We already gave him two.
- His whole campaign: many of us wrote him off as a lark. I imagined only 30-35 million people would vote for such a clown. Until I realized that we can’t underestimate clowns. But we also erred in ignoring the tens of millions of Americans who would vote for him because of his racist, sexist, megalomaniacal xenophobia, as well as because the system is broken and they had nothing left to lose.
- He read his acceptance speech last week. From the teleprompter, with very little improvisation which so many of his supporters like. Reading a calm, measured speech gave us the illusion that there can be reason and compromise. At least we were able to tell that to our children Wednesday morning. But we cannot appease this autocrat, for he did not run to be president. He ran to be Autocrat of the United States of America. And he won. But the second chance we gave him evaporated when he left the stage to the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” There has been precious little written about this song choice, but we need to focus on this knife-twisting choice of music.
Why do I say these things? Because I just read Autocracy: Rules for Survival by Masha Gessen, in which I learned that thing above about how Trump didn’t run for “president.”
I also learned that you can’t treat him as a reasonable person who maybe campaigned into hyperbole but will govern with respect for constitutional and political convention. He’s no politician. And did he not reiterate a few days ago that millions of Mexicans are going away? That would have been his third benefit of the doubt.
Snap out of it!
Masha Gessen warns us of what we must do:
- Believe the autocrat: he’s going to do what he said. He has no reason not to. And for other reasons [read Gessen’s piece for the nuance of all these].
- Do not be taken in by small signs of normality: like reading a non-offensive acceptance speech.
- Institutions will not save you: Trump has no connection with institutions because he will jail his political opponent and sue women who accused him of sexually assaulting them. And while the soft fascist, proto-autocrat Harper shunned the media while we constantly compared his contempt for journalists to Obama’s administration’s daily press briefings, expect Trump to ignore if not eventually prosecute journalists who criticize The Donald or Trumpism.
- Be outraged: because you don’t want to be the frog in the slowly boiling pot growing ever-accepting of the drift from kinder, gentler soft fascism to hard core autocracy.
- Don’t make compromises: you don’t want to become Vichy. Trump has all of Congress. If miraculously the Republicans don’t end the possibility of filibuster, the morally impotent Democrats will have some check on his power. Otherwise he will have absolute legislative power and an already long list of enemies who need to be punished. Any time he has already walked back any offensive policy, it wasn’t because he is evolving his wisdom or sense of decency for America. It’s expediency and the calculated desire to appear conciliatory. Expect him to ramp up to, or past, his original intent over time.
- Remember the future: yesterday I wrote how important it is to not conform, to not give in. Even now. I wrote, “Do not lose your soul and your sense of the vision of all who’ve come before us. We owe it to them and to future generations who need our light.” Remember the kind of future we want to work for.
Let’s not appease this autocrat who never once gave any indication that he deserves our desire to compromise with him. And I don’t use the word appeasement lightly. Have we learned nothing from Neville Chamberlain or Putin’s annexation of Crimea? And how much Trump admires Putin?
Trump has already blown chances in these 7 days to rise above his campaign bluster. And I expect he thinks we’re all chumps if we will compromise to help de-radicalize him. If so, he expects to use your compromising nature to pummel us. Harper did and he was a lightweight compared to Trump.
What would his motivation be for this? In fact, barely half a day after he won the Autocracy, Canada’s ambassador let him know that we’ll renegotiate NAFTA, itself a good thing but not so much with an autocrat across the 49th parallel. I’m sure Trump thinks his mere aura of power has made Canada crumble and bow before him. While not entirely false, Trump will have no motivation to be humble.
Unless he is humbled.
So roll up your sleeves and stop thinking that we can negotiate with people who have all the power and nothing to gain by compromising.
We must block his every move. Starting now!
If we want to pivot to a higher plane of civilization we cannot waste our time on tactics that are counterproductive.