A Shape of Things to Come?

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Like a lot of liberals, I’ve been in shock since last week. Although I liked some things Donald Trump said during his campaign, I didn’t believe he meant very many of them, and a lot of things I really didn’t like. What I hear about his preparations for assuming power don’t reassure me much. I don’t like the things he seems to be planning to do, and I don’t think many of his appointments are very wise. Conservatives are crowing because liberals are so upset, since that’s how they felt when President Obama was elected. Who can blame them? We’ve been living with the politics of resentment for quite awhile now. Each election seems to generate more of it.

It’s going to be interesting to watch how things unfold. From what I read, some people are emboldened to commit crimes, confident that they won’t be prosecuted. Is that what the next four years are going to be like? If Mr. Trump’s actions match the rhetoric of his campaigns, maybe so. That’s how a supposed democracy could devolve into something else.

But he will have to step cautiously. Some Republicans, including the man he is supposedly strongly considering for Secretary of State, are in favor of war with Iran, assuming Trump can’t (as he promised) get a better deal than the arrangement negotiated by John Kerry. How would he do that? How will he get them to agree? He can threaten them, but if you think Iraq was bad (and Trump did), trying to fight a war in Iran would be worse. It’s a country with mountains, so it’s built for a guerilla war. It’s not a war that would be popular at home very long either. Unless Republican legislators want to send their own children to fight it (Is that too mean to say?).

Mr. Trump reportedly also wants to cut taxes. We already have an immense national debt (the deficit has been, I understand, greatly reduced, but it still isn’t small). What I read about his tax plan is that mainly the wealthy and corporations will benefit. How will his supporters feel when they find out about that? It means they still won’t be making enough money to get ahead, and that’s not why they sent him to Washington. It will also look like lobbyists have gotten their way again, something Mr. Trump said would not happen.

Add to that the Affordable Care Act being repealed without a suitable way to insure the millions of people that used to be uninsured. I doubt that even Donald Trump will be very popular if that happens.

And suppose Social Security and Medicare get taken away too. Those are two other things Trump said he wouldn’t do, but the Republican Congress wants to do them. I guess their existence keeps too much money from being handed to the wealthy. If those things happen, President Trump is going to be exceedingly unpopular. Congress may be too, but at that point this may no longer even nominally be a democracy.

Resentment has been powerful in this country for a long time. Mr. Trump could smell it, and knew what to say to get people to express it. He was a bit like a comedian I saw perform a few years ago. He sniffed the air, said a few things, felt the vibrations coming back, and found his way to say what the crowd wanted to hear. Once he gets the first laugh (or cheer, or other reaction), he’s got the crowd’s number, and just hones in on what will get the biggest reaction. He’s never been close to Hillary Clinton in intellect, but he’s beat her with intuition.

That made Mr. Trump an extremely skillful campaigner. But, not being a politician, how is he going to navigate the extremely treacherous swamp he’s promised to drain? Does he actually want to? In one respect, it would be much easier not to even try to keep his promises to the white middle class who gave him such strong support. It’s hard to oppose the people who fund politicians and lobby for favors because they’re extremely powerful. If he can’t keep them happy, they won’t be giving him things he wants, like pay to play. He said he opposes that, but can that really be true?

On the other hand, if he doesn’t keep his promises to his supporters, how will he be seen? If he thinks he’ll be seen as a loser, that might be powerful incentive for him to try to oppose the powerful in Washington, to actually make an effort to “drain the swamp”. But will he see it that way? Or will he decide he wants to emulate Vladimir Putin?

Putin could be the embodiment of the character in George Orwell’s 1984 who told the protagonist that the true image of the state was a boot kicking people in the face forever. Mr. Trump has said he admires Mr. Putin, and it now appears they may be rather closer friends than is seemly for heads of different countries that often disagree. One possible interpretation of Mr. Trump’s history is that he really does like kicking people in the face, metaphorically at least. He will now have the power to have it done literally, if he wants to. He certainly has fans who like to do that.

I think I understand, to some extent, why a lot of people voted for Trump ( apparently not as many as voted for Clinton–though conservatives dispute that). They’re understandably tired of business as usual. A lot of them are hurting economically, and a lot find the way their country continues to change frightening, and a lot are influenced by propaganda–from both sides. They don’t feel that Democrats have stood up for them, at least partly because of propaganda, but also because Democrats too often haven’t when they should have.

So now they’ve gotten what they wanted. I hope they’ll be happy with it, but am afraid they’ll be disappointed. Maybe some of them extremely. I’m afraid there’s going to be an immense assault on people’s freedoms and their ability to make a living. There actually has been for more than thirty years, but it looks like it’s going to get worse. I think Congress wants this government to continue to be of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. Will Mr. Trump have the courage and a strategy to oppose that? I hope he will, but I doubt it. If he doesn’t, we might as well stop calling ourselves a democracy, and begin calling our government fascist.

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