it's the tax returns, stupid
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.
STEVE BANNON IS NO SATAN
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?
DON'T MARCH. EMPATHIZE.
-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 trump wins
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?