Give Thanks For The Golden State
by Steve Heilig, December 14, 2016
'The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.' — Martin Luther King, Jr.
For over a month now, at least half of the nation has been suffering from PTSD: Pre-Trump Stress Disorder. Our nation has self-inflicted a very serious sickness - actually, a relapse of a recurring, chronic, ugly syndrome. And when Patti Smith, standing in for Bob Dylan at the recent Nobel ceremony, sang his "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," I could only think, Alas, yes indeed.
Trump's tainted victory seems a repudiation of American progress, even the fabled "American Dream", and certainly against Reverend King's famous dream as well. The civil rights, women's, environmental, anti-war and other movements of the 1960s and onward have, for all their failures, been hugely positive forces in modern history. But the counter-strategy by "the establishment" has always been Divide and Conquer. This election was a backlash and last gasp of an outdated view of American life - one that actually only ever existed for a few. Whatever Making America Great Again might turn out to really mean, few will partake of that in any positive way due to Trump's minority rule. It looks like the Bush Jr. scam again - elect a front guy, cloaked in fake populism; If this election was really about anything, it was about making some rich people richer. The rest was all diversion and window-dressing.
The first Trump lie to fall has been his promise to "drain the swamp" in Washington. His own swamp of cronies already looks to be at least as stinky and corrupt as any in our history, with predictable backpedaling on the catchy promises he made while campaigning. Longtime Harper's editor Lewis Lapham calls the Trump win a "hostile takeover" - and in business those are always about one thing: cash. For a relatively recent example of the scenario, consider the murderous kleptocrat billionaire Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who first came to power in the 1960s with the slogan "This nation can be great again!" Sound familiar?
Did I believe or even hope President Hillary Clinton was going to usher in some sort of utopian era of progressive green equality and joy? Of course not. I'm long past expecting much from politicians. But she was undeniably slandered, first for decades by the venal Right and then by the gullible Left. And so enough Americans believed the far more prolific and practiced liar, with no evidence that he meant what he said or knew how to get any of what he said done. Nice job, electorate, of proving Winston Churchill correct: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." Clinton's undeniable faults were nothing compared to Trump's, and as for her qualifications and experience, compared to him she's Abraham Lincoln and George Washington combined. But yes, for all that, she did blow the campaign.
As for progressives, too many "Berners" were nearly as obnoxious in their fanaticism as the yahoos at a Trump rally. Sanders, who seemed a great guy overall and did good work injecting his views into the campaign, was never going to win any big chunk of mainstream America. And those who said it didn't matter who won are willfully ignorant of how policies and funding can impact, say, healthcare, women's rights, and the environment for starters; That's a facile position taken from a perspective of safety, usually by men. Those of us who have worked on those frontlines or who have themselves suffered know better.
The one time I heard Hillary Clinton in person, she pledged to overturn Citizens United, support rational gun control, keep us on track confronting climate change and other environmental imperatives, preserve reproductive rights, and more, concluding: "I don't want to see anybody turn back the clock, and that's exactly what's happening... There is so much nonsense and distraction out there and we just have to ignore it, even though it's hard to take all the incoming stuff that is so far removed from facts and reality. But we must stay focused on people and their rights and needs. A unifying, open, tolerant, inclusive vision must win."
It didn't. She ignored too much. The results of a generation of profiteering pandering propaganda by what even the Wall Street Journal has called the "gutter voices" of American culture - Limbaugh, Breitbart, Coulter, Hannity, and their ilk, clustered on FOX - has come home to roost with the ultimate angry, know-nothing President-elect. I know his type; in fact I grew up with some of them, a species of privileged permanent frat boys who epitomize "born on third base and thought they hit a triple." The rise of what the Oxford English Dictionary has just officially sanctioned as "post-truth" is no accident. But many of the victims will have brought it upon themselves. And their children and grandchildren will suffer even more.
Finally, equally disturbing were the self-proclaimed "Christians" who somehow became convinced to support a man who openly violates every Commandment or Deadly Sin of that faith. What Jesus might think about Trump seems to be a question that answers itself.
So, enough complaining; what to do now? How to survive political PTSD? Barring some surprising outcome of attempts to derail him actually taking office, it seems the first concrete and attainable goal might be to regain the Senate in two years, for damage control at a minimum. It's likely that by then Trump soon becomes so mired in scandal and ineptitude that his term becomes known as one of the very worst in our history. California Dreaming?
California political leaders statewide have already made statements vowing not to go along with some of Trump's more threatening and pointless campaign promises; That's a good start.
Even younger white voters in California joined the rest in rejecting Trump. Yes, our state's racial history has often been shameful, but as whites too become a minority, we seem to be collectively losing our old prejudices. Reality can do that. Eventually demographics and sanity should banish the Trumpian ethos back to the gutter.
On a personal level, for now, I keep reminding myself that in California at least, in my primary fields of public health and the environment we had the best election in history here: Landmark victories on tobacco and soda taxes, funding health care for the poor, legalized pot to keep kids and nonwhite people out of the money-grubbing "correction" industry, small advances on gun control, a ban on plastic bags, and more. Huge industries threw massive amounts of money and deception to defeat these proposals, but a big majority of California's voters saw through all that. The net effect will be huge reductions in suffering and premature death - AND many good things that start in our state spread elsewhere, even nationwide.
There's no denying I'm reaching for silver linings here - but I'll take the positive where I can find it, recall that Clinton won the real vote by millions, and be as grateful as ever to be a lifelong Californian. In any event, once I come out of this deep dark funk, I guess I'll just keep joining those who are working for goals where I might have some positive impact, big or small, in favor of "the moral universe" - however long its arc may turn out to be. For all its faults and failures, America is greater than this. Or damn well better be.
But for now maybe I should cash in too. So, for anybody who still really believes a Trump regime will be good for our nation, or even for those who voted for him who are not themselves among the fabled "1%" - I have a big beautiful orange bridge for sale, cheap. Inquire within.