I’ve been checking in with people whose pre-election comments tell me they perceived what was happening better than most. Among these is Andrew O’Hehir, who tells us now to fight any effort to “normalize” Donald Trump.
At the very least the Trump election is a moment of unprecedented national emergency, and a critical symptom of how badly American political life has decayed. …
… Those who try to assure us that the emergency is not an emergency, or to insist that the enduring institutions of democracy will surely triumph over this mass hallucination, are either cowardly or stupid or have their heads buried somewhere that isn’t the sand. Furthermore, they haven’t been paying attention: Aren’t these the same responsible grownups who understood how things worked in the real world, and who felt sure that Jeb Bush would be the Republican nominee, and that Hillary Clinton would win the election in a historic landslide? At some point, clinging to your broken idols while barbarians ransack the temple just becomes pathetic.
To be more charitable, the “normalizers” are just afraid. Which is understandable; we should all be afraid. We have good reason to be afraid if we are Muslim, if we are gay or lesbian or trans, if we are black, if we are recent immigrants with or without papers. We have good reason to be afraid if people in those communities are our neighbors, our family members, our friends, our loved ones. We have reason to be afraid if we are Americans who do not define that nationality by looking backward to an imaginary past. The question now is how we respond to that fear. What we do with it.
What we’ve done with it so far is to squabble about who is to blame for the crushing defeat of the Democrats in the recent election. I had originally consoled myself by thinking that now, maybe, the Democrats would wake up and become the ideologically left-wing party we have needed them to be for a long time. But if online debates are any indication, probably not. The consensus about what went wrong seems to be forming around voters are just stupid, and we hate them. But I’ll come back to this some other time.
Robert Reich had some concrete advice. Here’s the first bit:
Get Democrats in the Congress and across the country to pledge to oppose Trump’s agenda. Prolong the process of approving choices, draw out hearings, stand up as sanctuary cities and states. Take a stand. Call your senator and your representative (phone calls are always better than writing). Your senator’s number can be found here . Your representative’s number can be found here.
Can’t argue with that. Right now we’ve got to keep pushing Democrats to get some fire in their bellies. And please, please do not be the Democrats who welcomed George W. Bush into the White House in 2000. As a reminder, here is Russel Baker, writing in 2003 about the 2000 election:
It is hard to imagine the Republicans, had the Supreme Court appointed a Democrat to the White House, accepting the decision as meekly as the Democrats accepted the Court’s anointing of Bush. Republicans thrive on combat and have a passion for opposing, which is rooted in all those years of opposing the New and Fair Deals, not to mention Theodore Roosevelt’s “square deal” a century ago. Theirs is a party so dedicated to opposition that it opposes government itself and often seeks power mainly to dismantle a great deal of it. A favorite Republican battle cry is: “Government is the problem!”
Democrats have a flabbier tradition. Congressional Democrats, who might have been the natural source of an opposition to Bush, chose instead to be good sports about the aborted election. They promptly joined the President in granting lavish tax cuts to the richest part of the population, then moved en masse to endorse his request for authority to make the war he wanted in Iraq. After managing to lose the off-year congressional elections of 2002, they settled into a torpor so restful that they are still vexed with Howard Dean for disturbing their peace.
The rest of Reich’s advice is a bit iffier. I don’t blame people wanting to protest, but there was all kinds of protesting during the Bush Administration, and none of it had any effect. I’ll wait and see what happens, but as soon as the megaphones all fall into the hands of 20-something white guys who endlessly repeat the same tired, unoriginal slogans punctuated liberally by the F word hour after hour, I’m so not there. And don’t talk to me about the goofy costumes and the sock puppets.
Do keep speaking up, and flooding local newspapers with op ed contributions (another of Reich’s ideas) can’t hurt.
Todd Gitlin was not especially perceptive before the election, but the advice he has now isn’t bad.
• Be on the lookout for all practitioners of bad faith, those who profess innocence and renounce their own responsibility.
Gitlin doesn’t say so, but I say that would be the DNC and most of the Democratic Party, not to mention the rabid Clinton supporters who refused to see what a weak nominee they were pushing on the rest of us.
• Confront the media moguls, editors and reporters who delighted in Trump’s spectacle, reveled in the eyeballs they gathered by treating him as a decent and qualified candidate, and then scrambled to wash their hands, bleating all the while that after all, viewers were always free to change the channels.
Yes, election coverage was horrible, as it has been for many years. We need massive media reform, as many of us have been saying going back to the Clinton and Bush II years. I wish George Soros would use his money to do something about that, instead of whatever it is he allegedly spends money on that never works.
• Confront the Republicans who covered for this unscrupulous man and bent their knees once they realized they had no plausible deficit hawk to put up against him.
Exactly what Trump does to the true blue conservatives in the GOP remains to be seen, since a lot of his campaign agenda is very different from their agenda. However, he may very well jettison his campaign agenda and just let Republicans do whatever they want, as long as they don’t get in the way of his business ventures.
This one I disagree with:
• Confront also those who, in the name of their fantasy revolution or their plain rage, declined to vote or stood with Jill Stein and Gary Johnson in oblivion, preferred the gestures of nihilism to the hard work of politics that they find boring and corrupt.
Yeah, the Steiniacs in particular were annoying as hell, but unless somebody has new numbers saying otherwise, they had a negligible effect on the election results. They’ve become a handy scapegoat, though.
I’d say right now the most important thing is to try to keep a fire lit under Democrats so that they don’t get flabby, and also to encourage whatever shakeups might still be possible in the DNC.