How do you like your new President?
It’s been a month, give or take, so how about it?
Is the Trump Administration better than you hoped or worse than you feared?
Or is President Trump pretty much what you expected?
What say you, Conservatives, is it everything you thought it would be?
Donald Trump said he would “immediately” repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on Day 1.
Day 1. Repeal and Replace. This was a big deal for Conservatives. Got to get rid of Obamacare on Day 1.
But, not only did he not do that, so far, there’s no actual plan for a replacement. Republicans don’t even have some draft legislation they’re working on. Hell, they don’t even have legislation for a repeal. And that’s kind of funny, isn’t it? Given that back when they knew it was impossible, Republicans voted fifty-two times to repeal Obamacare. But now that they have a President who promised that exact thing, and majorities in both houses, and a divided Court, they haven’t put forth the legislation for repeal.
When they knew they couldn’t actually repeal the law, they made a big deal of voting to repeal it.
But now that they actually can repeal Obamacare, they don’t dare.
It’s almost like those fifty-two attempts at repeal were empty gestures designed to stir up the suckers.
It’s almost exactly like they were lying about Obamacare all along.
You’d think a guy who’s famous for running business would know exactly how complicated employer-controlled healthcare in America is.
Unless, you know, as an employer he didn’t actually provide healthcare.
But I digress.
Meanwhile, here’s Trump bragging about meeting with Insurance Company CEOs.
And why is it, do you suppose, that you don’t see him tweeting pictures of himself surrounded by cancer patients and diabetics and those with mental health issues? Many of whom depend for their lives on Obamacare? Why is it that this supposed President of the People goes to the very Wall Street Billionaires who made their fortunes by denying access to healthcare for advice on how to better provide you with healthcare?
He’s your president, so why didn’t he ask you?
Trump promised a lot of things, big and small, from formally calling out China’s currency manipulation to building a wall to not taking vacations to not tweeting.
So far all of his promises are a bust.
But then, we are talking about a guy who conned thousands of people out of millions of dollars via a fake real-estate “university” and conservatives elected him anyway.
So I don’t suppose this is much of a surprise.
Trump is basically the Bush Doctrine realized in human form.
Sure. The Bush Doctrine. We won the war but had no idea what to do after that.
It’s the same with Trump. He won the White House, fair and square or otherwise it doesn’t matter. Trump won. He became the President. And like the dog who finally caught the car, he has no damned idea what to do with it.
This is a man who is woefully, utterly, obviously unprepared for the office.
This is a man who never did anything to actually prepare himself to be president.
He never served in uniform.
He never held an elected or even an appointed office.
He’s got no legislative experience at either state or federal level.
His education, such as it is, certainly didn’t prepare him for the most complicated office in the world.
He didn’t even bother to bone up on the actual duties of the president before he took office.
And his choice of advisors certainly hasn’t helped. He’s surrounded himself with toadies and yes-men, political flacks, cashiered generals who were drummed out of the service by their own peers, and corporate CEOs who have no more experience running a government than he does.
The only experience Trump has is business. But the government of the United States isn’t a business – not that Trump was particularly good at running a business either.
He’s out of his depth and just like healthcare, everything is vastly, vastly more complicated than he realized.
Nothing in his background prepared him to deal with that complexity.
Nothing about this guy adds up.
He played on conservative fears to get himself elected.
But that was easy enough. Anybody could have done that. Conservatives are particularly vulnerable to it.
Conservatives, and many liberals too, have been conditioned by three generations of fear-mongering. It’s always something. Always something to be afraid of. Commies and Rooskies, Red Chinamen and Black Panthers, Ebola, the brown horde south of the border, gangs and gays and atheism, with terrorists around every corner. It’s always something with these people. Seventy-five years ago, in America’s darkest hour, a withered crippled man in a wheelchair told Americans that the only thing to fear was fear itself, and Americans hitched up their pants and squared their shoulders and faced their fears. But today? Today the politicians tell the people to be afraid. Nowadays we have entire media networks dedicated to inventing things to fear, from Truthers to Pizzagate. Americans as a people are addicted to being afraid, as a nation we embrace fear, we wallow in it, but conservatives? Conservatives own the market. Hell, they even fear their God. Fear is the very cornerstone of their religion, fear of a crazy genocidal unpredictable deity who just might wipe out the entire nation because he’s mad about the idea of gay people or socialism.
Republicans have been leveraging that fear to get elected for decades, they’re coming for your guns, they coming for your religion, they’re coming for your daughters, they’re coming for your jobs, they’re coming for your way of life. Be afraid! Be afraid!
Trump was just better at tapping into that fear than anybody else.
He promised a wall to keep out the terror. As if Conservatives – if they were to stop and think about it for a minute – really want to live in an armed camp surrounded by barbed wire and mine fields. And he promised to make Mexico pay for it, but it’s us who are now going to foot the bill for his boondoggle. And conservatives just sort of shrugged at the switcheroo and refuse to meet each other’s eyes, at least they’re getting the wall, right? That’s the important thing.
He promised to round up and deport violent gang members and dangerous criminals and rapists. Because who isn’t afraid of that, right?
I don’t think any of us, conservative or liberal, would have a problem with rounding up criminals, but ICE isn’t raiding East LA or the South Side of Chicago and clearing the streets of gangbangers. We not bussing truck loads of Sinaloa Cartel and Mexican Mafia to the border, are we?
Instead Trump is making America safe by deporting people with brain tumors, day laborers, and arresting housewives as they pick their kids up from school.
What the hell kind of nation does that?
Look at those comments. As if you want to actually live in a country that would let a person die of a brain tumor over politics, as if we are really – really – going to use the (alleged) money saved by letting this women die to save an actual American child. Because we’re not going to do that either. We used to be the place that happily took in these people. We were famous for it. It says so right on the bottom of the Statue of Liberty.
The hell kind of a country, the hell kind of people, arrests a woman dying of a brain tumor and throws her in jail for deportation?
We’re not rounding up criminals, we’re deporting children and sick people who never wanted anything but a better life.
Tonight he’ll promise tax cuts…
…while at the same time he’ll talk about increasing Defense spending by $54 BILLION dollars.
It’s going to be “simple” he says.
Billions in tax cuts. Billions in lost government revenue, which will result in repercussions throughout the largest, most complex budget in the world, while at the same time increasing spending on military hardware and operations. Massive budget changes across half a dozen major Departments and coordinated by Congress.
Simple, he says.
But he can’t do it until he figures out a new healthcare plan for millions upon millions of people. Which he promised to have ready on Day 1. And that healthcare plan will do all of the things people love about Obamacare, while eliminating all of the things Republicans hate, and cost half as much. But he doesn’t have even an outline for it.
And he’s complaining that it’s a lot more complicated than he thought.
Forgive me if I look a bit skeptical.
Meanwhile, Trump says he’s going to pay for his $54 billion dollar military increase by cutting the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department (specifically foreign aid).
The EPA’s total annual budget is about $8 billion.
US Foreign Aid is about $43 billion, of which about $10.5 billion is military aid (a significant fraction of which is to Israel), leaving about $32 billion and change in economic aid. Of that economic aid, about $18 billion is disbursed by USAID under control of the State Department.
Now, since Trump said he plans on paying for his military buildup by taking from the EPA and foreign aid (specifically foreign aid under control of the State Department) and leaving aside the part where those are the very things which help prevent war in the first place, even if Trump liquidates both USAID and the EPA in toto (and assuming he could without, you know, actual legislation), that only gets him to $26 billion.
Leaving him about $28 billion short.
And I don’t care how you cut it, that’s a whole lot of short.
Especially for a guy who brags about his financial acumen.
And remember, that number is based on total liquidation of the EPA and all foreign aid disbursed via USAID – including to Israel.
Likely he’s a whole lot more than $28 billion in the hole here.
Now, it’s entirely possible I’m missing something, but in my defense Trump hasn’t been exactly specific about his budget. He makes some vague pronouncement, like healthcare or border walls or tax cuts, it’s gonna be great, folks, great, and waves his hands around and here we are.
I mean look, really look, at the last 30 days.
Never in the history of the United States has a president started out like this, jumbled, utter chaos, disorganized – and remember, he’s got both the House and the Senate in his pocket and no Supreme Court to stop him.
If he had an actual plan and competent people to execute it, he’d be unstoppable.
And yet, look at the last 30 days. What’s the most important thing? If you look at Trump’s statements, his emphasis, his focus, where is it? What’s he talk about? What does he Tweet obsessively about?
Yeah, his image in the press.
Maybe if he spent as much effort focusing on his neglected intelligence briefings as he does obsessively combing through public opinion polls he’d garner some of the respect he so desperately craves. Maybe we wouldn’t have lost a SEAL in Yemen – something he today blamed on the military and as Commander in Chief refused to take responsibility for.
This is what you get when you elect a leader out of fear.
This is what you get when you cater to the basest elements of society.
This is what you get when you hire an amateur to run the most complex country in history.
This is what you get when liberals and progressives and rational conservatives don’t show up.
Oh stop, just stop.
I see you. You were with me right up to that last line, but now you’re mad.
How dare you? Right? That’s what you’re shouting, isn’t it? Goddamnit, man, we did show up. Why, we won the popular vote, didn’t we? Well, didn’t we?
Yes, you did. You won the popular vote. So?
The president isn’t elected by popular vote.
The president is determined by the Electoral College. This is by design. Is that a good design? The founders put this system in place for what they thought were very good reasons. Are those reasons still valid? Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. For the moment, it is what it is and the popular vote doesn’t elect the president.
And so while liberals and progressives keep shouting “But we won the popular vote!” Donald Trump is still the president and Hillary Clinton is not.
Like it or not, that’s how our system works.
But here’s the real kicker: Trump – or Clinton for that matter, any president – no matter how terrible, should be constrained by a reasonable and cautious Congress. The Founders designed this country, this government, so no one person could exercise power without opposition – or so they thought.
But that entire system of checks and balances depends on one weak link.
Trump should be constrained by Congress.
But he’s not.
Because liberals didn’t show up in 2010 or 2014. That’s why.
Because conservatives keep electing their representatives out of fear.
Because we keep catering to the lowest common denominator.
The Electoral College determines the president, but it’s the popular vote that determines your Senators and Representatives. And in the elections where the popular vote actually matters, well, liberals didn’t show up.
And so we have a House led by a Tea Party hack and a Senate run by a self-serving power-mad ideologue who’d rather burn the country to the ground out of pure spite than compromise with anybody. Our representatives, the congressmen who are supposed to be our voice, they don’t show up for town hall meetings because they don’t want to hear what we have to say, because they’re actually afraid of us, because they don’t even have the guts to face the kind of crowd any women has to push through just to get a goddamned pap smear from Planned Parenthood.
And it’s that way because liberals didn’t show up when the popular vote actually mattered.
Conservatives, they always show up. Always.
They’re afraid not to.
But here’s the real problem, liberals don’t show up at the state level.
Sure, you might. Sure, those of you who read this blog. But in majority? Liberals don’t show up.
That’s the how the popular vote shook out.
Sure, Democrats might have won the popular vote by taking California, but the vast, vast majority of the country is red.
Which means the Electoral votes looked like this:
Which is why Trump is now president instead of Clinton.
Now, remember last month when the streets of St. Louis were filled by tens of thousands of people in pink hats? On January 22nd, more than 10,000 people massed in downtown St. Louis. The event was billed as a Women’s March, but thousands of men showed up too. Those people were there in defiant opposition to everything Trump.
Right smack in the middle of the reddest of the reddest red state. There they were by the tens of thousands. Dead center in that sea of red.
Where did those people come from?
That’s St. Louis, that little cone of blue on the eastern border of Missouri.
But the whole rest of the state is red.
Do you see?
Look carefully, what does that map tell you?
Now I’m not pointing out anything that you likely don’t already know, cities tend to be more progressive than the rural countryside, but look at that map. What that map appears to show is that there is this little enclave of liberals surrounded by a sea of conservatism, like the British facing the entire Zulu nation at Rorke’s Drift.
You’re telling me the people of St. Louis are that much different from their country cousins?
I don’t buy it.
Those people marching in the streets of St. Louis on January 21nd weren’t all city folk, many of them came from the surrounding country. How many? I don’t know. I can’t find any reliable data. But what matters here is that there’s this little island of blue in the middle of a vast sea of red. And the people in that sea of red show up to vote for state officials.
Those state officials are the ones who appoint the electors of the Electoral College.
And this is the same across the entire middle of the country.
Those liberals showed up for the march, but they don’t show up to vote on local elections. It’s right there on the goddamned map.
And that’s why Trump is the president instead of Clinton and why we, all of us liberals and conservatives alike, are stuck with this incompetent ass in the White House.
All politics are local.
You’ve heard this, right?
Well, it’s true, and liberals, progressives, they don’t show up where it matters. When it matters. Not enough of them anyway.
Trump is a symptom, not the disease.
Trump is a reflection of that map, that sea of red.
He is the end result of decades of fear and division.
Those colors on that map? They’re not really conservative and liberal. They’re not really republican and democrat.
What those colors show you is fear.
The people in those little red squares are afraid. And they should be. Because they’ve told to be afraid for seventy years.
They’re afraid that transgender people will assault them in public restrooms.
They’re afraid gay people want to get married in their churches.
They’re afraid foreigners with strange accents and religions and ideas will come to take over their towns.
They’re afraid gangs of criminals will come from the cities to kick in their doors.
They’re afraid illegal aliens will come to take their jobs.
They’re afraid drugs will destroy their children.
They’re afraid terrorists will murder them in their places of worship or their shopping malls or their businesses.
They’re afraid the government is coming to take their guns, their freedom, their rights.
They’re afraid that their voices are being ignored.
Most of all they’re afraid of change. They like who they are, they’re proud of their heritage, they don’t want to change and why should they?
And they aren’t necessarily wrong.
We’ve all been fed a diet of fear and terror and doom since the 1950s. We don’t duck and cover nowadays, we don’t dig fallout shelters in our backyards (most of us), but it’s there that fear of Armageddon imprinted on our hindbrains.
And that, that right there, is why Donald Trump is the president and Hillary Clinton is not.
If we want to change this, then we have to start showing up.
I’m not just talking about just voting, Folks. I’m talking about showing up.
The day after the election I wrote a long essay, similar to this one, called Bug Hunt. In that essay, I told you what I thought the last 30 days would look like, what the coming four years would look like. Enough time has passed that I can say I think my prediction was pretty accurate.
Liberals are going to lose … well, everything. All the gains of the last eight years.
And they haven’t got anybody to blame but themselves.
Right now, liberals, progressive, democrats, and the more rational centrist conservatives are all fighting among themselves.
They’ve had since November to get over their defeat and get organized and get a plan on the table and get to work. Time’s a wasting, folks. But liberals haven’t done any better at getting organized than Donald Trump has at organizing his administration.
Two days ago, the DNC elected itself a new Chairman, and predictably liberals fell to fighting amongst themselves. They’re all bitching and moaning and rehashing the election, slinging blame and arguing over candidates that are long lost and who will never be president.
And they’ll still be fighting when Trump wins his second term unless they pull their heads out of their asses right now.
Look up there.
Look at that map.
Look at that sea of fear.
Democrats, liberals, progressives, they lost because they ignored reality. Because they dismissed that red sea as unimportant. Because they dismissed those fears as ridiculous. Because they saw the whole middle of the country as nothing but a bunch of ignorant hicks, dumb rednecks, and unimportant. Because they were confident they’d win the popular vote.
That, that right there, is why they lost.
And that, that right there, is why they will continue to lose.
All politics are local.
Liberals, progressives, democrats, are going to have to show up. At town halls. At community meetings. At local elections. At school boards. Everywhere in that sea of red, and they are gong to have to address those fears.
In Bug Hunt, I said that liberals are going to have to compromise some of their vaunted ideals.
And for weeks afterward I got mail telling me I was a sellout. Liberals told me they would not, could not, compromise, not with racists, or bigots, or homophobes, or Islamophobes, or anti-Semites. No. No way. No how.
But, I never said that you should compromise with hate.
Believe me, as somebody who daily gets death threats and hatemail from neo-Nazis and the KKK and Bikers for Trump, I’d be the last guy to tell you to compromise with hate.
That’s not what I said.
But I find it interesting and instructive – and frustrating – that many of you thought that’s what I said.
I didn’t ask you to compromise with hate.
I asked you to compromise with fear.
I asked you to compromise with the specific fears that put Trump in the White House and will very likely keep him there unless we find a way to turn that sea of red purple.
Look here: I said, “They’re afraid gay people want to get married in their churches.”
What do you say when a conservative voices this fear? What do you say when a conservative says, “The liberals will force our church to marry homosexuals!”
You laugh. It’s stupid. Right?
But that’s not how fear works. People don’t stop being afraid because you think their fears are stupid.
Religion matters to these people. Their religious ideals are important to them, just as yours are important to you. And so when Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Alex Jones or Ann Coulter or the local priest or Donald Trump tells them that you, you goddamned stinking liberals, are going to force their church to marry gay people, well, they’re afraid, they’re angry, they’re outraged at the idea.
Now, ask yourself something, during the election, what assurances did Hillary Clinton offer to counter those fears?
How many times did democrats, liberals, Clinton, visit local churches and promise on record that those institutions would not be forced to go against their principles?
It doesn’t matter if the Constitution already grants those churches the right to marry, or not, whomever they please.
Fear doesn’t work like that.
And so when I said you have to compromise with fear, well, this is what I’m talking about.
How do you prove that you will not force churches to marry LGBT people if they don’t want to? Especially if you yourself find the idea of such refusal stupid and bigoted and wrong and you get angry at the idea of any institution that would discriminate against people for any reason?
Churches are easy. The Constitution already protects them. It should be a simple matter to offer that assurance, to address that fear.
But what about business?
People who own catering companies and flower stores and pizza parlors in small towns, what about them?
Sure, I admit I feel some vindictive glee when a bigoted bakery goes bust because they wouldn’t make a cake for a lesbian wedding, but …
But the people who own those businesses in those small red towns, those people are often on the town council, they’re often members of the Chamber of Commerce, and they show up, every time. And this, this right here, this fear that gay people are going to put them out of business, is why they voted for Trump.
Now, ironically, tragically, very likely Trump is going to be a hell of a lot worse for LGBT people than not having the local pizza parlor cater their reception. You won the battle, and lost the war.
Is that wrong? Hell yes.
In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to make this trade off. But we don’t live in that world. Maybe we will some day but that day is now further away than closer because nobody on the Left was willing to compromise. And yes, it’s a damned dirty rotten thing to ask people to wait for that world, to wait for the rights they should have as citizens of the United States, but that is the lousy choice we are faced with. That’s what fear does, it puts us in that position. And we can either deal with it … or get used to Donald Trump and have no rights at all.
How do you assure the people in that sea of red that immigrants and refugees will be vetted thoroughly?
How do you assure those people that you are serious about crime? That those gangs won’t come kick in their door, won’t force drugs on your kids, because you’re going to be right there with them, with law enforcement, with law and order? That you’re NOT going to take their guns, their means of self defense against crime and against tyranny? How do you convince them that illegal aliens won’t take their jobs? If you don’t believe in a wall, if you don’t believe in rounding up people with brain tumors and mothers with kids, if you believe that dangerous illegals should be jailed or deported, then how to you convince them of your sincerity? Trump might never build that wall, but to these people at least he cares enough about their fears to try.
What do you got that’s better?
Republican congressmen refuse to listen to your voice, but how do you convince the people in those little red squares that you’re any better when you don’t show the fuck up?
That is what liberals should talking about right now. That is what should form DNC strategy right now.
Listen to me, this isn’t 1870 or 1920 or even 1960.
Americans in the cities aren’t that much different from Americans in the country.
TV, the internet, mass communication, mass media, have in many cases reduced the distance between points to zero.
Hell, look at your kids, they play games online via Xbox Live and other similar technologies. They don’t care where their allies or opponents are located physically. For them physical geography doesn’t exist. The virtual world has eliminated the differences between East and West, city and country, left and right, and nations for that matter. And this cosmopolitanism will only grow as connectivity increases (this is what will eventually defeat the communists of China, not guns or bombs, but gaming networks and Facebook. But that’s a different essay).
We Americans, left and right, city and country, have more in common than we don’t.
Me? I don’t have all the answers.
I have the outline of a plan, the basis of a strategy.
It’s going to require a hell of a lot more work. It’s going to require organization. It’s going to require rational liberals and rational conservatives to work together and find common ground.
It’s going to require that we respect the people in that sea of red – and for some of us that will be the hardest step of all.
It’s going to require liberals to show up, every time, no matter what. Just like Conservatives.
It’s going to require compromise.
Compromise not with hate, but with fear.
And if we can do that, if we can compromise with that fear…
…well, then the rest will take care of itself.