Thursday, November 10, 2016

Donald Trump, Our Charlatan President

charlatannoun (char·la·tan |\ˈshär-lə-tən\):
A person who falsely pretends to know or be something in order to deceive people

I've had a day to decompress and try to make sense of things, and I just can't.  Hunker down because this is going to be a long one. 

Tuesday November 8, 2016 will go down as one of the darkest days in American history.  It will be remembered as a day that hatred and bigotry triumphed over reason, inclusion, and civility.  Donald Trump, the great charlatan, is now going to be the next President of the United States.
  • A serial philanderer and bully convinced Christians he was their man.
  • A billionaire born into wealth, who was given millions of dollars from his father to start his own business ventures, and who is more in bed with Wall Street than Hillary Clinton ever could have been has duped middle class Americans into believing he is not a member of the corporate elite and that he gives a single fuck about them.
  • A so-called businessman who has bankrupted multiple companies, whose businesses are accused of fraud, and who admits he doesn't pay vendors and contractors just because he's Donald Trump told you he's qualified to lead the country because of his business acumen.
  • A one-percenter convinced voters that the economy is in shambles, despite the fact that the country's unemployment rate is below 5% and, by nearly every economic measure, the economy is doing pretty damn fine.
  • A man whose tax plan includes increased taxes on the middle class and massive tax cuts for the wealthy told voters he's going to help the middle class.
  • A man who bragged about sexual assault, insults and demeans women, and wants to punish women who get abortions somehow made some women -– including my own mother, which is the most disappointed I have ever been in either of my parents -– think that he would better represent them than an actual woman.
  • A constant liar, who, when caught lying, lies about lying, made voters think that a woman who constantly scored the highest truthfulness ratings from fact checkers was dishonest.
  • A Putin apologist who was in contact with Russia during the campaign told you he didn't have anything to do with Russia.
  • A man who mocks people with disabilities, wants to ban Muslims, makes disparaging remarks about nearly every minority group and women, and exports jobs to China told people he wants to make American great again.
  • A guy who doesn't know how many articles are in the Constitution, wants to prevent people of one religion from being in our country, champions stop-and-frisk searches, calls for restrictions of the freedom of the press, tells his supporters to use violence to remove those who disagree with him from his rallies, and threatened to jail his political opponent was elected to the position that should respect and understand the Constitution more than any other federal position outside the Supreme Court.

Thanks to our screwed up electoral system, he did it, and we are stuck with him for the next four years, assuming he hasn't brought us into nuclear war before then.  I'm honestly shocked, saddened, and just numb.  As much as I was enraged when George W. Bush won in both 2000 and 2004, I never felt like he was a bad person or that he actually wanted to divide the country (though the 2000 election kind of did just that).  He was a dolt, but a dolt with good intentions.

This is different.  Never did I think that Trump's rhetoric of hate would truly win over a majority of Electoral College votes.  I thought Americans would see past all the bullshit and vote with their minds for a candidate with amazing credentials and a history of fighting for the little guy and the middle class, rather than a candidate without any qualifications to be president who only wants to make himself richer.

Political commentator Van Jones described this election as a "white-lash against a changing country."  Sadly, that's what I think drove most of Trump's support.  The fact that middle-class Americans continue to vote Republican against their interest isn't anything new (although it still baffles me), but this was different because of Trump's platform.  Maybe the throngs of Trump's white voters think it's okay because Trump says the kind of racist and sexist things that they believe, but are too afraid to admit in public (or to pollsters).  Maybe they just don't like the idea of a female president.  Maybe it was FBI Director's James Comey's conveniently timed blatant political stunt "investigation" two weeks before the election that scared voters away from Hillary Clinton out of fear that she might be indicted. Maybe they believe Fox News and alt-right (read: tacitly white supremacist) websites that say Hillary Clinton is a crook (even though she has been repeatedly absolved of any criminal acts in the email scandal), Bill Clinton is a rapist (even though he has never been investigated or charged, much less convicted), and all Hillary really wants to do is take your guns.  

At the heart of Trump's win is bigotry.  Blogger and pastor John Pavlovitz wrote an article yesterday entitled "Here's Why We Grieve Today," which brilliantly sums up why Trump's victory is so crushing.  As he explains, it's not Democrat vs. Republican.  Rather, it's that Trump's election means that we, as a nation -– despite the fact that Hillary Clinton actually got more votes than Trump nationwide –- have rejected diversity, education, and inclusion in favor of hate, ignorance, and intolerance.  This election says that people whose skin color isn't white, women, non-Christians, and gays are not welcome in our country.  That's the saddest part.  As one author put it, this is an American tragedy.

Tuesday night, I was watching CNN, and Van Jones hit the nail on the head in what I thought was one of the more poignant snippets of the evening.  He said, "You tell your kids, don't be a bully. You tell your kids, don't be a bigot. You tell your kids, do your homework and be prepared.  Then you have this outcome, and you have people putting children to bed tonight. They're afraid of breakfast. They're afraid of 'how do I explain this to my children.'"

Trying to explain this result to my two daughters (who are 5 and almost 7) was difficult.  They were so excited that a woman was going to be President.  They heard the things Trump said about Mexico, women, and Muslims, and they rightfully came to the conclusion that Trump is not a nice person.  How do you tell them that the country voted in a candidate without the temperament or any qualifications to be president simply because the other candidate has a vagina?  How do you tell them not to worry, even though they both have classmates who are either immigrants or children of immigrants who are terrified that they are going to be deported, even though they're here legally?  How do you tell them that a woman who was a Senator and Secretary of State and who has worked her whole life to help those without a voice somehow lost to a man who openly mocked a disabled man?  (If you, too, are struggling with what to tell your children, check out this article.)

We have failed our children, America.  They look to the President as a role model.  Now, the President is a bully.  He refuses to compromise.  He doesn't listen to viewpoints that conflict with his own.  He says that if you look different, you don't belong.  He tells women they are pigs.  He makes fun of the disabled.  He admittedly sexually assaults women.  He calls Mexicans rapists.  He thinks all Muslims are terrorists and should be banned from the country.  He questions a federal judge's rulings because the judge's parents are Mexican.  He thinks women are nothing more than pussies to grab and mouths to kiss without asking.  By electing him, we have rubber-stamped all of this type of behavior.  We have told our children that, not only is this behavior acceptable, but we want the person in the most sacred position in our country to espouse these beliefs and behaviors.

So the big question is: now what?  While I'm an optimist and I try very hard to believe that people are good inside, I'm terrified of what a Trump presidency will look like.  My biggest fear is that his presidency will cause more instability both here and abroad, and that his words and actions will provoke more terrorism.  After all, the man has said things about Muslims that aren't exactly kind.  Maybe, as Garrison Keillor suggests, Republican voters got exactly what they wanted, and now when he fucks everything up, they will have no one to blame but themselves.  Frankly, I don't ever want a President to screw up or to hurt our country.  I want America to prosper, no matter who is the President.  Historically, that hasn't happened as much during Republican administrations as it has during Democratic administrations, but maybe this will be different, right?  Probably not.

Let's take a look at some of the things and ideas Trump has said, promised, or supported during his campaign:

1. Trump's economic plan has been widely panned as unrealistic and likely to create much more debt than Clinton's tax plan.  Of course, Trump's tax plan is nothing more than trickle-down economics, a largely debunked tax theory that has no basis in reality and does nothing other than make the rich richer and the poor poorer.  But, you know, he's looking out for you, lower-middle class, non-urban, undereducated Midwesterner.

2.  He plans on sending strike forces through neighborhoods to round up illegal immigrants, and he has no problem separating families whose children were born in the U.S. (and, therefore, are U.S. citizens).  "Hey, you!  You're brown.  Get in the paddy wagon!"

3.  He wants to ban Muslims from entering our country.  I'm not sure how that would even be feasible, much less constitutional.

4.  He wants to enact laws that punish women who get abortions, in direct conflict with the constitutional right to choice repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court.

5.  He wants to enact laws that would make it easier to sue and restrict members of the media, which conflicts with the First Amendment's freedom of the press.

6.  He wants to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which has helped tens of millions of Americans obtain health insurance.  After all, the insurance companies' profits aren't as big as they used to be.

7.  He said he wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, enacted to protect consumers after the financial crisis caused by shady and unregulated mortgage lenders in the 2000s under the Bush Administration.  This would dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has helped ensure that customers of financial institutions aren't getting screwed over by banks and mortgage lenders.  But he's looking out for you, not big business, right?

8.  He is a climate change denier, despite the overwhelming and basically indisputable evidence that shows climate changes are being caused by man.  He has picked a prominent climate change denier to head the transition of the EPA.  This is akin to picking a Holocaust denier to lead the Anti-Defamation League.

9.  He supports nationwide stop-and-frisk searches, a tactic that was deemed unconstitutional because it unfairly targeted minorities.

10.  He wants to build a giant wall between Mexico and the U.S. and make Mexico pay for it.  This is still as ridiculous and short-sighted as it sounds.

11.  He wants to put a 45% tariff on goods imported from China, which would basically drive consumer prices (especially in the tech world) sky high and cause consumption to decline, hurting businesses both here and abroad.

Trump's election leaves me with so many questions:

1. How in holy hell is he going to bring Americans together?  His entire campaign engendered bigotry and misogyny, and his platform was built it on creating divides, rather than bringing people together.  Yet now, he says that he is going to unite the country.  Does he mean he's going to unite uneducated white males, or does that apply to people of all races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds?

2.  Does he actually believe the things he said on the campaign trail, or was he just saying what he thought people wanted to hear?  We know he's a liar, so what was he lying about?

3.  Will he actually release his tax returns after the audit, like he promised to do so many times during the campaign?  My bet is no.

4.  Does he double down on the threats/promises he made during his campaign, or does he back away from the ridiculous things he said and risk alienating the non-college-educated white male vote that gave him the White House?  Does he actually try to reach across the aisle?  At the end of the day, Donald Trump only cares about one thing:  Donald Trump.  That is a double-edged sword.  If he thinks that doing something will garner him more favor, then he will do it.  If that something is not something supported by the Republicans, then Trump's egotism could actually be a positive thing.

5.  How will he reconcile his isolationist rhetoric with his boasts that he is going to step up military intervention to take down ISIS?

6.  Will the Republicans in Congress who vowed not to support Trump stand by their vows or crumble to their party, especially now that Republicans have the House, Senate, and presidency?

7.  Can Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy hang on for another four years?  I certainly hope so, or else we are fucked.

8.  Can we get rid of the damn Electoral College already?  This is the second time in the last five elections that the winner of the popular vote was not elected President.  If the electoral system does not accurately reflect the will of the voting citizens of our country, what purpose does it serve?

9.  Was this all a big hoax, and he's actually still a Democrat?  Or is this the first step towards fascism.  After all, anyone who disagrees with him has been impugned or threatened.

10.  Is this small-fingered, loud-mouthed motherfucker going to lead us into nuclear war?

11.  How soon before he's impeached?

I do have some hope, since Clinton won the popular vote.  As Michael Moore noted, that means more people in our country supported her than Trump:  "You live in a country where a majority of its citizens have said they believe there's climate change, they believe women should be paid the same as men, they want a debt-free college education, they don't want us invading countries, they want a raise in the minimum wage and they want a single-payer true universal health care system. None of that has changed. We live in a country where the majority agree with the 'liberal' position."

It's a pyrrhic victory and, while Trump is one of the last presidential candidates I would have ever voted for, I'm trying not to fall into the "not my president" trap.  That's basically the same thing that he (and many conservatives) said about Obama over the last eight years, and that obviously did nothing to bridge the divide.  I'm trying to believe that there is some good in Trump and that he will do what's right for our country –- not just what's right for Donald Trump –- and that he'll use whatever negotiating skills he may have learned in the business world to cross the aisle and try to do good as President, rather than try to make good on his campaign promises.  Then again, that's exactly what a charlatan would want me to believe.

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