Friday, February 3, 2017

Trump at the Two-Week Mark

Two weeks into this debacle and I trust that I've heard the last of "give him a chance" from my right-wing amigos and "there's no difference between Trump and Clinton" from the left.

This is bad.

I expected it to be bad, so I'm not surprised that it's bad. But I did think that Trump might go a few weeks or a month or two before he inevitably reverted to form, that form being defined by how he has acted in public and private every damn day for the last forty years. I thought there was some chance that his inner circle would get him to rein himself in for long enough to get his cabinet and some deputy secretaries through the Senate quickly. I thought that he would at least put whatever awful executive orders he intended through some level of inter-agency vetting so that they might at least be enforceable or executable or ... well, purposeful and effective.

I expected lying, but even I didn't expect the lying to accelerate after he took office. They lie about everything. They lie about matters of substance (the Muslim ban, the Navy SEAL raid in Yemen, global warming) and about silly things (the size of the inauguration crowd.)

It's not just the dishonesty and corruption that's breathtaking. It's the incompetence.

They are going to get people killed. That may have already happened in the case of the Yemen raid. The cloud of dishonesty coming off the White House right now is so thick that it's hard to tell. The problem is that it really *is* a dangerous world out there. And right now Donald J. Trump is making it a much, much more dangerous world.

Something truly awful is going to happen before this is over.

I could go on and on about the specifics. But instead I'll point you to these weekly lists of authoritarian changes compiled by Amy Siskind. It's pretty amazing when you see an entire week's lunacy all in one concise place. (Alas for you non-Facebookers, they're on FB.)

Here's the list for Sunday, Jan. 22, through Saturday, Jan. 29: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember. Here's week 11

A Gallup poll released yesterday showed that 40% of Americans want Trump impeached. We're entering peak Watergate territory and WE'RE ONLY TWO FREAKING WEEKS INTO THIS!

(Nixon reached 38% favoring impeachment in Novemeber 1973 after the "Saturday Night Massacre" and 44% favoring impeachment in June 1974 after the indictment of several top aides. He ultimately reached 57% favoring impeachment just before he left office on Aug. 8, 1974. Source: Pew Research.)

The same poll that showed support for impeaching Trump already reaching 40% also showed that 95% of Republicans still approve of Trump's performance. We have become a nation divided by two different views of reality:

1) Fox "News" and the right-wing media bubble.
2) Reality.

News organizations that make some objective attempt to report reality -- CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters -- are now being called "the opposition party" by this White House.

Reality has a way of catching up in the end, but usually not until after awful things happen.

At this point I would genuinely welcome President Mike Pence. He'll be more effective at enacting things that I hate, but at least we'll have a mentally competent Commander in Chief.

I never in my life contemplated writing a sentence like "I would genuinely welcome President Mike Pence."

In the middle of the madness I am heartened by the sight of so many Americans showing up and speaking out against this. From the Women's March, the largest protest in American history; to the spontaneous demonstrations against the Muslim ban at airports across the country; to the record-setting number of phone calls and letters to Congress it has been an astonishing sight. A lot of Americans love this country and we're willing to fight to make it a better country.

For all of you who are equally dismayed, take heart. You are not alone.

So what's going to happen?

I genuinely don't know.

My best case scenario is that although the erratic behavior continues, some close call scares the Republicans in Congress straight. Trump is impeached or resigns before something truly awful happens, and Mike Pence goes on to be a loathsome but reasonably normal right-wing President. The result is a lot of damage to things that I care about -- civil rights, the environment, education, workers and retirees -- but no permanent, irreversible harm is done to our democracy or our world.

Yeah, that's my best case scenario.

I don't have any scenarios in which Donald Trump changes his behavior. It was always a fool's mission to think that he could discipline himself for at least a few months. But it's obvious now that he will never change, never improve, never learn.

The scenarios get worse if I think about it too long. Before the last two weeks I didn't think there was a significant chance that Trump would blunder us into a major war if he stayed in office for a full term. I am no longer so optimistic. This is going very, very badly.

What can we all do?

No one of us can do everything that needs doing. But all of us can do at least one thing. Find your thing and do it. Go to a protest. Call a Congressman. Write a letter to the editor. Find a 2018 candidate and hop on board. Pray.

Especially pray. We all need some prayers to get us through this.

What am I doing?

Well, I'm doing what I can and trying to sort out how I can be most effective. Right now I feel as if I range from things that are on-point but extremely ineffective (rage-tweeting about the madness on a daily basis @Patioboater) to something that is extremely effective but pretty much to the side of all this (continuing to lead our village with dull, fact-based, compassionate nonpartisan governance.) I guess that wouldn't be to the side of all of this if I could convince the world to join me on that course. But that ain't happening anytime soon that I can see.

I am grateful to have an opportunity to put my own ideals into practice as a local elected official. Since my ideals pretty much center around dull, fact-based, compassionate governance they don't draw much attention in the Age of Trump. But it makes me feel better to know that I'm doing what I can in a way that does have a genuine positive impact on my neighbors and my community.

And I'm trying to take better care of myself, too. I stretched myself way too thin in 2016 and it finally started to genuinely catch up with my health. As I trundle through middle age I'm coming to appreciate that I can't do any of the things I want to do unless I take care of my health first. I'm working on that.

So, I guess I leave all of you with that notion. Do what you can, but also be sure to take care of yourselves and each other along the way.

This isn't going well, but we will get through this.

Pax and love.


  1. Coming from a man we all view as a Man of Reason, this is more scary than I thought was.

  2. On the bright side, at least I didn't forecast that we'll go full "Lord of the Flies" with pigs' heads on pointy sticks.