Donald Trump has been elected president. There, I’ve said it, acknowledged it, realized that it’s the political reality we have to deal with for the next four years.
What I am unwilling to do, however, is passively accept actions that threaten the foundations of our democracy or look the other way when his administration tramples the basic rights of Americans because of the color of their skin, their religion, their national origin or personal lifestyle. I haven’t–and won’t–change my opinion that Trump is totally unqualified by temperament, experience and values to be president. I won’t forget his appeals to prejudice and to the worst instincts of people. Nor will I forget those voters who supported him despite his ugly campaign.
I will also recall the trashing by the Republican Party of a long history of political norms that treated the opposition party as legitimate. In the past, election victors exercised some degree of self-restraint when in office because majority status was unlikely to be a permanent condition.
The unprecedented decision by Senate Republicans to take no action for nearly a year on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court reduces politics to total warfare and doesn’t bode well for the future. That Trump will take office with over 100 federal court vacancies, twice the number which existed when Obama took office, demonstrates the same intransigence.
In a series of actions even more extreme, North Carolina Republicans rejected the will of voters in that state by stripping away many of the executive powers of the incoming Democratic Governor. That was just the latest example of increasingly tyrannical measures by Republican majorities following the enactment of laws to disenfranchise minorities and the extreme gerrymandering of legislative districts.
Before the Trump Administration is sworn in, it’s worth remembering how Congressional Republicans strategized from before Day One of the Obama Presidency to thwart his agenda. Even when he offered proposals that had long been supported by Republicans, that party turned to total unrelenting opposition. Republicans were willing to paralyze the functioning of government rather than see the Obama administration succeed at anything. In that vein, it will be instructive to see how they deal with deficits under a Republican president.
We hear a lot of pious admonitions that Trump is president of all the American people, that we should all wish him to succeed, that we should give him a chance before criticizing him. Let’s for argument’s sake ignore the rank hypocrisy of those calls.
At this point, we already know several things about the new president. First, and of particular significance, we know that we can’t rely on anything he says. Trump lied constantly during the campaign. He has already contradicted and repudiated many of his promises and has made clear that they were said just for political effect.
His staff is frequently clarifying his remarks and tweets. And in the most outrageous explanation for his failure to communicate clearly or honestly, we are told that it’s our fault for not understanding what he really means and for taking him literally.
That pattern has continued during the transition. In fact, it’s become increasingly clear that many of his tweets are intended to distract and confuse, not to clarify or explain.
We also know that his appointees include a large number of extreme ideologues. For voters who were skeptical about Trump’s candidacy but were willing to look for hopeful signs, two of his expressed positions–safeguarding Medicare and Social Security and plans for major infrastructure projects–were encouraging. Based on the people he has selected for key positions, those promises are looking a lot like empty campaign rhetoric.
With so many indications that the words of his campaign can only be understood as metaphorical suggestions about how he will govern, there is one constant, one unaltered piece of the puzzle. Trump is the same undisciplined, shoot from the lip person he showed himself to be before November 8. He has demonstrated little interest in educating himself, avoids complexity and nuance in favor of bumper sticker solutions and continues to reveal that he is incredibly thin-skinned and self-absorbed. His obsession with Alec Baldwin’s SNL’s skits shows a remarkably insecure person.
The picture of the coming Trump presidency that has emerged so far leaves me wondering exactly what I should be getting over. Everything he has done so far convinces me that I need to be incredibly vigilant, that I need to be even more politically active and that I need to encourage others to do the same. I only hope that there are enough other people in this country who feel the same way so that we can together keep the lights burning brightly in what looks like it could be a very dark time.