My wife cried herself to sleep last Tuesday, woke up crying, and left for work on Wednesday in tears. My son found himself at work on Wednesday, watching Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, sobbing. I’m seething. America had the chance to elect a compassionate, intelligent, hard working person who had devoted her life to public service and improving the lives of the American people, and instead elected a bully whose campaign was fueled by every base hatred possible, who had no articulated plans to govern, and who had devoted his life to his own personal aggrandizement, usually at the expense of those less powerful.
It made me wonder how this great country could elect someone whose apparent view of appropriate behavior is the exact opposite of how I was raised and how I raised my children. I know that he is a liar, a bully, a sexual predator and a man who had no compunctions mocking a person with a disability, the parents of an American serviceman who died in action, and women who fail to meet his personal standards of beauty, but whether or not the candidate himself is actually a racist, homophobic, antisemitic, misogynistic, white supremacist, that’s the rhetoric that he used to fire up his supporters. And I’m not at all mollified by the fact that Clinton actually got more votes, or that so few eligible voters actually voted. In fact, that troubles me even more, because victory was in our grasp. Based on the popular vote as I write this, an additional 120,000 Clinton votes in Florida, 68,000 votes in Pennsylvania, 12,000 votes in Michigan and 27,000 votes in Wisconsin would have resulted in the election of the first woman president, 307-231.
Ultimately, it appears that the election was decided because the winner was able to motivate whites to vote for him, and that makes it all the more obvious that the campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” was nothing more than a slightly coded call for a return to the days of white supremacy. As my mother observed, they had a black man as president for eight years, and they just couldn’t stand it. That white women voted more for a confessed sexual predator than a champion of women’s rights tells me that race and class are still more potent indicators of electoral choice than gender, and that misogyny is powerful, even among women. What you heard on election night from the victorious voters was “we are going to take our country back.” From whom? As Jill Sobule’s song asks, “Then what the fuck do they mean?” (The video above is from a show we attended back in August, and you can see my beautiful, talented wife singing, right behind Jill).
We all know exactly what they mean, which is why white supremacists have been rejoicing at the results, and why there has apparently been a surge of racist, antisemitic, homophobic and anti-immigrant incidents in the days following the election.
So, how did we get here? I’d argue that that the seeds of this debacle start back with the Reagan administration. Since then, the right wing was able to shift what had been the “common knowledge” by, among other things:
1. Denigrating the ability of government to solve problems, and “proving” their point by cutting funding for government programs, resulting in failures;
2. Devaluing education and knowledge, not only by forcing the teaching of myths and superstitions as “facts,” but also by eroding the difference between facts and opinions;
3. Dismissing the media as biased, while creating, initially through Faux News and right wing radio, and then through slanted Internet sites such as Breitbart and others, an even more biased alternative which disseminated a toxic brew of hatred, misinformation and prejudice. This resulted not only in the mainstream media becoming enamored of the “false equivalency” but in the ability to find “support” for any idea, no matter how crazy;
4. Mocking compassion and tolerance as “political correctness,” and
5. Gerrymandering state legislative and Congressional districts to entrench Republican control.
Then add to that a decades long vilification of Hillary Clinton, which successfully obscured her positive record of public service behind innuendo and magnification of minor issues into “scandals” that were “worse than Watergate.”
I’d like to be as gracious as President Obama or Hillary Clinton were in their public professions that we need to come together, that we need to support the President Elect, and hope for his success, blah, blah, blah. (Although one can only imagine what they are saying in private). But I’m not.
We just lived through eight years of Republicans, including the President Elect, questioning the legitimacy of President Obama, despite the utter lack of evidence to support the “birther” fallacy, and the fact that he won more votes, twice, than this year’s winner. We have lived through eight years of obstructionism, Congressional refusal to act on legislation, refusal to confirm a Supreme Court nominee, stupid, politically motivated government shut downs, and other blatant attempts to prevent the duly elected President from succeeding.
Democrats so often take the high road. We believe in the Constitution, and the process, and traditionally have tried to do what is right, not what is politically expedient. Thus, I’m seeing calls for bipartisanship, and giving the new administration the benefit of the doubt. And our “go high” attitude has probably given the Republican leadership a bunch of real belly laughs. Do you think that a Clinton victory would have resulted in the return of bipartisanship, especially after the past eight years? If you do, you are as gullible as a poll aggregator. Remember that in the days before the election, when it looked like Clinton would win, we started to hear Republicans talking about how they planned to obstruct her? They have no shame in putting politics before governing. Not only that, but the President Elect has, from the start, displayed not only autocratic tendencies and a clear intention of breaking the regular rules of politics.
So, I’m sorry. It is time for Democrats to give the Republicans a taste of their own medicine. Block damaging legislation by any means possible. Filibuster “activist” judge nominees who want to change settled law. Force investigations of the incoming President’s shady business deals. Make their lives a living hell. Quote back to them the obstructionist language they spewed during the Obama administration. And hope that they fail spectacularly. But be prepared to take the heat for being obstructionist. The Republicans took it for eight years, and let the criticism slide off their slimy backs, because they were playing the long game.
It is time to take a page from the victors, and “tell it like it is” and not be “politically correct.”
My college friend Alan posted on his Facebook page a letter that he sent to his Congressman, Democrat Jerrold Nadler, and with his permission, I’m going to steal a bit of it:
I saw Leader Pelosi quoted in the news today as saying that the Democrats would eagerly work with Mr. Trump on his infrastructure program. I think this idea is misguided. We all (none more than you) want infrastructure. But it’s more important for the country that Mr. Trump be seen to have failed to deliver on his promises to his voters. Trumpism must be rejected and discredited before this country can move ahead.
I would urge Democrats to seek to subtly but adamantly sabotage any attempts to pass Mr. Trump’s program. In the case of infrastructure, we could insist that all work be done by union workers at prevailing wages, and not add to the deficit. These are good requirements on their own merits, and would help the working class if they got enacted — but we all know that they would be poison pills to the Republicans.
Look, I wish we could return to an era of cooperation and bipartisan attempts to fix our country’s problems, but it isn’t going to happen if the Democrats roll over and play dead. It takes two to be willing to compromise, and the Republicans have proven over the last eight years that they won’t.
Then, we need to work hard over the next two years to succeed in the midterm Congressional and Senate elections, elect Democratic governors and take over state legislatures, maybe push to end the Electoral College, and then do everything in our power to make this a one-term presidency. Like Mitch McConnell tried with President Obama, but hopefully with more success.