When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
I asked social media a question.
If you think Trump and Clinton are the same, ask yourself this: would you honestly be this afraid for the future if Clinton had won?
Would you have been this afraid if Clinton had won?
It’s a simple question. But hard to answer, because you have to be honest with yourself.
Now by implication that question was addressed to Third Party voters, specifically those who’ve been telling me for the last year how Republicans and Democrats are really no different despite radically divergent platforms and how Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are essentially identical in evil.
And so I wondered.
Since the election of Trump, I wondered if those same people who I now see losing their shit in a spectacular fashion would be equally as fearful for the future if Clinton had won instead.
The response from the target audience was about what I expected.
Yes we would!
Liberal Jill Stein supporters were certain Clinton would start World War III on her first day in office and Conservative Gary Johnson supporters were convinced Clinton was a corrupt lying dyke and possibly a serial murderer. So yes, went the general consensus, they would have been even more afraid for the future if Clinton had won instead of Trump.
I thought I could maybe get some mileage out of that. An essay. A couple of in-depth Facebook posts, perhaps. Maybe an article for a media column. But there’s really nothing interesting there. Lets see, frightened people who are always frightened for the future are still frightened for the future and would be no matter who was running things? Not exactly a captivating or surprising narrative.
No, instead it was the responses from conservative Trump supporters I found most interesting.
A day after Trump’s election I wrote:
The conservative extremists who will soon control those bodies will not hesitate to force their ideology upon the country. And they will do so without restraint. They’re already gleefully crowing about it and they can’t wait to get their revenge for all the wrongs they believe they have suffered.
It doesn’t take any great clairvoyance to see what’s coming.
Today every white supremacist, every religious lunatic, every raging gun nut and beer-bellied militiaman, every flag-humping jingoist is cheering.
They have indeed, at last, taken their country back.
In that essay, Bug Hunt, I outlined the Left’s worst fears for a Trump presidency: loss of civil rights, persecution of LGBTQ people, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny, isolationism, war, and fascism.
Now, I admit I was purposely engaged in a bit of worst case hyperbole as a lede.
Or was I?
The responses from Trump supporters and conservatives were about what I expected:
- Really? I mean come on. You all are some kind of crazy […] Not all conservatives are racist, homophobic, islamiphobic [sic] monsters. This is offensive people […] Get over yourselves and quit acting like conservatives are about to declare war on you all or something.
- As a conservative with a deep desire for unity, I wanted to share some thoughts […] the reason why I voted the way I did is because of our national security, healthcare turmoil, and sad economic plight. Terrorism is real. I don't know why liberals ignore this. I don't want my African-American, Hispanic, LGBT brother/sister/neighbor (you name it) get thrown off a building because of their sexual orientation or color of their skin. That's happening. I don't want that to happen here in the USA […] I really don't want anyone to die. I really have a true question - do liberals really not worry about this stuff?
- The first half of your post is fear-mongering bullshit, Hillary talking points, and voters know it. If Trump was really going to build a wall, then throw all the Mexicans over it, how did he manage to get nearly 30% of the Latino vote? Your precious lesbian Muslims can relax. He's not rolling back anything.
- Your fears are just blind speculation. Get a grip!
- You are reaping what you sowed. Nothing more. If you are afraid, its because you know you earned it.
- [Y]ou need to drop the ignorant attitude of the liberals that anyone who does not agree with you is 'gun loving, bible toting, pick up driving red neck'. Or in more plain speech: Racist, bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, anti-LGBT.
- Try and protect your Muslim, gay, black, etc friends, from whom?
Really? Come on, Jim! You’re all crazy. We’re not racists. We’re not homophobes. We’re not afraid of Muslims. We’re not going to herd people into camps. We’re not going to build a wall. We’re not gun-toting bible-thumping rednecks! There’s no need to be afraid. We love all Americans. Sure. Between the hundreds of comments here on Stonekettle Station and the associated thousands on social media and via email, conservatives informed me that the fears outlined in Bug Hunt were unwarranted and undeserved.
Trump, they said, will make a deal, he’ll find the middle ground, he’ll unite the country.
And I’d like to believe that.
I would. Honestly. I’d like to believe that Trump’s rhetoric to date was just the kind of things people say during a particularly nasty campaign and now that he’s won he’ll do as Republicans promised and pivot to a more presidential demeanor.
I really would like to believe that.
I’d love to go the next four years without using or seeing the word “Nazi” or “fascist” associated with the US government even if I don’t agree with how they might be running the country. I honestly would.
But … we’re still waiting for that pivot.
The president elect has spent the last 24 hours raging on Twitter like a snotty 14-year-old who didn’t get picked for the cheerleading squad. Given the chance to go high, Trump has gone low every single time.
Every. Single. Time.
And nowhere is this more apparent than in the people Donald Trump is now selecting for his administration.
If you think the fears outlined in Bug Hunt were unwarranted, you have only to look at the future Trump administration.
Mike Pence. Rudy Giuliani. Mike Huckabee. Reince Priebus. Steven Bannon. Tom Cotton. Mike Flynn. Jeff Sessions. Mike Pompeo. And a host of conservative cronies dating all the way back to Reagan.
Around the edges are Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and White Nationalists.
Hell, Trump is openly listening to Alex Jones.
Conspiracy theorists, the wretched refuse of failed politics, religious nuts, cashiered generals, Washington insiders, and the oily gray foamy fringe of congress. You’d be hard pressed to assemble a more homophobic, Islamophobic, misogynist, xenophobic, jingoistic group of science denying fanatical nationalists if you tried. We’re on our way back to being a nation of torture, rendition, and warrantless wiretaps. Out in the streets the racists are enthusiastically chanting hate and intolerance. Swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans are being painted on homes and businesses. Politicians and law enforcement are talking unabashedly about Internment camps and Muslim registries and rounding up immigrants. A Washington State lawmaker is right now promoting legislation that would charge political and environmental protestors with “economic terrorism” – and if you don’t understand why designating US citizens as terrorists in post-911 America is goddamned chilling, then you haven’t been paying attention these last 15 years.
I mean, if you’re not a racist, if you’re not a homophobe, if you’re not an anti-Semite and an Islamophobe, if you’re not a misogynist, then what in the hell are you doing standing with these people?
And it’s not like the new administration is taking action to stop this trend.
Two days ago, Vice President Elect Mike Pence was booed at a Broadway presentation of Hamilton.
The cast of that show, many people of color, LGBT, admonished the crowd to stop. Then they politely and respectfully addressed their fears of the coming Trump Administration directly to Pence at the end of the show.
Mike Pence could have addressed the audience then.
Sincere or not, the new Vice President of the United States of America could have assured the nation, those most afraid right now, that the new administration would be a government for all Americans. He could have assured us that this president would work to protect the rights of all citizens, all people, black and white, gay and straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist. All of us.
He could have turned that moment into a triumph of reconciliation.
Oh yes, he could have.
Pence is an accomplished politician. A man comfortable in front of crowds. A man used to speaking on matters of state and government. He could have taken that opportunity to reassure the nation – even if he didn’t mean it the same way you and I might.
But he didn’t.
He didn’t because he doesn’t believe it.
Because he knows those fears are justified, because he himself is an architect of that fear.
The new president himself could have taken this opportunity to do the same, to demonstrate that he is a leader for all people and not just the racists and bigots and the haters right now cheering his name.
Instead Trump took to social media and attacked those who spoke up.
And that tells you everything you need to know.
The world has been here before.
The lessons of history are clear.
America, indeed the world, has every reason to fear and absolutely no reason not to.
If you’re not speaking up
If you’re not speaking out
If you’re not standing against this madness
Then you are a goddamned fool.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak for me.
-- Martin Niemöller