Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Life Will Go On ... But It Will Be Different

In the wake of Hillary Clinton's devastating loss in the presidential election yesterday, I have decided to disconnect from social media indefinitely.  I've deactivated my Facebook account, and I've removed Twitter and Instagram from my phone so that I won't access them.  I changed my Twitter profile picture to a black box (for anyone who happens to see my profile while I'm offline) and then discovered today in a USA Today article that this is now a trend on Twitter.  Obviously a bunch of other people had the same thought as me.  Black is a perfect analogy for how this feels.  Hopeless and helpless.

For the sake of my daughters, I had looked forward to the prospect of America's first female president.  For the sake of my own political perspectives, I had looked forward to another Democrat in the White House, although it would have admittedly been four more years of constant criticism, scandal-mongering, and refusal to govern by the Republican opposition.

Instead, the Republicans have gained control of every branch of government.  They retained control of both the House and Senate, they gained the presidency, and they will soon have the Supreme Court back, once Trump nominates someone to fill the current vacancy.  Republicans also hold the governor's office in 31 of the 50 states, and control 68 of the 98 state legislatures.

Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, a liberal or conservative, this should concern you.  When a single party controls every level of government, it is a significant blow to the checks and balances built into our constitution.  It's important to remember that when the constitution was written, there were no political parties.  The Founding Fathers didn't envision a single party controlling all three institutions.  They imaged each institution being independent of the other.  For a long time in American history, this problem was avoided because there were many parties that came and went, and presidents and Supreme Court justices tended to be independently-minded and kept themselves above a lot of the political fray.  This was particularly true of presidents prior to the Civil War.  Since the start of the 20th century, this has been less true - particularly of presidents - but checks and balances still worked because both parties were reasonably moderate compared to today and often times whichever party won the presidency would lose either the House or Senate or both.

This is the second time in 16 years that we have had an election which has ushered in Republican control of all three branches of the federal government.  The first time was from 2000 to 2006.  That ultimately ended in the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression and two costly and ineffective wars.

This year's election is akin to the Visigothic sack of Rome in 410 AD.  The barbarians have taken control.  Nationalism is replacing internationalism.  Fear and cowardice are replacing courage. Backward-looking is replacing forward-thinking.

If you voted for Trump, you are to blame.  If you didn't vote, or if you voted for a third party, you are also to blame. This was a time when the best of America needed to stand up to fear, to hatred, and to narrow-mindedness, and instead we crumpled to our knees in apathy and got obsessed with email servers and made-up scandals.

The Republican party has spent years - literally since the Reagan era - openly courting the right wing vote. Now, the monster they created is consuming them and, by extension, everyone else.

I sure hope that my dire and dark prognostications are wrong.  I hope in a couple of years I can look back on this post and determine I was overreacting. But then again, you don't have to make this stuff up. Unlike the right wing monsters who created Trump, I don't have to make up paranoid lies about what Trump might do (see the whole "Clinton is going to outlaw guns and force everyone to get an abortion" nonsense).  I only have to listen to what he's said he's going to do, right from his own mouth.

Donald Trump is a monster.  He represents the worst in humanity: greed, paranoia, self-aggrandizement, aggression, vengeance, grudge-holding, hate, and pettiness.  He is, in short, the model of a paranoid dictator. Psychologically-speaking, he has all the same qualities and characteristics of any mad dictator who has ever graced the national stage.  The only thing separating Trump from those people is a vulnerable society, culture, and governmental institution.  One has to hope that our country's culture is strong enough to keep Trump in check.  But if tragedy happens - a major recession, a major terror attack, a pandemic, or so on - we could be in serious trouble.  Hitler happened because a well-meaning, but poorly-informed Christian public gave in to fear and nationalism.  It CAN happen here.  And we are now one major national tragedy away from being vulnerable to the rise of a dictator.  I know rabid Obama haters have said the same thing about him, but - like everything else they say - it's all bullshit because Obama has none of the hallmark characteristics of a dictator.  Neither does any other president who has ever served.  Trump is the first.

In February, I predicted that if Trump and Clinton won their primaries, the campaign would be a circus.  That was easy to predict of course.  I also predicted, however, that Trump wouldn't win.  I had earlier (last fall) predicted he wouldn't win the nomination.  All my predictions about Trump have been wrong because I believed too strongly in America's strength and goodness.  I underestimated how many hateful monsters there are out there, and how many naive enablers there are to go with them.  I believe the naive enablers are the larger of the two categories, and they are more to blame than the monsters because you can't blame a monster for doing monster-y things.  But you can blame otherwise good and well-meaning people for poisoning their own future through stupidity and through trusting that God will magically take care of everything.  Tell that to 6 million dead Jews.  

In May, I said I was bowing out of following the campaign and talking about it because the whole thing caused me too much anxiety.  That lasted for several months, but by September I was back in it again.  But back in May, I said this: 

"My final public commentary on this year's election is this: keep everything in perspective.  No matter who wins, they will neither save the world nor destroy it.  Life will go on."    

Hopefully that's the one thing I predicted during this campaign that will actually come true.