I have been unable to clearly think through all the possibilities, or impossibilities, of a Trump presidency. Honestly, it has been much too terrifying to contemplate, to imagine. I just can’t do it. Maybe later.
Right now, what I have mostly is a feeling.
In C. S. Lewis’s fairy tale, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, the White Witch put a spell on Narnia: there would always be winter and never Christmas. Nothing to look forward to except more bone-chilling cold. That’s what this world with President-elect Trump in it feels like to me. A chilling winter with no end in sight. And this paralyzing season doesn’t come with a blanket of beautiful, stunningly white, fresh-fallen snow. The snow I see piled up everywhere is spoiled and dirty and unsightly. Kids can’t play in it. Thoughtful grownups can’t look on it without dread. And fear. Fear that it will never melt, never go away, that a thaw is not in sight. It appears that no amount of low-heat light from a low-sky sun, no flip of a cosmic calendar, no miraculous forecast, can deliver us from this Narnian nightmare.
For some of us of advanced or advancing age, we may never again awake with this nightmare behind us, forgotten with the newness of another day. Four years, we might tell ourselves. Four years isn’t that long. “We can and will survive his term,” we might be tempted to whisper as therapy for our pain. But it isn’t just four years. Or eight years. It’s a generation of a Supreme Court lost to the forces of reaction. It’s a generation or two of young Americans who will face the consequences of doing nothing about a warming planet. And it is the lingering doubts about our democracy. That it is on the brink of a breakdown. That, paradoxically, it may be too late to save it from its own hands.
How fascinatingly ironic it is that it was the Founder’s fear of the ignorant and noisy rabble—a fear that fathered a system in which the popular-vote winner doesn’t win— that will now ensure that the ignorant and noisy rabble will rule. The Electoral College, which was designed to subdue the will of hot-blooded people and cool the nation’s temperature, will soon bless what feels like a perpetual chill. When it votes in December, the Electoral College will in effect become Trump University. It will be perpetrating a democratic fraud by making him president, so he can go on perpetrating his own fraud and enriching himself from the White’s House.
But the Electoral College-turned-Trump University actions next month will do more than make a bloated and bigoted grifter our leader, a leader who, as we can already see, will bring with him to Washington hearts and souls like his own. The electors empowered to vote will memorialize a sad and disturbing truth about us as a people: too many Americans are in love with their prejudices and pale-faced pride. And now they have a champion willing to make them feel at home, feel like they have retaken once-lost ground. And that national fact about some Americans makes too many other Americans, the majority who actually voted for Hillary Clinton, dangerously suspicious of a system that allows a minority of Americans to plunge us into a melancholic wintertide. If that suspicion turns into an incurable cynicism, we are truly doomed.
We now know that a great number of our fellow citizens have a very different understanding of citizenship, a very different set of political and moral values. That’s why it feels so much like a winter without Christmas, a winter without the hope of spring. Trump and Trumpism represent an open rebellion against, a repudiation of, what we thought were unimpeachable American values, what we thought was a universal thirst for equality, a collective hunger for tolerance, and a welcoming spirit. A summer of American progress now seems like a distant memory, or a good dream that has evaporated with eye-opening reality.
All of this brings on a dilemma, as most crises do. For those of us who see Trump for who he is and see his voters as either fools or willing participants in his pageantry of bigotry and hate, what are we to do? Can we tolerate and welcome Trump and his voters in a spirit of reconciliation? I have heard many voices this week try to articulate a need for us all to make peace with each other and move on. The peaceful transfer of power is the one American value we can all agree on, these earnest and hopeful people, including President Obama, tell us.
Well, sure. Peace must rule or ruin will certainly come. But there will be no reconciliation. At least as far as I’m concerned. It is one thing to be friendly toward and tolerant of people who don’t share your politics or your political solutions to the country’s problems. And it is one thing to break bread with people who have different religious views from yours. Or who don’t like your favorite sports team. Or who hate your kind of music. Of course we should make an effort to understand and appreciate all kinds of people who don’t share our religion or our politics or our likes and dislikes.
But it is quite another thing to pretend that our friends or family or neighbors or coworkers who posted or promoted hate-filled bigotry during this election cycle—and there was a lot of it on Facebook and beyond—are people with whom reconciliation is possible. No, no, no. As strange as it sounds to say, there is no tolerating the intolerable. There is no welcoming those who want to tear down an inclusive America, who don’t value diversity. There is no welcoming those who are willing to reject learning and knowledge and science in favor of ancient pride and prejudices. There is no embracing the unembraceable. Hugs won’t fix the divide between those who think Trump is a national savior and those who believe that if he is the savior then the nation is not worth saving.
Trump does not deserve my respect. He did not respect President Obama. He bullied his way into the electorate with racist attacks on Obama’s citizenship. He didn’t respect the job of president enough to learn anything about it or the world. He literally trashed the process and anything or anyone who got in his way. He said he would jail his opponent. He invited in the Russians to sabotage her chances.
And Trump voters do not deserve my respect. By electing him they did not respect our national values and appreciate the beauty and power of a nation of immigrants. Many of them were cheerleaders for his ignorance, for his racism, for his verbal and predatory misogyny. Others had a cultish attachment to him. Still others saw him as a way to blow up a system that so many people depend on.
And Republican Party leaders do not deserve my respect. They sabotaged Obama’s presidency from start to finish. They made the government dysfunctional and then capitalized on the dysfunction by lying to the electorate. They erected barriers to voting for too many young voters and voters of color. They failed to appreciate the fragility of a nation built on an idea, an idea that has evolved over time to now include “all people” under “all men are created equal.”
Finally, there are those who didn’t attempt to vote and those left-wingers who voted for a third party. In some ways these people deserve even more scorn than Trump voters. To purposely not participate, when an authoritarian-talking, vengeful, disordered monster was on the ballot, is unforgivable. For them to say they thought Trump could never win, or to say that there were no good choices, or that they were too busy working, is no excuse. At least Trump voters had the virtue of actually fighting for something, albeit a horrible something. There is no virtue in apathy.
And for those on the left who did see the danger of Trump but failed to distinguish that danger from their hatred of Hillary Clinton and who then voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, they may be the worst of all. My contempt for these people is probably deeper because I am closer to them in their vision for the country. We share many ideas and many policy prescriptions. That’s what makes their behavior so disgusting. They knew Trump’s presidency will end up hurting vulnerable people. But they didn’t really give a damn. Some of them openly rooted for a Trump victory, so the country could hit bottom, so then a bottom-feeding electorate would turn to the left for its next meal. Well, to hell with these people. Their temperament and tactics are no better than the Trumpers.
So, there you have it. My feelings four days into our new cold world. None of the people above deserves my respect. And they will not get it. All they will get is a promise of peace, as I find a way to make it through this long winter and, in some way, break the spell of the White Witch.