetical to me as one who has spent so much time trying to understand it.  We have to fight Trump.  We block him.  We disavow and disallow him to set the narrative.  We force the press to dig at him.  We challenge at every turn the disinformation of the right.

And in two years, and in four years, we don’t try to fight hate with policy.  We fight it with emotion.  We energize a base that felt it had few options.  We change the percentage of non-voters from 44% to 20%.  We pay attention in the mid-terms. We remember and make sure others remember.

And perhaps we have a discussion on the imperial Presidency—a construct of the modern era.  A creation more empowered by rigid partisan divide—if you can’t create coalitions or make legislature happen, it becomes easier to use the office.  Perhaps we view Trump as a return to the figureheads of the mid 1800s…

But don’t tell me to understand his followers.  When you become desensitized to hate, you begin to accept what comes with your Trump vote.  You accept the unacceptable.  You accept that women are objects, that minorities are not a part of the United States, that you are the kid who rolled up the rope ladder to the treehouse.  You may not be the bully, but you are the kids who ringed the fight.

Last year, I jumped out of our car to break up a beating.  The loser was on the ground getting kicked.  Both men were bloody, knives were mentioned, and we called the police.  Who was right was a murky situation at best, but I cannot stand silently by and watch the downtrodden getting kicked in the ribs.  I never could.  We may all of us have to jump out of the car when we see hate.  When we see persecution.  When we see bullying and intimidation.

Welcome to Trump’s America.  Don’t embrace it.  Fight it.

4 thoughts on “On Trump

Add yours

    1. Unfortunately, you don’t know me, but I definitely care about avoiding the echo chamber. My life has always been about listening to other points of view and trying to understand the reasoning behind it.
      David Wright’s article was on point, and proffered wisdom. All of his points are valid. But the Trump voter must also accept as valid that their support for those issues includes an implicit support for the hatred Trump has espoused. No, I do not think all of his supporters are racist or fascist…but that mild acceptance of racism and fascism is much more frightening to me than the open hatred of a Klan member.
      Wright makes a good argument that we should call out real fascism when we see it. Not simply assigning it to with whomever we don’t agree. Otherwise you undermine the recognition of real fascism. Real racism. Real hate.
      And the Democrats do have to change the manner in which they function–you can see I said that in speaking about unions and separating the party from corporate masters.
      But you also have to make peace with your vote and what it represents, and to whom…
      I’m always happy to engage in a dialogue–it’s the whole reason behind America–but there are standards of decency and love that Trump ignored or actively worked against. But, in an honest attempt to help understand–what would be your solution? How could liberals win you over in the next four years? What would it take?

      1. “How could liberals win you over in the next four years? What would it take?”

        Comments like Elizabeth Warren made regarding the fact that Democrats need to listen to what people are saying about economic realities is a start.

        To be honest, though … trying to be tactful here, forgive me if I don’t fully succeed … progressives are coming across as “I believe in tolerance and equality above all things … as long as it’s you expressing tolerance to my viewpoint and not the other way around and it’s you agreeing that anything I say needs to be done defines granting equality.”

        Scolding people for any word they happen to speak wrong simply is not going to win anyone over.

        Take Trump’s initial statements about the Mexican immigrants. Yes, it was a poorly worded statement. Hard to interpret. Hearing it repeated over and over that he’s a racist for calling all Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers makes me roll my eyes and seriously undermines my opinion of the person saying that. Seeking the worst possible interpretation of anyone’s words doesn’t help anyone, imo.

  1. I think you’re raising a valid point regarding economic issues. Nevada was one of the states hardest hit in the Recession, but has long worked on trying to diversify its economy (against the mining and gambling interests). Reno is booming thanks to investment in change that, I believe, started way back in the Kenny Guinn days–Tesla’s investment not only rode the backs of tax-free zones but also the increased skills and capacity of the workforce due to a major increase in the availability of affordable college through the Millennium Scholarship. By demonstrating actual change, and the benefits of education and a diverse economy, the liberal left was kept in and expanded by Nevada voters. The challenge is how to do that in West Virginia or Michigan, where investments haven’t been made in diversifying the economy from extractive industries or low-value manufacturing.
    And the stridency on the left may also disallow some conversations to happen–which is unfortunate, and dissuades the argument in places that could be winnable for liberals. Changing the conversation away from “This is right,” and focusing on fairness and equanimity I think appeals to a rural base, one that can recognize the shared values of all.
    I think that is where you are hearing the anger from the left–that we are discovering our values aren’t shared. But its also very easy for me to say that because I have always been accepted in America. I am a cis-gender, able-bodied, hetero white male–I have never been denied the American experience, nor felt that my identity was threatened. I feel comfortable in the majority of American bubbles–I can wander the halls of academic elitism in DC and go bird-hunting in eastern Montana without worry for myself.
    There is a good article circulating right now about the opposite bubbles–not that of leftist elitism, but the bubble of small hometowns. Both these bubbles exist. Its easy to “Otherize” people you don’t know or don’t see if you stay in Ekalaka, Montana. The “special snowflake” works in both directions. To get out and explore the world and try to take in the billions of people living their unique lives is an important aspect of enriching and improving the American experience–one that starts with empathy.
    I’ve read your blog, and think you make some good arguments with regards to reason and logic. I think you’re being a little disingenuous regarding Trump’s comments–Trump has repeatedly used the language of hate and mistrust throughout the campaign. But I did hear an interesting analogy the other day: If you want to buy HBO, and you call your cable provider. They tell you they have the HBO-Cinemax package. You don’t want Cinemax. You want HBO. But to get HBO, you have to have Cinemax. You can’t deny that you have Cinemax, despite not wanting it. Think of this in terms of Trump and the baggage he brings.
    Now, the onus is on Trump supporters to force him to reject that baggage. He won the Presidency, and if it was exigency that espoused hate, now is the time to reject that hate. Will you hold him to account? Because that is all of our jobs now–to hold our President to a higher standard that represents our better angels.
    But we absolutely can have a new conversation in America on how to bring together values that support all, and focus on extending economic benefits for all in a rapidly changing economy.
    Would that have changed your vote? A focus on how to better create and share the benefits of globalization and new sectors of the American economy across class and location?

    And, interested in your thoughts, how do we–as a people–generate faith in the press? In this election, moreso than any I can remember (I’ve voted in 5 Presidential elections, and 9 midterms–and lost count of the smaller elections and questions in between), fact-free news became commonplace currency. That’s dangerous, because I’ve seen what that does in foreign countries.

    Also, how do we drum up interest in non-Presidential elections? People should not be asked to participate in democracy only every 4 years, but should be active in all aspects of the American experiment. I have trouble voting 3rd-party because rarely have 3rd party candidates put the work into local and state elections, showing they can govern beyond a national stage. I think Bernie had it right when he challenged his supporters not to simply fall back into the weeds, but to create the change they want to see in their local elections. And perhaps it is in these smaller elections where there can be more discourse–people are more informed of those issues that affect them, and that can free them from political rancor that overshadows real policy…thoughts?

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