Here’s the deal that could save The Donald:
Trump should call up Chuck Schumer — or better yet, publicly tweet him. The president should tell the Senate minority leader that he really does not want to get into a nasty, filibuster-y confrontation with a nuclear option and whatnot. To avoid this, he will voluntarily withdraw the nomination of his Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch and re-nominate Barack Obama’s own Merrick Garland — on the condition that Senate Democrats agree to vote for Gorsuch when Trump re-nominates him, which he will pledge to do on the occasion of the next Court vacancy. Conveniently for Trump, this vacancy would likely materialize as soon as Garland failed to be confirmed by a Republican Senate. But even if Garland somehow got through, the deal would still work for Trump.
What, you ask, am I smoking? Do I not realize that Trump owes his presidency in no small part to a Republican right that was palpably energized by the death of Antonin Scalia, and that would have a collective coronary at the very thought of such a move? (Didn’t I in fact emphasize Trump’s debt to the right wing in a profile of Kellyanne Conway that appears in the April issue of Elle magazine, on your newsstands now…?) Am I so blind that I can’t see how such a call would unite movement and moderate conservatives against the president, as surely as the GOP health-care bill failed to unite them for him? And looking at it from the other side, am I so naive as to believe that even if Trump were to make such an offer, Democrats — emboldened as they are by that health-care fiasco — would even entertain it, let alone honor it?
Points all taken, but think about it.
To recap: Garland is a well-known moderate jurist who could conceivably have been nominated by a president of either party. Because he was nominated by a Democrat, Senate Republicans blocked him, citing imaginary grounds that Obama was in his last year of office and therefore somehow stripped of executive authority vis-a-vis the Supreme Court. This infuriated Democrats but should have infuriated everyone. Now, Senate Democrats are poised to do anything and everything they can to block Gorsuch — and thanks to the sinister stylings of Mitch McConnell and his Screw-Democracy Band, they have unassailable, wholly non-ideological reason to do so.
I didn’t vote for Trump but do accept that as president, he is entitled to his own Court picks. I will, however, be damned if Republicans are going to be allowed to deny that same right to Obama simply by having stuck their fingers in their ears and gone “lalalalala” until the clock ran out on his second term. I’ll be double-damned if I’m going to sit still for that while also taking regular right-wing lectures on the sacrosanctity of the constitution.
Granted, I’ll be triple-damned if I’m going to vote for Trump in 2020 no matter what he does short of shucking his whole personality and reversing all his policies. This leads to the question of what's in it for Trump to pull a self-checking stunt like this. Would swapping out Gorsuch for Garland somehow redeem Trump in the eyes of his enemies? Would it cleanse any of his top two hundred sins, from the unreleased tax returns to the budget from hell, with so very many in between?
Absolutely not. But here’s what it would do:
It would instantly, clearly and substantively set Trump apart from the Washington Establishment in whose defiance he was elected — and do so in the course of demonstrating far greater respect for the institutions of democracy than that Establishment itself has done. It would thus force a wide cross-section of critics to admit that on this occasion, if on no other, Trump had gotten one very big thing very right. (Even if Gorsuch did end up being the next Supreme Court justice, the sheer act of the Senate's going through the motions with Garland would destroy the evil precedent of denying any nominee the advise-and-consent process -- a worthy undertaking, with which Schumer and Trump would both do well to be associated.) It would trigger an avalanche of shocked-yet-not-horrified mainstream media coverage, which Trump both needs and craves, no matter what he says. It would reassure Trump Democrats that despite all early indications, their hero is not trapped under a large object labeled “Heritage Action,” but is actually capable of thinking and acting like the free agent they thought he was. This, in turn, could check the free fall of his approval ratings.
At a moment when Democrats have every reason to think that their fortunes lie simply in auto-thwarting all things Trump, they would have to think again. And just by getting a tiny handful of Democrats to consider working with him on a tiny handful of things, Trump would lessen his total dependence on his Republican majority to get anything done — a dependence that hasn’t been working out so well for him lately.
Of course, the stunt would also enrage Congressional Republicans and grass roots activists. But what are the House and Senate folks going to do to their president? Block the tax-reform legislation they’re writing for him? Threaten to quit coming through for him the way they’ve been doing? As for the activists, sure, they could abandon the guy who, in every other instance, is turning out to be the man of their anti-abortion, anti-regulation, anti-social-spending, pro-gun, the-hell-with-diversity dreams. But then what? A primary for the president? A let-him-lose-to-the-left approach to the general election?
I swear: I haven’t been smoking a thing. I know that Trump will never make any such deal. As someone who prays that he is headed for a Democratic Congress in 2018 and defeat in 2020, I hope he doesn’t. But for his own sake, he should.
How about a day without blowhards?
This is probably not the intended takeaway from last Wednesday’s “Day Without A Woman,” but it is the first thought I woke up with on Thursday.
Maybe this was due to the last thing I read the night before. It was an opinion piece in The New York Times headlined “Why Women Are On Strike.” That headline grabbed me, because although it was almost midnight coming out of the day America had (kind of) gone female-free, I still was not sure why it had (sort of) done so.
Not that I didn’t have some good guesses. After all, I had spent my whole adult life happily embracing the “feminist” label and feeling chronically mystified by voting, paycheck-collecting, jury-serving, mortgage-qualifying women who reject it. I had spent this past election cycle and its aftermath horrified by the implications of a Trump presidency for women — as distinct from, as well as in addition to, men — and thus counted myself eager to mitigate those. In the same scattershot, NPR-while-driving-kids way in which many women scrape together their sense of what’s happening, I had spent the weeks leading up to this strike catching bits and pieces of its rationale.
The most frequently cited sentiment seemed to be something about highlighting how valuable women are to the economy by withdrawing their participation in it for a day — which, to be honest, did hit me as a lose-lose proposition: either women would really strike and suck all that money and labor out of the economy, thus hurting no one more than themselves — or women wouldn’t really strike, and would instead do things like wear red to work, or take days off that they were entitled to anyway, or exercise extra purchasing power on the days before and after the day of boycott, in which case…big whoop. But, in fairness, I hadn’t really informed myself about the strike, so I didn’t have a clear view.
Neither, to go by what they told the Times, did the organizers.
Not that one could even be totally sure what the organizers had, in fact, organized. Prior to reading this article, I did not know that the "women's strike" was "in solidarity with" the "Day Without A Woman", but otherwise unaffiliated with it. But the rhetoric of the two sound just like each other, and the stated goals of one are as vast in number and scope as the goals of the other, so I forgive myself for being one of the 99.9 per cent of American women who conflate them.
Anyway, the Times story went that the U.S. strike was, in part, inspired by a strike that Polish women had previously called, in response to anti-abortion legislation: i.e., a specific focal point of outrage, which sparked an action that carried a clear message for those in power who cared to heed it and a measurable threat to those who ignored it. Now, that's a strike.
Also cited was a less specific, but still relatively targeted, action taken in Argentina in response to violence against women.
In the U.S., though, the woman-train added a whole big economics car. As the Times put it: "Ultimately, the goal of the strike is to build a movement of women who agree that the wellbeing of a society stems from affordable child care and health care and an equal living wage."
Great! I'm all for that!
Not that any of these actions are going to make any of those three any more likely to happen. For if the strike(s) were serious about achieving those excellent but vertiginously difficult goals, they would let up a little on the reproductive-rights piece, so as to harness the support of the millions of pro-life women who would eat their laundry for affordable child care, health care and a decent wage. Nope! It's pedal-to-the-metal on the whole liberal feminist agenda -- which happens, in very large part, to be my own agenda. Perhaps that is why I get so frustrated that we keep torching the whole thing in the name of a truly pointless purity. Then again, by now, this tendency is so familiar to me, it's almost comforting. It's like sugary breakfast cereal: I know it's bad, but I've been eating it since 1978, so it's home.
Besides, if any of the bricks in the old women's-rights monolith were to loosen, we might actually have to move out of the dream stage and into the sausage-making of real progress. As Paul "repeal-and-replace" Ryan can tell you, that is no fun at all.
No fear of that, though:
“The language of feminism in recent years has been used to talk about ‘Lean In’ feminism,” strike organizer Tithi Bhattacharya told the Times. “We do not want a world where women become C.E.O.s, we want a world where there are no C.E.O.s, and wealth is redistributed equally.”
OK, then, let's recap: That strike last Wednesday was not about being a woman, or about being a pro-choice woman, or even about being a pro-choice, redress-practical-systemic-economic-injustice-for-all-women woman. It was also about being an anti-Sheryl Sandberg, pro-communist and completely unrealistic woman. I’ve never in my life been so glad not to have had anything red and clean to wear on a day.
“Oh for crying out loud,” I thought, “I’m going to bed.”
Then I awoke with my one brief, shining thought: a day without blowhards.
Immediate inspiration aside, my vision is not merely of a day without kinda-sorta Marxist-y self-defeating feminist blowhards. I mean anti-feminist blowhards too. And rabid right-wing blowhards, I’m-still-with-her blowhards, God-save-the-republic-from-transgender-kids-trying-to-urinate-in-peace blowhards…..this action will be nothing if not inclusive of all blowhards.
Blowhards of all races, ethnicities, genders and ideologies: just for one day, deprive the culture of your increasingly massive contributions to it. Stay home. Stay off social media. Stay silent.
If you think that Hillary Clinton belongs in jail, or that Jeff Sessions is worse than Hitler, or that Barack Obama was the second coming of Christ, or that Barack Obama was the anti-Christ…keep those thoughts to yourself.
Vagina posters, pink pussy hats, RINO hunter mugs, Hillary ball-busting nutcrackers…. From midnight to midnight on this one calendar date, all that crap shall be shoved into the closet on pain of owner being locked in said closet with a hostile Facebook feed.
Fox News, MSNBC, Breitbart, HuffPo…feel free to party like it’s 1989 and you don’t exist.
Meanwhile, nice, normal people who can still hold a civil conversation: come out, come out, wherever you are! This is your day to be heard, seen, embraced — or left the hell alone, as many of you undoubtedly crave.
Candidly, as the founder and sole spirit of Day Without Blowhards, I’ve been having a heated sartorio-philosophical argument with myself. Half of me wants to encourage participating Nice Normal People to wear whatever they damn well please, including a lapel adornment that is totally void of moral significance. The other half of me wants to call upon NNP’s to put on a ratty old cardigan. Ideally, that cardigan would be gray, in celebration of that blessed neutral’s gentle refusal to get in anyone’s face. Also, gray is well known for having many, many shades in every realm of life outside the hissy-fit fiesta that has been passing for our politics. As for the ratty old cardigan, there's nothing more comforting -- and what nice, normal person isn't feeling in need of comfort these days?
Whatever you end up wearing, NNP’s, you won’t need to go into the street. But on this day, you can walk down it without being called a snowflake, a libtard, a racist or an Islamaphobe. If you voted for Hillary Clinton but believe that there are real lessons to be learned from the election of Donald Trump, try to come up with a slogan for that and chant away! If you voted for Trump but have become concerned about one or more aspects of his performance as president, go ahead and say so without fear that you are going to be stoned to death in a hail of four-lettered I-told-you-so’s.
Apologies in advance to those who feel they must paint every issue in terms of heroes and villains. This will be one day when we can all admit that almost nobody is either. Go ahead and give a doughnut of thanks to a police officer and to the most conscientious member of your local Civilian Review Board; as a reality-based movement, Day Without Blowhards recognizes that of course, we need them both.
DWB recognizes, too, that in real life, compromise is a natural, necessary feature of a functional democracy, and that it is a form of practical patriotism, not moral treason, to seek it. If you’re a liberal who’s worried about the lefty groupthink that is highjacking free speech on some college campuses, or a conservative who’s appalled by the bigotry-based violence and intimidation that is roaming so freely in our land, set yourselves down on that patch of common ground and have a picnic. Likewise for Democrats who know that it is stupid to talk as if Wall Street ought to be abolished, and Republicans sick of pretending that capitalism has to be allowed to run wild (except where corporations need a little help from their elected friends) or else it's not capitalism at all. And so on...
On the DWB, ignorance will not be bliss, but dimwit partisan talking points will not be allowed to pass for knowledge. We will endeavor to counter, and not reward, the tendency for the people who know the least about trade, immigration and health-care policy to shout the loudest about them. Granted, complexity should not serve as an excuse for letting a sleeping morass lie. But nor should brute oversimplification keep getting mistaken for “telling it like it is.”
Finally, like all self-respecting Days Without, the DWB will aim to ignite — or rather, gently nudge along — a movement far beyond itself. While marches and protests seek to muster troops for longer-term political fights, the DWB will try to set the stage for longer-term political discourse. Our country is currently riven by so many difficult and defining questions. The DWB is for people who believe that the thorniest parts of those questions should not be shouted down, drowned out, or fantasized away but clearly raised and thoroughly -- and respectfully, even kindly -- debated. It will take a lot more than one day to do that.
Don’t worry, blowhards! Your day of silence will be just that: one day. We all know that as of 12:01 a.m. the morning after, you’ll all be back, louder and more loaded for bear than ever. But for just 24 hours, the rest of the country will get a word in edgewise. Nice, normal people will be able to hear each other in the absence of the newly-normal national caterwauling. And from one midnight to another, we shall have nothing to demonize but demonization itself.
It's been a while. Anything going on in America these days?
I know there are at least one or two things, upon which I shall soon opine in this neglected space.
Meanwhile, I have been working on a profile of the Kellyanne Conway for Elle magazine.
Edited by the brilliant and patient Lisa Chase, the piece will appear in the April issue, but if you would like to have a look at the online version, please do:
Never mind the election returns in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Their being recounted is almost certain to make no difference in the outcome of the presidential race — and if by some 2016-bizarro chance they do make a difference, we’ll all know soon enough.
Meanwhile, the returns on which the entire country needs to focus are Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Remember those? The tax returns he kept saying he couldn’t release because they were under audit but the I.R.S. kept saying that he could? He needs to release them right now.
Everyone needs to pressure the president-elect to do this, and I do mean everyone: Trump’s inner circle, his outer circle; his friends in Congress, his foes in Congress; mainstream media, consciousness-stream media, Field and Stream media; the social network and the anti-social network; the few who comprise the Electoral College and the many who despise the Electoral College; individuals who voted for Trump, individuals who voted against him, and individuals who did not vote at all; those who love him dearly and those who hate him passionately; his ex-wives, his current wife, and all his children, including little Barron.
This is a pathetically modest demand. I am not calling on everyone to call on Trump to liquidate his businesses entirely — even though I do think that if he could not fathom doing so, he should never have run in the first place. I am, however, informed by counsel that timely and total divestiture could be undoable, legally and otherwise. If so, it is hardly worth calling for. And even if liquidation were feasible, insistence upon it would lead to a big, convoluted discussion over what that process should look like — and thus muffle the cry for the one simple action that absolutely can, should and must be taken immediately.
Nor am I (yet) calling on everyone to call on Trump to build the wall that America actually needs to have built: the wall between his private businesses and his public role. That barrier must be constructed, but there is a real risk of slapping up something worse than useless. For example, I was thinking that Trump should be obliged to submit a conflict-removal plan subject to “bipartisan Congressional approval” but just typing that felt like pouring glue down the throat of governance. So it is worth taking some time to get that right.
Trump’s tax returns, by contrast, are done. They have long since been filed. They should have been produced long ago. There is no reason on God’s green earth why the president-elect cannot produce them now.
However belated, this disclosure would serve not only the country, but Trump himself.
Having spent an entire campaign riding the wave of the nation’s mistrust of Hillary Clinton, Trump should be very wary of drowning in its mistrust of him. To a greater degree than any president-elect in history, he is asking Americans to believe that his presidency will not get tangled up in the web of his business activities. That would be a big ask even if there were not millions of non-Trump voters who would not believe the president-elect's statement of his own name.
At this beleaguered point, there are also millions of non-Trump voters who would love to give Trump at least some benefit of the doubt. But if he can’t come clean on something as straightforward as a tax return, why should they do any such thing?
In light of the GOP's relentless attacks on the morals and ethics of both Clintons, this is an especially valid question.
Clinton critics fumed that no matter how consensual, Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky would have gotten him fired if he were president of a college rather than president of the United States — and they were right.
Clinton critics howled that Huma Abedin should not have taken a job with Teneo Holdings while simultaneously serving as a close aide to the Secretary of State — and they were right.
With all the “pay to play” smoke that swirled between the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s State Department, no one has ever found any real fire in terms of connections between Foundation donors and State Department favors. But Clinton critics raged that those connections should never have been so much as hinted at, even if the favor in question was just a meeting and the meeting was never held — and they were right.
Now the incoming commander-in-chief is laden with conflicts, actual and potential, that dwarf all of the above. But he doesn’t have to spell out what millions he has exchanged with whom for what?
The more one despises Trump and dreams of his impeachment, the less agitated one needs to be about the whole issue of financial disclosure — because the longer Trump skirts it, the more it stands to blow up in his face.
Conversely, the more one reveres Trump and envisions his signature scowl on Mt. Rushmore, the more one ought to be pressing him on this point.
It is a point much larger than loot.
The presidency should be honor and burden enough for any human being for as long as he or she holds the office. By clinging so tightly to his business life and all its secrets, Trump radiates the sense that our nation’s highest office is not enough for him.
I don’t care if Jill Stein’s recount triples his margin of victory.
If Donald Trump cannot bring himself to release his tax returns, he is unfit to be President of the United States. If Americans right, left and center cannot unite in exhorting him to do so, then we are unfit to be citizens.
First things first: In my view, Breitbart-bête-turned-White-House-chief-strategist-designate Steve Bannon deserves to be vilified by Americans across the ideological spectrum as an opportunistic hatemeister whom it is wrenching to see at the right hand of the President-elect of the United States.
Given, however, that Bannon is already taking so much heat over the bigotry, I think it’s very much worth a cooler look at him solely on the level of strategy.
As Bannon sees it, all the condemnation he’s getting does nothing but serve him. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan,” he recently told Michael Wolff in the Hollywood Reporter. “That’s power.”
As I see it, it also gives him way too much credit. Based on Wolff’s piece, I am not at all sure that Bannon is smart enough to be Satan.
Admittedly, this was not my first reaction to that piece. My first reaction was “Oh my God, Bannon’s the only one who really had the 2016 electorate all figured out! And now that he’s got the national reins, he’s going to hitch his far-right wagon to massive job creation, thus enshrining Trump as a man of the people even as he craters Wall Street reform, decimates civil rights, and institutionalizes brazen corruption at the highest levels of government!”
Then I read it again and felt much better. Not about Bannon, but about the odds that he’s just not the anti-Christ he’s cracked up to be.
First, Bannon seems to be under the impression that everyone in America just voted for Donald Trump, excepting perhaps those he has previously termed “a bunch of dykes who came from the Seven Sisters schools” and a sprinkling of doofus Silicon Valley gazillionaires. Please. As of this writing, Hillary Clinton has gotten more than a million-and-a-half more votes than Donald Trump. She has done this despite being a candidate who had several major flaws unique to herself, and despite being in the traditionally disadvantageous position of running for her party’s third consecutive White House term. If Democrats would be ill-advised to take this election result as anything short of an alarm sounded by the working class -- white and otherwise -- Republicans would be crazy to take it as a national rush order on their whole catalogue, from anti-abortionism to xenophobia. So far, Bannon sounds just that crazy.
Speaking of which: “Conservatives are going to go crazy,” our anti-hero crows, in connection with the “trillion-dollar infrastructure plan” he has in store.
Good thing Trump doesn’t need any fiscal conservatives to back his programs, then! No wait, he does need them. Doesn’t he? Maybe not. It’s all so mixed up.
Total confusion is clearly part and parcel of the new Vaderism, but once the Trump administration gets down to administrating, it might trip up even Darth himself. So what’s the path here? Is the GOP now to become the anti-trade, anti-military-intervention, big-domestic-spending party? If so, will there be designated quarries into which Republicans can dump giant chunks of their bedrock philosophy, or will they need to dig extremely deep holes in their own backyards? Alternatively, is Trump just going to chuck those GOP Establishment losers and govern as a New Deal Democrat with a social agenda to the right of the Pope’s? Are Democrats expected to fall straight in with that? If so, should they wait until dark to sneak out on the clear majority of Americans who voted for Clinton and against the notion that economic frustration is sufficient grounds to trash one’s concerns about anything else? Or can they at least say good-bye? Is the devil planning to skate past those details?
Then there’s Bannon’s gleeful anti-globalism.
“I’m an economic nationalist,” he assures the Hollywood Reporter by way of distinguishing himself from the plain old white nationalists he presumably just feeds and waters. “The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia…”
Now, unlike the marvelously anti-elitist presidential counselor-to-be, I have never gone to Harvard Business School or worked at Goldman Sachs. But in my own bachelor’s-degree, womanish way, I suspect that the weakening of the American middle class relative to the strengthening of middle classes elsewhere in the world is not quite the straightforward seesaw proposition that he depicts. Sometimes, for example, those foreign middle classes function as markets for American goods and services. Sure, on balance, the U.S. buys more than it sells. But in the process of running up that much-maligned trade deficit, Americans — not least Bannon’s forgotten, flyover-state Americans — pay a lot less for a lot of things than they otherwise would.
This adds a practical detail to the cultural picture of Team Trump in their “Great Again” America: All the men are stuck in their first marriages, Kellyanne Conway is home stirring the sauce — and only the very rich have an I-phone, a second car, or three pairs of shoes.
Insular east-coast feminista though I am, I do know that a change in the price of gasoline can sway an election. The idea that the bad parts of globalism can be stripped out of American life without sacrificing enough of the good parts to bother folks in any politically costly way is not an idea about which Satan ought to be quite so sanguine.
Last but not least, Bannon embodies the fatal smugness he so delights in deploring. Even more than the average major-upset election victor, he clearly enjoys ridiculing his opponents for having been pathetically blind and deaf to basic, common-sense realities. But here’s one true fact he seems to have missed: There is a big difference between complaining about the country and running it. The moment he is sworn in, Donald Trump will go from the voice of popular wrath to its instrument. Once president, he had better turn out to be a swiftly and shockingly deft instrument indeed. Otherwise, he’s just tomorrow’s target.
So give the aspiring devil his due. To hear him tell it, Bannon called the tune, Trump danced to it, they got enough applause from enough of a crowd in enough geographical locations to claim the presidency. But make no mistake. If they keep up with the deluded bravado on display thus far, the presidency is going to claim them.
Steve Bannon may be evil. But genius? Not so much.
If you voted for Donald Trump for any reason, you are a racist misogynist pig.
I don’t actually think that, but a fair number of people I like and respect clearly believe that I should think that, so I am trying it on.
Just didn’t like or trust Hillary? Racist misogynist pig.
Fed up with the status quo you feel she represented? Racist misogynist pig.
Frustrated that your standard of living has fallen and after eight years of Barack “hope-and-change” Obama it is still falling? Racist misogynist pig.
Habitual, single-issue super-conservative on something like abortion? Racist misogynist pig.
Female, Latino, or African-American? Self-hating racist misogynist pig.
All right then. Leaving room for the votes still being counted, this leaves us with somewhere north of 61 million racist misogynist pigs.
That’s quite a sty we’ve got going here.
I don’t mean to be flippant. I am painfully aware of the stubborn knot of bigotries that held Donald Trump’s candidacy together while tearing the country apart. Perhaps wishfully, though, I just can’t bring myself to believe that the American electorate is quite so pervasively porcine. But even — no, especially — if it is, what is the basis for believing that adopting a tone of blanket hostility toward 61 million citizens will make the racial implications of that any less troubling?
Yes, odd though it seems, it is hostility that is being widely touted as the path to healing. In Slate, among other places, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are getting blowback for “screwing up the resistance” by taking a good-faith stab at drawing some distinction between the economic-frustration strands and the racial-animus ones in the pro-Trump morass. And it’s not just Democratic leaders who are being warned off finding any common ground with Trump. The rank-and-file are also being exhorted not to find any with his supporters. All of them, several truly wonderful people on my Facebook feed have been admonishing me to cast out, all of them. As it happens, my last post headlined the exact opposite point of view, urging a widespread, heartfelt effort at some mutual understanding — so I’ve been taking a little flak, too.
Wow. If there is any feeling more bizarre to me than the feeling of waking up on November 9 to the phrase “president elect Trump”, it has got to be that of getting lectured for being insufficiently upset with those who voted for him.
Once more for the record: I loathe our president-elect and dread his inauguration. I feel a disembodied level of horror that a candidate can have made any, let alone all, of the crude and bigoted remarks that Trump has made and still become president. I would like to haul the famed anti-Clinton clique of the FBI in front of a panel of minority assault and harassment victims and make them explain this year’s 67 per cent increase in anti-Muslim attacks alone. I read tales from the transition (Bannon to the West Wing…Muslim Registry Rumored…Giuliani Might Get State) and fear that my insides will eat themselves.
Even apart from all that, I perceive Trump’s economic and foreign-policy plans, to the degree that he has any, to run the gamut from incoherent to terrifying. To me, his stated positions on social issues are just the poison-dipped cherry on top.
Yet more than sixty-one million Americans voted for him. What do we do with that?
To me, that is a hard question. For many others, apparently, it’s easy. Their answer is: realize that all Trump voters are racist misogynist pigs (see above) and leave it at that, unless and until they see the error of their ways. This poses no political problem because in the future, the reasoning goes, Democrats are never going to need any of those voters, anyway. (That seems a little optimistic, given the number of Latinos Trump pulled, so…hmmm…)
Whatever: I don’t even care about the political math yet. What I care about right now is how to be in this country. How to think about our politics going forward. How to write about it. How to explain it to my daughter. How to explain it to myself.
This brings me to a line of criticism that I sometimes used to take back in my journalism days. The criticism was that I should stop bending over backwards to explicate political figures and factions who deserved simply to be branded as plain old reprehensible, whether they were Al Sharpton boosters in Brooklyn or Muqtada al-Sadr acolytes in Baghdad. My response to that always was: How am I supposed to understand what’s happening if I make no effort to understand the people who are making it happen? How can I understand said people without talking to them? And why would they bother talking to me if I have pre-discounted the possibility that any of them might have anything of value to say?
If that was my thinking as a reporter, why shouldn’t it be my thinking as a person?
False equivalence alert: I am in no way suggesting that, for example, Jamelle Bouie’s recent pieces in Slate are just the anti-Trump side of the hate-speech-and-swastikas coin that Trump has undeniably tossed into the American air. One is evil, the other wrong-headed. But at this moment, it’s a pretty big thing on which to be wrong-headed.
Does anyone else see an irony in the fact that Democrats can be so clear-eyed on the reality that eleven million undocumented immigrants are simply too many to prosecute or deport — yet some of us can feel so confident that 61 million Trump voters aren’t too many to write off ? Our side has just been blindsided by the realization that so many people quietly pulled the lever for a candidate they did not feel they could openly support. Does anybody else question the wisdom of just shouting all those people back into the shadows?
Again, I am all for shouting at Trump supporters. Believe me, I’ve been doing plenty of it myself. The difference is, I want them to shout back — not so much loud, but clear, and with maximum detail.
Once that initial, absolutely called-for contretemps has been had, exactly what are Hillaryites of conscience supposed to do to the Trumpsters in our midst? Shun them? Declare that unless and until they disavow their votes, we are going to disavow them? Boycott their businesses? Deport them, if only in our minds?
Truly sickened as I am by the prospect of a Trump presidency, I utterly reject that approach. Some of my absolute-favorite fellow liberals embrace it. That is their right. But I can’t help but ask, in a spirit of great respect and shared heartbreak: Who does that sound like?
-Donald Trump has won the presidential election fair and square.
It pains me indescribably to say that. But in view of the protests that have unfolded across the country since Tuesday, some of my fellows in disappointment seem to be in need of hearing it. So I will say it again:
Donald Trump has won the presidential election fair and square.
Every American needs to accept this. We Americans who just have to think that thought in order to feel our insides sick-squash together like an empty beer can being crushed under a rolling tire need to accept it most of all.
We don't have to accept it with any feeling of shame. This was an upset, not a washout. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. She still lost the election, of course, and there are major lessons to be learned from how that happened. But no analyst, no matter how deep his or her state of shock -- or glee, as the case may be -- ought to be putting her performance on a par with George McGovern's 1972 total of 17 electoral votes, or Walter Mondale's 1984 loss of 49 states.
In fact, what is true in the aftermath of all American elections is triple-true of the aftermath of this freakazoid stunner of an American election. The winning team is suddenly being portrayed as a pantheon of magically wise vote-whisperers, and the losing team as bunch of tone-deaf bumblers. Sure: To the victor go the spoils, and let the alt-right rejoice. But rest assured, a good deal of the post-election populist crowing about exactly why Trump won will no doubt turn out to be as facile and wrong-headed as the pre-election expert pronouncements about why he couldn't win.
But win he did, and there is nothing all this protest is going to do about it.
Oh, wait, yes there is: Tie up traffic. Inconvenience people who may or may not even have voted for Trump. Cause injury and property damage. Expose in Trump's detractors the very qualities of intolerance and thuggery that is so throatily denounced in Trump's supporters. And worst of all, deepen the general sense that America is a nation at cultural war, rather than a nation that has just seen millions of citizens cast their votes in peace.
This is so deeply, indescribably wrong. We have been defeated, not cheated. There is such a long list of ways to channel our angst in response to the one without treating it as the other. The political ones are obvious: Let's mark our calendars for the congressional midterms in 2018, and for the slew of state and local races before that. Let's donate to, or volunteer for, organizations that work on behalf of those we fear stand to suffer under the new administration. Send Ruth Bader Ginsberg a giant case of ginseng.
But even more important -- much more important for this moment -- let's find some Trump supporters to talk to. It shouldn't be hard, there seem to be a lot of them. Let's pull our heads out of our own Facebook feeds and entertain the possibility that we have something to learn from those who have just whupped us -- who may, in turn, entertain the possibility that they have something to learn from us. (If not, the odds are good that soon enough, we will be whupping them right back.)
In recent years, on college campuses and elsewhere, liberals have promoted and conservatives have ridiculed the concept of "safe spaces" where no one can be physically or verbally attacked -- or legitimately challenged on their views as per the right to freedom of speech, take your pick. But it does seem clear that we could really use some safe spaces for frank exchanges of views on this vote, where people can say how they voted and why without getting shouted down or spat upon...even if those spaces just open up here and there, in the course of every day.
I know that versions of this are already happening on Facebook and such, but it also has to happen in real life. Whatever sparks of ugliness flew out of this campaign, it strikes me that those sparks could not have ignited such animosity absent a broader and deeper coarseness in our culture that, in turn, might not exist if millions of Americans had not become so accustomed to conducting so many "conversations" without ever having to look anyone in the eye.
It's not a series of lovefests I am advocating here. It's more like a massive number of brutally, mutually difficult debriefings. We can heal, but it's gonna hurt.
Nothing anyone says is going to shake me from my conviction that Trump should have been denied every vote on the grounds of the birther insanity alone, or my anger that Hillary Clinton was blasted to high heaven for levels and sources of income revealed on her tax return while he got away with not even producing his. But if it turns out that a huge number of voters pulled the lever for Trump mostly because they just couldn't stand Hillary, that leads to a very different interpretation than if they mainly voted for him because they think he's going to revive American manufacturing. If Trump voters agree with the president-elect that climate change is either a myth or a problem that can't hold a candle to the problem of re-employing workers in fossil-fuel-related industries, that indicates one kind of challenge for those of us who feel differently. Ditto for his stance that abortion should be entirely illegal. If many disagree with Trump on those positions but voted for him anyway, that's another.
"Don't mourn, organize." That used to be the rallying cry of optimists in moments of defeat, and soon enough its time will come again.
Not for right now, though. For right now, let's get off the streets and on the case.
Don't march. Empathize.
If Donald Trump wins the election, I will not move to Canada.
I will not slit my wrists, jump off a bridge, set myself on fire, or drink myself to death. I will not declare the election invalid, and unless it really does turn out to be too close to call, as in Florida in 2000, I will not demand a recount. At no time will l sport any T-shirt, hat, badge or bumper sticker that says any version of “Donald Trump Is Not My President” because I am an American. This means that if enough of my fellow Americans vote for him, Donald Trump will be my president.
I will, of course, wish he weren’t, and will feel a strong urge to do all the above acting-out, plus TP Trump Tower. But I will not. Instead, I will do the middle-aged-mom, post-Netflix version of what I did as a singleton in the face of any dire professional or personal outcome. I will hibernate disgustingly but fleetingly. I will soak in a red-hot bubble bath until I have granny wrinkle-toes. I will consume many pints of Talenti Caribbean Coconut gelato straight from the plastic tub while re-watching every episode of Mary Tyler Moore. I will do all this in the dark, in my fuzzy fleece sweat pants, breaking only for offspring-related emergencies and the bathroom.
All this will make me feel much worse, but eventually, somehow, also much better.
At that point — late on day two, early on day three, somewhere in there — I will brush my teeth, pull on my big-girl pants, open the door to the still-bright American sun, and declare myself Over It. I will do what I would want Republicans, pro-Trump and not, to do in the event of a Hillary Clinton victory, and open my mind at least a crack to the possibility that “President Trump” and “planetary apocalypse” might turn out not to be indistinguishably identical concepts. I will do what Republicans, pro-Trump and not, have astoundingly refused to do, and acknowledge that any President, no matter how bad his combover, has the right to nominate the Supreme Court justice of his or her choice, and to have that nominee almost certainly confirmed by the U.S. Senate. No doubt my criticisms of President Trump will be many, frequent and fierce, but I will try to keep those criticisms much more focused on what he says and does, and not who he is (let alone who he is not; i.e, a Kenya-born Muslim.)
Granted, it is hard for me even to type out this scenario. But no matter what may be going on in the pit of my stomach right now, I know that the defeat of my candidate is not the worst case scenario. The further debasement of our democracy is. In my view, to join in with any of the now-inevitable attempts by voters on the unsuccessful side of a presidential race to destroy or de-legitimize the leader of the successful side would be corrosively unpatriotic -- not to mention painfully illustrative of the word “loser.”
Then again, this time around, such efforts would also be redundant. If Tuesday ends in defeat for Hillary Clinton, none of her supporters will be able to do anything worse to the victor than he will have done to himself. After all, if Trump wins the presidency, he is going to have to be president.
For me, this could never be a fun fact. But there would, I must admit, be a poison little stinger of fun in it. If she loses, Hillary will be off the hook. Donald will be on the griddle.
Sure, at first she’ll grieve and he’ll gloat. But fast-forward six months, or even three. There’s Hillary, free to make book deals and rake in speaking fees. And Donald, obliged to explain to Rust Belt out-of-workers why he hasn’t gotten all their jobs back just by taking a red pen to Nafta. Hillary is deciding whether to go with the full spa pedicure, or just a quick toenail-touchup. Donald is butting his head against an unbuilt wall. Hillary isn’t traveling as much as she did while Secretary of State, but she still gets around globally, shining a large yet softening spotlight on the empowerment of women and girls. Donald is going around NATO, handing out invoices. Given her “first woman nominee” stature and her decades in the crucible of domestic realpolitik, Hillary still plays a very powerful role in the building of unity, strength and solvency in her party — and, not serving officially, she can play that role selectively, tailoring her activities to those deemed most helpful by herself and her fellow Democrats. Donald’s taking his very first stab at public service: trying to run the country while half his own party is working overtime to ensure he’s a blip.
For all its freakishness, a Trump victory would activate at least one deeply familiar dynamic. The moment she loses, Hillary will start doing what every national politician, including Nixon, has done upon exiting the stage: start looking better and better. Conversely, Donald will follow the path of every dreamer-turned-doer, most recently Obama, and start looking worse. Between the blaring frankness of Trump’s promises and the glaring impossibility of his ever fulfilling them, make that much worse.
How’s that for irony? If Donald Trump wins the presidency, he will have done so in no small part by vowing to “lock her up.” But in so many ways, he’ll have put himself in prison.
I, for one, will be very tempted to keep him in there, scrubbing toilets, until voters get the chance to send him home in four years -- and to support every effort on the part of Trump's foes to ensure that voters do just that. But I am going to resist those temptations, because to give in to them would be to sacrifice the good of the whole country to the political blood-thirst of my half of it.
Maybe it's just because I'm at the age where the eye doctor starts talking bifocals, but I think of the period between elections -- when leaders have to, you know, lead -- as a time of having two lenses to look through. One is the lens through which to see a president's policies purely in terms of what they might do for -- or to -- the country. The other is the lens through which to see those policies in terms of what they might do for -- or to -- that president. I find it to be nothing short of catastrophic, the extent to which those two lenses have become one.
Granted, even in my most conciliatory mood, I have trouble imagining that I would ever find many distinctions between the objective of benefiting the country and the objective of obstructing the aims of a President Trump, at least as those aims have been expressed so far. But if Trump does win, I absolutely will look for those distinctions. I will spend four years opposing my president where I must, but searching for opportunities to support him where I can. If I don't see those opportunities at first, I will squint. I will squint hard.
I am an American. Republicans, pro-Trump and not, are Americans, too.
Which brings me to my final question, and it is not meant to be rhetorical or snide. What is the GOP willing to do if tomorrow brings them defeat? Any Republicans out there, from McConnell and Ryan on down, willing to stand up and say that as of January 20, they would really and truly treat Hillary Clinton as their next president?
My fellow pro-Hillary Americans, let’s face it: this whole eleventh-hour e-mail nightmare is one hundred per cent our own candidate’s fault.
It’s not FBI Director James Comey’s fault. It’s not Donald Trump’s fault. It’s not the Republican Party’s fault. It’s not Huma Abedin’s fault, and (for once) it is not Anthony Weiner’s fault. Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton is the one who decided to have that stupid server set up in that stupid basement in that stupid house. If she had not done that, Comey and company would not have anything to do to her now. For the hundredth or thousandth time, if she had not given in to her famous instinct to hide things, she would not now be suffering from the toxic perception that she must have things to hide.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing that I can imagine Hillary Clinton having done, tried to do, or thought about doing to our country in the dark that would strike me as one-sixtieth as frightening as almost everything that her opponent — and for that matter, almost all of her opponent’s competition for the Republican nomination — routinely swear on their respective stacks of Bibles to do in broad daylight. If tomorrow those e-mails revealed Hillary Clinton to have been sexting with Anthony Weiner over their mutual lusting to quintuple NAFTA, open all our borders, and embroider the phrase “Black Lives Matter” into the underwear of every police officer in America, I would not hesitate to vote for her over the racist, sexist, Islamophobic, isolationist all-purpose blowhard ignoramus she is running against. And of course, the odds are overwhelming that in the end, those e-mails are going to reveal a whole lot of almost-nothing, like always, leaving her friends bitter; her enemies enraged; and everyone else bewildered that such brilliance and such ineptitude can have lived together in one person for such a long time.
I have always been in Group Three, plus I like NATO, so I hope Clinton gets elected in spite of this mess. In fact, I hope (against hope) that she gets a Democratic House and Senate because of it. That’s perverse, of course: Logically, this last-minute derangement should only strengthen one’s deeply American impulse to put a check on the power of the President. Unfortunately, no currently imaginable Republican Congress will provide a check on this president. They’ll tie a noose around the neck of her tenure, tighten it with a series of un-endable investigations, and proceed to hang the country. I’m against that.
Just because I am “with her”, however, I am not going to pretend that at this moment of white-hot crisis, Hillary Clinton is primarily a victim of anyone other than Hillary Clinton. None of her other supporters should pretend that, either.
It is at precisely such a moment that we most need to face our least-favorite fact. Hillary’ Clinton’s impulse toward self-shrouding — perhaps not unlike Bill’s impulse toward womanizing — is a deeply ingrained personal trait with potentially dire public consequences. Happily, those consequences can be easily avoided, if only she chooses to avoid them. Why is it so hard for this bright woman to accept a reality that she has spent her whole life creating? Being who she is and having taken the path that she has taken to where she is, Hillary needs to abandon any attempt to skirt public disclosure of anything she does other than make a poo-poo. Any such attempt will backfire. It will leak, it will fester, it will look different in the light of day.
It is incredible that coming up on forty years of life in effigy, she still needs to be convinced of this, but someone does need to convince her. Maybe it’s Chelsea, who seems to have had her head screwed on straight about goings-on at the Clinton Foundation and how they would look to everyone other than Doug Band. Maybe it’s Huma (umm…ok, probably not.) Maybe it’s her old friend Betsy Ebeling. Maybe it’s revered Methodism founder John Wesley raised from the dead, dusted off, and hauled in as a special counselor.
Then again, why not bring in some professionals? Assuming she battles through to the Oval, why not hire the president-elect a top-notch secrecy-sobriety coach? Pack her off for some true transition time at Obfuscation Anonymous. Make her write down all her often-justified resentments on little slips of paper (“Still burnt by offhand cookies-and-tea comment of 1992”…” “Did not kill Vince Foster”… “Blamed for Benghazi by a Congress that had been short-shrifting diplomatic security forever”) and toss them into the Potomac. Feng-shui the White House so that paranoid vibes flow straight down the toilet. Rejigger her cell phone so that if she dials Sidney Blumenthal, the call reroutes straight to Sean Hannity. Better yet, chuck that cell phone into the Potomac, too. George Washington got along just fine without one.
It’s not just what Clinton needs to stop doing, either. It’s also what she needs to start. As president, she needs to call a press conference a week. Give loads of long, open-ended interviews. Casually misspeak so often that all her casual misstatements get lost in the wash of each other. In short, she needs to resolve to screw up a whole lot more in public. It can’t be half as damaging to her as all the screwing up in private — or rather, screwing up solely for the futile effort to operate in private — has been.
Clinton haters like to crow that at this point, her hide-duck-dissemble routine has become an immutable trait, like eye color. Nonsense. This is absolutely something that our girl can address. If she can will herself to become the first woman president, surely she can will herself to an even more historic feat. To succeed, Hillary needs to do whatever it takes to become the first president who grows less paranoid in office, rather than more.
Step one: she has to look in the mirror, not across the aisle, for the source of her woes.
Those of us supporting her need to do the same. National politics has always been rough sport, but when did it become nothing but dueling cults of personality? Whether the issue is personal, legal, tactical, or substantive, it no longer matters what is said or done. It only matters who has said or done it. There seems to be nothing that the rank-and-file won’t rationalize on their own side, or criminalize on the other side.
Sure, it may be the case that Comey timed his letter so as to help Republicans burn Hillary at the stake, as they are predictably and pathetically eager to do. But even if so, the fact remains that by her own actions, she handed them the wood, the straw, and the match.
She’s gotta stop that. She’s gotta stop that.
What can I say? She was dressed for surgery, and she cleanly removed his very last chance to get back into this race.
Then again, by choosing "suspense" over democracy, he assisted brilliantly.