Sunday, November 27, 2016

Rooting for some miracles

I am slowly coming to accept that Trump is going to be our new president.  Still quite a shock, but there it is.  A few thoughts.

It seems to me that my liberal friends and I are now feeling the way my conservative friends felt for the last eight years.  I believe they were just as shocked and appalled by Obama as I am by Trump.  It had always seemed to me that their fears and dismay were unfounded, and indeed Obama was not a socialist, not a Muslim, not in cahoots with the Islamic Jihad, not a foreign policy wimp, not out to disarm the populace and install a left wing dictatorship, not... whatever else was in the basket of fears on the right.  But, it is clear that the right wing did everything they could to oppose everything Obama and his administration tried to do.  Fortunately, they failed in blocking everything, but try their mightiest they did.

So, I can finally say, I know how you felt, I feel the same today.

But, I actually have some hope going forward.  There will be plenty of time to be upset and opposed to what our new president actually does, I see no need to continue a kind of fearful frenzy now before he even does anything.  

What I am hopeful about is Trump himself.  I believe he is in a liminal stage, a very formative stage, and I am very willing to be pleasantly surprised by him and his administration.  

But what about the terrible things he said during the campaign? imprisoning his opponent? Torturing prisoners? Taking away first amendment rights of the press and his political opponents? Disrespecting women? Mass roundups of immigrants? Trade wars with China? Imposing religious tests on Muslims? etc, etc.  These remain scary, but did he mean any of it?  What makes anyone think so?

I believe he only said things that got him attention and enthusiastic support on the campaign trail.  I think the only thing he paid any attention to was Fox News and right wing radio and media.  All he was interested in was to find the hot buttons on the right and say those handful of things over and over again in the simplest and most expressive sentences and tweets.  

Donald Trump was, far and away, the most uninformed presidential candidate in my lifetime, and I first started paying attention to presidential politics during the 1964 LBJ vs Goldwater campaign.  He never paid any attention to any briefings on the government, the country, or the world.  Such briefings were completely uninteresting to him because all he cared about was appealing to and rousing his conservative base, many, perhaps most, of whom got their information only inside the right wing bubble of right wing media.  The last thing in the world that Trump wanted was more information that could dilute his blunt messaging and appeal to his base.  Any hint of nuance would only dilute the passions of his followers.

But, much to all of our surprise, including his, he won the election.  I don't think for a moment that he regrets anything he said because his only objective was to win, so whatever he did or said to win was good, and he won, so in his mind he did everything right.  He has no sense of the impact of what he said on anyone in the world, he wasn't interested in what either his voters of opponents thought, all he was doing was upping his ratings, his votes, the enthusiasm of his crowds.  

But, now what?  As Zelina Zito said, liberals took him literally but conservatives didn't. I hope that is true, and I think it might be.  

Now that Trump is going to be president, what is his motivation?  Indeed, what is the only thing that is important to Donald Trump?  Isn't it the same thing that has been the only thing that has ever been important to Donald Trump?  That he be successful? be seen as a winner?  Doesn't he want to be a good president?  indeed, a great president? the greatest president of all time?  I think so.

So, as he finds himself in the office of the presidency he will actually start to learn something about the government, the country, and the world.  Won't he discover that the sound bites of conservative dogma don't even come close to reality?  Won't he see that so much of his applause getting lines in his speeches to his rallies would only backfire on him and make him a pariah amongst world leaders?  Won't he find out he can't start a trade war with China without destroying the American economy and destroying his presidency?  And the same for torturing prisoners? or rounding up millions of Latin Americans? or imprisoning his presidential opponent?  Etc. etc...

And if he really wants to destroy himself, the stupidest of all things he could do would be to attack the media.  It is one thing for Brietbart or Rush Limbaugh to try to convince everyone that the media is in the tank for liberals - after all, all they are doing is attacking the competition and trying to get their followers to pay attention only to them - but it is suicidally stupid for a president to wage war on the mainstream media of America and the world.  He would create a counter-attack that no president could withstand.

So, I have reason to hope that during this liminal time, in this time between his election victory and his inauguration, he is much more fluid and formable than his campaign rhetoric suggested.

I am ready for some miracles to happen here, some small, maybe some big.

Indeed, as this intentionally ignorant man comes up against what is actually happening in the country and the world he will actually start to learn things.  And maybe, if we are all lucky, he can bring conservatives along  with him in his learning process.  

It is time for the rigid dogmas on the right to die.  On the left too, by the way, and the Dems need to get their heads out of the bubbles of their putrefied dogmas as well.  We all need to see the world as it is rather than as presented to us by ossified dogmas of the past - both right and left.

If he doesn't flex, doesn't learn, doesn't change, there is plenty of time to get upset if and when he does terrible things. It is not unlikely that he would be impeached if he tries to go all Mussolini on us. 

For now, I am rooting for some miracles.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I know how you feel, I feel the same way…

We had an election, my side lost - I’ll live just fine.

I’m still dealing with the shock - here are some areas I am thinking about:

CHANGE - We are in a time of tremendous, chaotic change.  In the ‘60s Dylan sang “… the times they are a changin’…”  We are going through a massive, worldwide change today.  Clinton represented a continuation, trying to cling to the notion that there is no real change out there, it can all be the same, just keep the correct people in power.  Trump represents undeniable change.  The voters have reflected the earthquakes of change.

EARTHQUAKE – I think the forces that put Trump into office, that voted for Brexit in Britain, that are building in Europe, need earthquakes in order to avoid future bigger earthquake later – we do not want a real civil war in this country, or in the European countries either.

VISION - Each side of the political chasm has its vision of what that change is all about.  On the left the change is supposed to lead us to greater inclusiveness, caring, compassion, community.  On the right the change is supposed to lead us to greater opportunity, freedom, individuality.  Both are wonderful visions, and they seem to be diametrically opposed to each other, but they don’t have to be.  I can imagine a land where each is a powerful and free individual, living in supportive community environments presenting opportunity, educations, and nurturing.

DELEGITIMIZING THE ELECTION - This country is evenly divided and I am not happy with the efforts on the left to see Trump as an illegitimate president.  This has been going on, on both sides of the divide, since at least the year 2000.  Many on the left never accepted that Bush was a legitimate president because of the Florida/Supreme Court debacle.  Many on the right never accepted Obama as legitimate – from the “birther” to “undercover Muslim” accusations.  We have elections, the people decide, we need to live with it and do our best to live our personal lives, to agree or oppose politically as we see fit, and to work within the constitutional framework of the country.  If we lose, we lose.  We have constitutional political remedies, but to refuse to accept the legitimacy is a path to undermining who we are.

INVISIBILITY - What is clear to me is that an entire group of people had felt invisible and they spoke loudly and clearly that they are here – forgotten whites elected Trump.  At the same time, another group of people made it very clear that they felt invisible – inner city minorities – and Black Lives Matter spoke loudly and clearly that they are here too.  Each feels invisible.  Each feels disrespected.  Each feels forgotten and abused.

I can imagine a world where the forgotten whites and the forgotten blacks (and browns and reds and yellows) can look at each other and say “I know how you feel, I feel the same way”.

PARTIES – Each party needs to dramatically change.  The Democrats, amazingly, were defeated by the working class. How on earth did the party of the working class change so dramatically that it ended up sneering at the dirty fingernail folks?  The Republicans probably feel pretty vindicated right now, but I think they have been stuck in the rigid ideologies of Ayn Rand libertarianism, fundamentalist Christianity, and budget cutting absolutists.  I don't think Trump believes in any of that, and they are about to do major battle, it seems to me.

ELECTIONS – I think there are two big problems with our electoral process.  First, the primary system is deeply flawed.  I would like to see the end of caucuses, and a regional primary system that rotates the order of the regional primary elections every four years.  Second, the electoral college is certainly under attack after electing the loser of the popular vote twice in the last five elections.

GERRYMANDERING – I think the most undemocratic thing in America is the gerrymandering of the voting districts by the party in power in each of the states.  This radicalizes the representatives to Congress and is a deliberate and expert and totally effective way for either party in power in each state to keep themselves in power in perpetuity.  It is a scandal, and it is legal.  We need a new federal law or a Supreme Court overthrow of gerrymandering, and that should be a bi-partisan effort, it seems to me.

DEMONIZATION – Please, can we stop demonizing the other side?  I know there are racists, sexists, homophobes, and white supremacists who voted for Trump, and that appalls me, but I believe that vast majority of Trump voters are not any of that.  I know that extremists on the left voted for Obama but that doesn’t mean the Obama voters were communists or socialists, or trying to take people’s guns away, or force people to be gay, or end religion in the country.  The dehumanizing of those we disagree with politically diminishes the humanity of them, and of ourselves.  And forbids compassionate listening and understanding.

This is a wakeup call in many ways, but the one that stays with me the most is the loud shouts of those who felt invisible.  They are here, they are as good as anyone else, they need to be heard, and they have been.

All that being said, I am feeling anxious about how this is all going to play out.  Mr. Trump does not inspire much in the way of confidence in me, but I do wish him and our country well.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Dealing with the shock of the choice of American voters

I mean no offense to my conservative friends who voted for Donald Trump for president, indeed I think they never thought their vote would actually put him in the White House, but for me the country's vote to elect his person is the most vicious assault on the very idea of America since the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001.  Both are attacks on the very goodness of America that are simply incomprehensible to me.  I am dealing with my shock and grief at this election outcome.

I know that most Trump voters are not racist like the KKK and white supremacist groups that supported Trump.  

I know that most Trump voters are not misogynists and sexual predators like Trump himself bragged about being.   

I know that most Trump voters are not incipient war criminals like Trump has promised to be. 

I know that most Trump voters are not authoritarian dictators, or want an authoritarian dictator, like Trump has promised to be by promising to bar and persecute the press who say "nasty" things about him and to persecute his detractors and to commit war crimes.

I know most Trump voters aren't dangerous impulsive, uncontrollable overgrown children like Trump has demonstrated himself to be.

But how did so many of the people that I know and admire align with this person?

I know that many Trump voters somehow think that Trump will end up being, or turning over the government to Reagan type conservatives - or they think Trump is some kind of incipient Goldwater starting out a new brand of conservatism. I can't imagine that either of those ideas is even close to correct.

I know that many Trump voters think liberals are destroying the economy and ignoring the terrorist threats. But how they came to choose Trump instead of more mainstream conservatives is astonishing to me.

The best way I can handle this profoundly depressing outcome is to think that Zalena Zito was correct when she said that liberals took him literally but not seriously, whereas conservatives took him seriously but not literally.  I guess that means that conservatives didn't think he would ever deport millions of Mexicans, put up a huge wall along the border, keep out all Muslims, attack the press, torture prisoners of war or kill terrorists' families, etc.etc.etc. but liberals thought he would do as promised.  Perhaps conservatives just liked the attitude he expressed and figured he would not be a nut case in office.  

Indeed, I have hopes that that is true.  There are already indications that he is backing away from overturning Obamacare and deporting millions from the country.  

It is my deepest hope that Trump's desire to be seen as a Great President will lead him to betray his nut case right wing fanatics, reach across the isle, and show some common sense.  Not because he cares about the people, which I think is beyond his psyche, but because he cares about his reputation - which in the end is all he has ever cared about as far as I can tell (except for money, of course, which is just another way of getting admiration to his mind)

Trump is going to be our President, and I hope and pray that he does not follow through on the hateful rhetoric of the campaign.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Amateur hour in the White House

Republican voters narrowly elected Donald Trump to be president of the United States of America last night. 

Hard to make much of an analysis in a state of shock, but just looking at the electoral maps during election night, it became blindingly obvious that the cities were blue and the countryside was red.  Like England's Brexit, the turnout in the passionately anti-elitist countryside overwhelmed the tepid turnout in the cities.

The party that has to re-think its mission is the Democrats, not the Republicans, as I had expected.  The Democratic Party has become the party of cultural liberalism, seen as sneering elitism by those in the countryside.  I think that is why the angry denunciations of Political Correctness were such a fundamental part of the campaigns of Trump and Republicans.  The Democrats lost the blue collar working class voters.  Those folks went to the Republicans with great numbers and enthusiasm.  They do not identify with city/university/media cultural values of cultural liberalism.  They gave the "elites" the finger.  As crudely as possible.  

But, like the British after Brexit, they are stuck with a man who is a total amateur in the White House, as are we all.  What have they done?  

Another big theme is that America, like much of Europe and the rest of the world, has chosen an Authoritarian to lead us. Why? A response to the terrorist threats from radical Islam, of course.  Terrorists only need to terrorize to win, and a Trump victory as president is a terrorist victory, a sign that there terrorism is terrorizing us.

Another theme is the rise of the Confederacy - more particularly, the Confederate Man - including some pretty dark parts of that genre including bullying, racism, disempowering of women, but mostly John Wayne/Clint Eastwood hyper-masculinity that sees problems as needing to be dominated and subjugated.  Law and Order in the U.S., military assault abroad, remorseless punishment of those who refuse to tow the line that they insist upon.  Bubba triumphs.

I think the country just went into a kind of mid-life crisis where the middle aged, pot bellied man (the country) buys a red sports car (or private 757), collects sexy models and tries to create a life of an idealized past (Make America Great Again) that exists only in the fantasy of the man who is losing his virility and is terrified of that.

But, but, but... we have a new president, and we don't know what he will do, and I am pretty sure he doesn't know either.  I certainly hope that the awesome responsibility that he is now carrying will have a sobering effect on him, and he will actually try to govern responsibly.  Sending him, and America, prayers...

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Trump is McCarthy, not Reagan or Goldwater

To my conservative friends, please do not vote for Donald Trump for president. 

Some seem to think he somehow represents the policies of Reagan and expect him to enact Reagan type policies.  Not a chance.

Some seem to think he represents a new conservative movement like Goldwater that will sweep the nation.  No chance in the world.

I think he represents the worst elements of the conservative universe that was once championed by Joseph McCarthy - demagogic, misogynistic, bigoted, authoritarian, and narcissistic.  I think he is a child with no impulse control.  I think he is an egomaniac that sees only his own self interest.  

I wouldn't trust him with a book of matches, let alone the United States military and the nuclear codes.  He has no impulse control. He is a child. A vote for this man is a vote to end democracy in the United States of America itself.

I hope my conservative friends can come to their senses and see what this man actually represents.