I’m still in shock today but, as the fog clears, I’m instinctively mustering the fortitude to press on knowing that, as a political writer and podcaster, I have no choice but to re-focus my efforts to an opposition posture. I frankly didn’t expect to make this adjustment for at least another four years, and I never thought the focus would be President-elect Trump.
In this personal rewiring process, I’m grappling with myriad thoughts and feelings, as I’m sure you are. Like you, I’m terrified. And not solely due to the policy implications of the forthcoming Trump administration and its alliance with bloodthirsty congressional Republicans. There’s plenty of that, suffice to say, but the bulk of my thoughts are circulating around the things we can’t predict — the countless unknowns that will surely emerge from a chief executive who possesses zero personal discipline and zero concern for the strictures of American constitutional democracy.
In this regard, my thoughts keep returning to this: The opposition from both parties has to be united or be crushed under the oppression that will surely emerge from a Trump White House. This means engaging in reasonable discussions about how best to proceed, and to do so in a way that’s not suicidal.
There are a thousand different political reasons why Donald Trump, during what could be the most surreal day in recent American history, won. There are more than a few people who we can blame, too, while there are also more than a few people who deserve to be acknowledged for risking their careers or, in some cases, their lives to fight against the orange tidal wave. (The idea of an Enemies List is back, and some of us would do well to interview First Amendment lawyers.)
But placing the blame at the feet of protest voters or former Bernie Sanders voters won’t help to block the Trump Republican agenda. It won’t help to blame Bernie or Susan Sarandon or Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or any of the people who decided that personal ideals were a higher priority than electoral success against a berzerker-in-chief — an existential threat like Trump. Surely, there are mathematical arguments to be made here with regard to the vote margins, and there are plenty of reasons why the disunity that emerged from the Democratic primaries helped to worsen the outcome for Hillary Clinton.
Right or wrong, this won’t change the results. Shaming and scolding the holdouts won’t turn Michigan or Pennsylvania blue again, nor will it magically retract Hillary’s concession.
It will, on the other hand, help to mitigate the damage: uniting as a center-right, center-left and far-left Coalition of Normals to reinforce any political leaders who choose to stand up against Trump’s agenda. And there will be many, beginning with the aforementioned Mr. Sanders. This means vocally blocking any and all legislative actions that fall outside of what’s reasonably acceptable — actions that would have catastrophic long-term implications, especially those which will threaten millions of lives.
The first big fight, if Trump’s pledge and the early word from Mitch McConnell is true, will be over the fate of Obamacare. Trump vowed to repeal it on “day one,” and the GOP has already released its plans for a replacement law. This proposal is unacceptable in so many ways — however, it’d be far worse if Obamacare is repealed and nothing is passed to replace it. At this point, there are at least protections in the GOP plan for those of us with pre-existing conditions. Repealing Obamacare, while failing to replace it with something acceptable, will be a nightmare of epic proportions — 20 million Americans who had affordable coverage with or without subsidies, will likely lose their policies. The immediate consequence? Dead Americans. Bankrupt Americans. And economic calamity.
If Obamacare is to be preserved, it will require unity and political tenacity not seen since the 2006 midterms when the Democrats steamrolled President Bush’s “culture of corruption” to retake Congress. Along those lines, there will also be a potential conga-line of horrendous choices for cabinet posts, all of which require congressional confirmation. Here’s something that’s hardly shocking, though amazingly disturbing: Sarah Palin might be up for Secretary of the Interior — the post tasked with overseeing the National Park Service. If true, she has to be blocked. With force.
Speaking of Congress, we also have a midterm election in two years, and an opportunity to render the Trump movement legislatively impotent by overtaking the GOP’s one seat majority in the Senate. Who knows? Perhaps the House as well. Doing so won’t reverse the bulk of the unforeseen horrors Trump will surely accomplish before then, but it’ll thwart any further flirtations with the abyss. Don’t forget, too: there’ll be an opportunity to elect more Democrats to state and local posts one year from right now. This will help protect civil and reproductive rights at the state level, where the all the action on that front seems to be.
Ultimately, though, who knows how he’ll behave — how he’ll abuse the power of the office to seek revenge against his political enemies and how it’ll have a chilling effect on the opposition. In addition to backstopping opposition efforts on the Hill, we also have to provide support to any rumored Judases inside the White House who have enough decency and patriotism to block Trump from kneejerking us into the unthinkable.
And finally, we have to work together to demand more from our political press. We have to fight against the normalization of Trump’s madness, and the penchant for television hosts to provide obscene latitude to the gaslighting that’ll surely emerge from operatives like Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon who will play the most destructive game of “Who? Us?” since the Bush administration declared “whoops!” over WMD.
In a New York minute, everything can change. Trump can be stopped just as quickly as he ascended. Unfortunately for his loyalists, Trump’s unforgivable incompetence will be on full display almost immediately and if the Bush years were any indication, an electoral college victory and a popular vote defeat can, in fairly short order, turn into cripplingly low approval numbers. He’s already starting on a hobbled note, given the total absence of a governing mandate. It won’t take much to hamstring him, should he dare to overreach. But the worst enemy to stonewalling Trump will be disunity and finger-pointing among the resistance.
In a very literal sense, we must unite or die.
Stay strong. Because once the grieving is over, we have a lot of work to do.