I’ve thankfully never been in a position where someone in my family withdrew all my life savings and entrusted it to a sweaty guy in a cheap suit who promised to triple our money but whose name autocompletes to “con artist” in a Google search, all because of a number of vague and shifting rationales that mostly seem to carefully tiptoe around the number of black and Latino people working at the bank because they’re totally not racist…but if I had, I imagine it would hit like this election is hitting now.
It’s hard to look at my fellow Americans the same way. Even knowing that Hillary won the popular vote, even knowing that voter apathy and voter suppression means that Trump garnered no more than 25% of the population’s support, it still just makes me wonder what else I assumed about the fundamental intelligence and decency of the people around me that is wrong. Because in the end, that is what everyone got so wrong about Trump–we assumed that because he’s such an obvious, piss-poor liar and because he’s left behind such a clear and unmistakable trail of financial ruination of anyone who ever trusted him in his wake, that there’s no way the American people would fall for his lies just because he pandered to their worst instincts. I’ve been wrong about a lot of things, but I don’t think anything has ever hurt this much to be wrong about. I wanted to believe that America was better than this. And we’re not.
And now…every day brings worse news. The Cabinet that Trump is assembling can best be described as “kakistocracy”, the rule of the worst. We have a new Secretary of Education who wants a repeal of the child labor laws, a Secretary of Defense with the charming nickname of “Mad Dog”, a National Security Adviser who was kicked out of the military for assaulting his staffers, and an Attorney General who was deemed too racist to become a judge. By Reagan. And let’s not forget Steve Bannon, the closest we have gotten to a literal Nazi in the White House. We can all try to be optimistic, and hope that somehow this assemblage of the least competent human beings ever will somehow cobble together a functional government, but the potential damage here is virtually unlimited.
And of course, we have a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a conservative Supreme Court. This is the closest we’ve come in a good fourteen years to a rubber stamp for every dumbass idea the Republicans have ever come up with, and they’ve gotten a lot dumber over the last fourteen years. Well, at least the House and the White House has. The faint hope remaining for sane Americans is that the Republican majority in the Senate is tiny, and many of the more moderate members won’t have to face re-election until 2020 or later and can kick Trump’s crazier ideas to the curb. It’s going to be hard to get sixty votes for a lot of Trump’s proposals. And John Roberts, at least, has no interest in telling stare decisis to get fucked just because the Republicans want to overturn settled constitutional law. He doesn’t want to be remembered by history as the 21st century Roger Taney.
But that means that best case scenario, we’re looking at eight years of Republican obstruction of good ideas followed by four years of Democratic obstruction of bad ideas. Which amounts to twelve years of inaction on pressing crises. There’s no way to see this as anything other than a disaster. I’m tired of casting blame over whose fault it was, because in an election this close virtually any factor could have been the deciding factor, but I think that Democrats and progressives need to work pretty damn hard over the next four years. We need to make sure that Republicans do at least pay lip service to their oaths of office–this will probably at some point involve impeaching Trump, who looks to be approaching the Presidency with the same mindset that he approaches charity, namely “How can I shovel as much money into my pockets as I can while giving as few fucks as possible about anyone who isn’t me?” I guarantee you, we are less than a year out from a scandal that would have gotten Obama thrown out of office so fast his head would spin were the parties reversed.
We’ve also got a duty of care to the people around us. There are a lot of vulnerable people right now, in a position where the emboldened racist/sexist/transphobic/homophobic/xenophobic bigots of America feel emboldened to take out their worst impulses on the defenseless. I’m not saying “Go out and buy a gun,” here, but be prepared to do things like give to the food shelf at your local Muslim community center. Make sure your LGBTQ friends and family have emotional support, including suicide prevention lines. Call your local Congressperson every time the Republicans try something stupid and don’t be afraid to yell. We can all be an active and present force for kindness and decency in our everyday lives, and there’s never been a time when it’s more needed.
But more than that, we have to mount legal challenges to gerrymandering and voter obstruction laws, and we have to make them stick. We have to find candidates that inspire people, not just ones that are capable–and frankly, they need to be candidates who reflect the diversity of the coalition that brought Democrats to power. Bernie Sanders is a great guy with wonderful ideas, but he’s yet another elderly white person who assumes that their progressive credentials authorize them to speak in lieu of actual minorities. (And bluntly, he does so cluelessly–telling black people that their issues are class issues does not fly after Tamir Rice.) That kind of candidate is not going to cut it in a post-Obama Democratic Party. And we have to say that while reaching out to white Trump supporters is all well and good, we are not going to compromise with them on human rights issues under any circumstances. The humanity of women and minorities is not negotiable.
Of course, just thinking about all that work, all that hate that we have to counter all over again like the last sixty years never happened, all the exhausting effort of once again cleaning up after a Republican shitshow only this time on steroids…it’s enough to make you curl up into a little ball and whimper. It’s dispiriting and demoralizing. So one other thing we have to do is give ourselves permission to think about other things sometimes. To let ourselves laugh at the absurdity of it all, even as we rail against the injustice. To every once in a while just not be fair or nice to the opposition even though we stand for fairness and niceness, because sometimes you just gotta call a dumbfuck a dumbfuck to their face. Molly Ivins said it better than I ever will:
“So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”
So that’s what. We’ve got a screaming dipshit for a President. Whatever else we do, let’s at least have a little fun at his expense for the next four years.