This is a very dangerous man, our next president. Dangerous in his certitude about what he doesn’t know. Dangerous in his ignorance of history, his antipathy toward reading, his inability to sort fact from fiction. The last man to play things by the gut while in control of the world’s most powerful military left a mortal mess.
But welcome, for now, President-elect Donald Trump. It feels, in much of the nation, like the death of a loved one – the sudden, unexpected kind. I haven’t felt this way since the nuns told our second-grade class that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Still, grief is an emotion that has little power in politics.
A majority – well, not from the popular vote, which Hillary Clinton won – chose radical change over reasoned predictability. They’re going to get plenty of change, much of it chaotic and cruel. Those who think Trump can be contained, or trained by seasoned K Street hacks to act reasonable, are deluding themselves. He'll do it his way.
The Republicans will control everything, including the Supreme Court. Washington is theirs, with minimal checks and balances. And if the forgotten, the undereducated, the Rust Belt survivors think they are going to see a renaissance of their communities, consider this headline from Yahoo Finance on the day after the election: “Trump win is a ‘grand slam' for Wall Street Bankers.” He will not betray his class.
But resistance is not futile. Within the durable strength of the Constitution are many options – peaceful, legal, effective countermoves, not the burn-it-all down schemes of the Trumpsters, had Clinton won. One question is existential: Can the world survive the 45th U.S. president?
When he looks the other way while Russia takes a small country, we can remind him that the United States signed a treaty with war-broken European allies that cannot be dismissed by fiat. When he orders the generals to torture suspects, kill family members of suspected terrorists, they can cite Geneva Conventions – something the generals know much more about than Trump.
The State Department, which usually tries to be a force for good, advocating human rights over bottom lines, cannot be easily pressed into aiding the globe’s gangsters and oligarchs, even if Newt Gingrich is secretary of state.
When Trump takes away people’s health care, when he tries to reinstate a system that was not, in fact, fabulous for those with pre-existing conditions, he will find a constituency of people who are one medical bill from bankruptcy. They will have to shout to be heard above the lobbyists, but they won’t go away quietly.
When Trump tries to ignore the provisions of a global accord to curb climate change, and charts a path for the United States as a rogue nation, the resistance will come from the millions of young Americans who found a voice in old Bernie Sanders. They will be similarly roused when he attempts to let the despoilers have their way on public land. Millennials will learn the hard way that failure to turn out in sufficient numbers at election time could cost their children a habitable planet.
The wall will not be built, nor will it be paid for by Mexico. It’s absurdly expensive, and unworkable. It was always a ruse. Instead, Trump will stage a photo op in Arizona, and, noting a net out-migration pattern started under President Barack Obama, declare victory. Same with the authoritarian plan to round up 11 million people, tearing families apart. He'll be stopped by majority sentiment, appalled at a police state in neighborhoods.
Speaking of people power, the gloomiest of progressives should look at what voters did at the ballot box – measures that a Republican Congress never would do. Gun-safety initiatives, some of them quite strong, passed all over the West, even the wilder parts, as in Nevada, where the National Rifle Association spent $4 million in a losing cause. These new laws are designed, in general, to keep unstable people from getting military-style weapons – something that is also backed by a majority of the people.
In red and blue states, a hefty raise in the minimum wage was instituted through the ballot box. Congress won’t even consider giving many of Trump’s most ardent supporters a boost in their wages, but those measures passed in all four states where they were offered.
The strongest resistance should come from the white working class; they will soon find out that Trump will treat them the same way he treated the suckers who signed up for his fraudulent university. When steel mills fail to return to Youngstown, or when new trade deals produce no more magic than the old ones, these economic exiles will wonder how they got betrayed. Look to the euphoria of soon-to-be deregulated Wall Street bankers for your explanation.
Finally, all of us in the American family should never trust anyone from the pollster industrial complex, including those at my own newspaper. Never. Read your horoscope; it’s far more likely to be accurate.