09 November 2016

Disaster

If you've come here hoping for some crumbs of reassurance, you had best look elsewhere.  I have none to offer.  There is no honest way to put a positive spin on this.

Obama's accomplishments will be destroyed.  Obamacare will be repealed and the millions of newly-insured people will be thrown out in the cold again (it hardly matters whether the Republicans bother to "replace" it with some half-assed scheme of their own).  The nuclear agreement with Iran will be abrogated and our government will likely make that country a primary foreign scapegoat, returning relations to pre-Rouhani enmity if not worse.  The US will abandon the Paris climate agreement and return to reckless exploitation of fossil fuels and official denial about global warming.

It will go further than that.  The Supreme Court will be packed with activist ideological wingnuts who will remain long after Trump is gone.  Gay marriage, abortion rights, minority voting rights, separation of church and state, and what few institutional protections workers still have are all in serious danger.  Even Social Security and Medicare could eventually be destroyed ("privatized").  Ethnic and religious minorities will come under attack, not only from hostile government policy but also from a racist subculture massively emboldened by Trump's victory.  If those minorities react violently, that will be used to justify all kinds of "security" measures which will accelerate the slide toward fascism.

Very likely the economy will collapse as Obama's policies are replaced by a combination of Trump's random blundering and the standard Republican tax-and-spending cuts which have created such a mess in, for example, Kansas.  The resulting unemployment and shortages will intensify racial and class polarization and bring a government witch-hunt for scapegoats, domestic or foreign, on whom to place the blame for "sabotaging" the economy.

Given the importance of the US to the global economy and the tremendous uncertainties that the mere prospect of a Trump Presidency have already produced, the economic disaster will likely be world-wide, leading to similar upheavals and threats to democracy in other countries.  Worse, given Trump's ignorance and belligerence, the US is likely to become a rogue nation, using its vast military power to bully and threaten and worse.  Even if there is no actual act of genocide, the world order as we've known it since 1945 has depended on the US as a guarantor of security and stability.  It's unclear whether that role will continue; certainly the world-wide assumption that it will has been badly undermined.  If Trump replaces Obama's nuanced Middle East policy with the kind of general anti-Muslim belligerence he has expressed during the campaign, millions will become radicalized against the US, and groups like Dâ'ish and al-Qâ'idah and their likely successors will gain new strength.  There's also the matter of Putin's influence over Trump, whose extent and nature are still unknown.  Europe could be in more danger than the Middle East.

I expect the US left to now dissipate a great deal of energy debating the exact nuances of how this disaster came about and how things could have been done differently.  Would a more aggressive or more conciliatory campaign have produced a better result?  Would Bernie Sanders have done better against Trump?  Did third-party votes rob Hillary of victory in a few critical states?  Did Republican efforts at vote suppression make the difference?  Would Trump have lost if the media had been more forthright about him and less fixated on even-handedness?  All of this will be as useless as the political-analysis sites' descent into navel-gazing about how the polls could have been so wrong.  What happened is what happened.

Worse, even more energy is likely to go into throwing blame around.  The Sanders/Warren wing of the Democrats will blame the Clinton/Obama wing and vice versa.  Minorities will blame white liberals who didn't feel quite as threatened by Trump and didn't focus enough on stopping him.  Moderates will blame radicals for overreaching and provoking the troglodytes who made up Trump's base, and radicals will blame moderates because, well, they always do.  Everyone will blame the media.  Much of this rancor will be expressed in faux-dramatic one-sentence paragraphs and in swear words typed entirely in capital letters.  Some or even most of these accusations will have some merit, but the point remains that the only practical effect of such scapegoat-hunting and bridge-burning will be to profoundly weaken the left and sap its ability to take advantage of any opportunities which the new regime's incompetence offers us over the next few years.  Our strength has always been in our ability to remain unified despite differences.  Trumpism in practice is likely to provoke plenty of backlash and buyer's remorse, but a left divided into warring camps trying to blame and purge each other will not be able to exploit these.  The best one can hope for is that our side gets those impulses out of its system by 2018.

There are a few glimmers of hope.  Arpaio lost and Cortez-Masto won.  Legal marijuana won.  Growth of the non-religious and Hispanic populations will continue to work in our favor.  Democratic governments in the blue states where many of us live will try to shield us from some of the worst effects of Trumpism.  Popular culture will continue to be a subtle but powerful force changing social attitudes for the better.  It's possible that Trump could resign in frustration if Constitutional constraints on his antics prove too strong, or that he could overreach so badly that even a Republican Congress would impeach and remove him.  But that would leave us with Mike "God hates fags" Pence as President.  Pence would be far less likely to incinerate millions of innocent foreigners in a fit of rage, and that's actually tremendously important.  But domestically he would continue the massive reactionary shift of the government under more disciplined, more effective, and more explicitly theocratic leadership.

Moreover, the value of those "glimmers of hope" depends on the assumption that the institutions of the republic will continue to function normally.  If they end up being subverted by the fascistic impulses and mob thuggery that Trumpism has already displayed, all bets are off.  It's true that our institutions are much more deep-rooted and resilient than were those of, say, the Weimar republic.  But the main institution one would expect to constrain Trump -- Congress -- is in the hands of that same Republican establishment which displayed such fecklessness and cowardice at every step of his rise from the beginning of the primaries.  The courts may do a better job, but remember that the Supreme Court will soon have a wingnut majority including one and then more Trump appointees.  It's seriously possible that within a few years everyone who has persistently spoken out against Trump -- not only MSM big fish but minor bloggers like me -- will be in physical danger from some sort of Internal Security whatever staffed by semi-literate goons with badges empowered to act out their resentment of pointy-headed intellectuals who can spell.  Makes all that infighting with other factions of liberals seem a bit less worthy of your energy, doesn't it?

The best we can hope for is that democracy and its institutions do remain solid and that Trumpism provokes a huge backlash and that the Democratic party remains unified enough to take advantage of that backlash to regain Congress in 2018 and the Presidency in 2020.  But even then, the new President will be starting from the same position as Obama did in 2008 -- cleaning up a gargantuan mess left by his predecessor (likely much worse than what Bush left), with little time or energy remaining to accomplish anything positive.  What more he or she does accomplish will probably just repeat Obama's work that should have been built on by Hillary and will instead be wrecked by the Republicans.

And we'll have lost at least four years in the fight against global warming.  This has direly increased the likelihood that humanity's very survival will depend, a few decades from now, on a desperate gamble on some giant planetary-engineering scheme to keep the Earth as habitable as possible for ourselves while most of the natural ecosystem is irrevocably lost.

Sorry, but I can't come up with any scenario more optimistic that this except by resorting to fantasies, such as Trump turns out to be the closet liberal that anti-Trump Republicans have accused him of being, or this election result gets exposed as a gigantic Russian hacking operation and Hillary actually won.  That's Alex-Jones-level stuff.

I'm 56 and frankly I don't have a lot of fight left in me.  The main thing that's keeping me going is the hope that I've overlooked some critical point and things won't really be as bad as now seems inevitable.  Rational people in 1933 or 391 may well have clung to such hopes.  It's far more likely that the situation is exactly as it seems to be, and that the future that should have existed has been wiped out by a maddeningly spurious and arbitrary, but now irrevocable, confluence of events.  Perhaps I should simply focus on getting what I can out of whatever time I still have.

11 Comments:

Anonymous NickM said...

The point at which I knew was when Hillary had that rally with Jay-Z et al.

Bad idea.

09 November, 2016 06:00  
Anonymous Zosimus the Heathen said...

This has been a terrible day. When I heard the news of Trump's victory, I was stunned, absolutely stunned - how the hell could this have happened? I fear for your country, and for the rest of the world as well; as you say, today's disaster will likely have global consequences. (I can't help thinking of a book I read earlier in the year about William Dodd, the American ambassador to Germany during the early years of the Third Reich. He too was horrified by the things he saw happening around him, fearing they could mean nothing good - one can only wonder what he would've thought of Trump's rise if he'd still been around to see it.) I've already been checking quite a few liberal blogs and message boards to see what others have made of today's events, and it's heartbreaking to see the fear already being expressed by many vulnerable Americans - people terrified they're going to be literally beaten up (or worse) by the sort of mindless, hate-filled thugs Trump has spent months pandering too. This is beyond fucked up.

09 November, 2016 06:43  
Blogger Pinku-Sensei said...

"It's seriously possible that within a few years everyone who has persistently spoken out against Trump -- not only MSM big fish but minor bloggers like me -- will be in physical danger from some sort of Internal Security whatever staffed by semi-literate goons with badges empowered to act out their resentment of pointy-headed intellectuals who can spell."

I'm more worried about Trump changing the libel laws to make it easier to sue people. It was a Trump ally, Peter Thiel, who funded Hulk Hogan's suit against Gawker that resulted in Gawker being sold and the flagship site folding. I've been on the wrong end of a libel suit and I'm not the least bit eager to be in that position again. Fortunately, the bars to successful prosecution of a defamation claim are currently very high, so I was not found liable. My experience shows that lowering those standards would be make it easier to bankrupt one's opponents. BTW, one cannot get out of judgments based on defamation through bankruptcy.

09 November, 2016 07:00  
Blogger Ryan said...

It is a dark day. Never mind that Clinton seems set to win the popular vote; Trump supporters have already begun their rants about political mandates, silent majorities, and landslide victories. They are indeed emboldened. I can only hope that his supporters lose their faith as he fails to deliver on his promises and becomes involved in his own scandals, but it's a small hope. If he has come this far despite what he has already said and done, then the bar is set too low to be lowered much more and his followers will likely blame just about everyone else for his failures.

For a bit more context:

Obama won with 66 million votes to Romney's 61 million votes at a time when Republicans were convinced that Romney would defeat an incumbent who they thought had proven to be corrupt and harmful to the country. This time, despite being far worse than Romney, the Republican candidate won 59 million votes: 2 million fewer than what Romney won. But the Democratic candidate also only won 59 million votes: 7 million fewer than what Obama won. So Trump's victory is a result not of some unprecedented conservative turnout, but of the refusal of millions of Democrats to show up to vote for their experienced candidate and against the uniquely dangerous, totally inexperienced Republican. And now the Republicans will control everything. May the consciences of those who stayed at home find no respite as they contemplate what they allowed to happen out of their spite for Clinton and the DNC and their insufficiently critical analysis of the stakes of this election.

09 November, 2016 07:00  
Blogger Rosa Rubicondior said...

It's difficult to be positive. America seems to have been determined to commit an even bigger act of self-harm than the UK inflicted on itself with the Brexit vote, just to spite the political classes, or even just because they can. Perhaps the only glimmer of hope it that elderly Type A personalities tend to suffer from suddenly terminal illnesses and his failures should be apparent within four years anyway. However, the inevitable scapegoating of minorities could lead to an even MORE extreme successor and we can be sure that the conservative Christian right would support it in return for a share of power and influence.

Maybe the only good thing that has come from this debacle is that fundamentalist Christians can no longer pretend to occupy the moral high-ground after this descent into the moral gutter on the slight whiff of power that Trump offered them. Trump is the antithesis of everything morally upright Christians pretend to be, yet they couldn't get enough of his debauched bigotry and intolerance and bayed for more.

09 November, 2016 10:17  
Blogger Kevin Robbins said...

I feel roughly the same as I did in 1980 when Reagan won the WH. This is worse because next to Trump, Reagan was a model of competence. Maybe that's a plus though and Trump will be undermined by his own inability to ever do anything right. He's left a long trail of evidence of that. That, and the mid-terms in 2 years, is the only thing giving me much solace today.

Nice essay, Infidel. Thanks for the few rays of sunlight toward the end.

09 November, 2016 11:02  
Blogger Tommykey said...

Sadly, but interestingly, Democrats won gubernatorial elections in Montana, West Virginia and likely North Carolina, all three states that Clinton lost to Trump, which echoes Ryan's comments above that Democrats did not turn out for her like they did for Obama.

09 November, 2016 11:22  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

I can't add much more. The first thing I saw this morning after 3 hours of sleep was my comment moderation box filled with the vilest of imprecations and gloating, emboldened, I'm sure, by the commenters' victor.

I've pretty much decided to either give up blogging or start a new one that deals with more than political issues, much more. I've been blogging since 2005 and am worn out after this election cycle. There's so much more things to talk about, and I certainly don't want to talk about the Short-Fingered Vulgarian for the next four years.

I wanted Hillary's victory for the country, but most of all for my daughter and granddaughter. Now I just want to go to sleep.

I'd like to say "Take heart, the republic will survive." But I know better.



09 November, 2016 15:40  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Nick: Not familiar with that, but I suppose she had her reasons.

Zosimus: We're entering a dangerous and unpredictable period, that's for sure. Maybe now some of my fellow liberals will understand why I want the option of being armed.

Pinku: That's certainly a risk too, but right now I'm not ready to set any limits on how bad this might get.

Ryan: You make two important points. If stopping Trump didn't motivate Democrats to overcome their divisions and turn out in great enough numbers, what will? And yes, the country did not reject Hillary in the sense that she won the popular vote. This result was an artifact of the Electoral College. But this is the second time it's happened in 16 years.

Rosa: See my next post tomorrow.

Kevin: He's far more incompetent than Reagan, which is fortunate -- remember Reagan was re-elected in a landslide.

Tommy: Yes, Republicans have spent 25 years pumping out smoke at Hillary in the effort to convince everyone there's a fire, and it seems to have worked.

Shaw: His followers are thugs, and you're right to stand firm and deny them any reaction. That's the only thing that will make them leave you alone. If you argue with them you'll never be rid of them.

I hope you'll shift to blogging about a broader range of topics rather than giving it up entirely. I was looking forward to going back to blogging about science, history, philosophy, pop culture -- anything but politics. It will take some time but I'm not going to let this derail me.

09 November, 2016 16:04  
Blogger peter garayt said...

The most Orwellian statement I've ever heard:
"We threw out the elites."

10 November, 2016 06:05  
Anonymous Michael Scott said...

"Something inside has died, and I can’t hide, and I just can’t fake it, oh, no, no." Gotta love ol’ Carole King.

10 November, 2016 07:29  

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