I wrote this the day after the 2016 presidential election and for some reason it never got posted, and when I discovered it while returning to this blog I thought it was sort of interesting. It was my take on a worst-case scenario, given GOP control of Congress and the White House. After eight months, some of it turns out prescient, some of it hysterical. Presented as a public service.
My girlfriend, before whom I exhibited a screaming, drunken, hysterical, and utterly humiliating breakdown last night, suggested this morning that I write down my paranoid fantasies so that they don't keep running through my head. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post that laid out what I thought would happen in the event of a total GOP victory--Congress, White House, SCOTUS, all in the hands of the right. Obviously, the Senate Democrats still have the filibuster, but that's a weapon that can't be used all the time, and besides it is a quality of Democrats that they think government is supposed to work, whatever party is in power. So, assuming for a moment that the Trump administration is a regular presidency, we should expect a federal law banning abortion and one banning same-sex marriage. Prayer in schools might come back as well. There will be a massive tax cut for the wealthy and a subsequent diminution in the ability of the federal government to run programs that help people. The ACA will be repealed as well as other programs that can be construed as helping the undeserving poor. (The one bright spot: the poor saps who voted for him are going to get it in the neck.) So far, so Republican. Beyond that, however, given the personality of the new president and the new prominence of naked fascism as a factor in the American political scene, things could get a lot darker.
Over the past decade, aided by the growth of new media, the right has been able to largely destroy actual journalism, of the type that has constrained political malfeasance throughout our history. This destruction has been greatly abetted by the failure of the traditional media to understand the election. In fact, Trump was right: the traditional media was biased in its view of America, which is why the NYT was predicting an 85% chance of a Democratic victory right up to the eve of the election. A vast mass of the country was ignored, with contempt, by the coastal elites. Our bad, and aren't we paying for it now? An interesting side note to the results: counties that had Starbucks were for Hillary, those without were GOP landslides. Hillary took the popular vote, but that's not how presidential elections work.
As many have noted, the election was a contest between urban America and the non-urban counties--and the cities lost. Liberals talk about the right-wing info-bubble with disdain, but there's one on the other side too. The question now is what will become of it. Trump famously has a thin skin and is in the habit of striking back at those who treat him as a clown. We may see, therefore, a concerted attack against the so-called mainstream media. Yes, there's the first amendment, but with the SCOTUS in hand this is not insurmountable. The libel laws could be changed. Liberal media could be stifled or destroyed. That done, the administration, as Karl Rove once boasted, could create its own reality. Social media could be strangled, as in China or Russia. We would no longer see those videos of police brutality. The results of climate change would no longer be reported, and speaking of that, we could expect to see denialists placed in positions of power at NOAA and other science agencies, the Paris accords will be abrogated and the slow catastrophe will continue at an accelerating rate. We just won't learn much about it until it is far to late to take any effective action.
A friend of mine suggested that this will be just like Reagan or Bush 2, a pain in the ass, but just politics as usual. I hope so, but we have never had a leader quite like Trump before. There is the possibility that he intends a Putinization of our country. By this I mean not only suppression of media but actual political vengeance. We might see prominent liberals jailed on phony charges. We might see the imposition of even more of a security state than we now have. Reportedly Putin was able to seize absolute control by engineering faked terror attacks, carried out by the FSB and blamed on Muslims. Is this kind of thing beyond Trump? Maybe, but how would we ever know, journalism being dead?
Which brings us to foreign policy. Here I think that even the Senate Republicans will push back if Trump tries to back out of the alliances. The left typically deplores American hegemony and the casualties associated with it, but there are a lot worse things than American hegemony. We could be looking at 1940 again, except with a nuclear Japan and Germany in the mix.
It is inherent in democracies that they can commit suicide. In fact, political science was agreed until quite recently that democracies were inevitably doomed to descend into dictatorship. Democracy takes a lot of work, and people are lazy. It takes an educated and aware populace, and most people are happy in their fallacies and prejudices. People have nothing but contempt for Congress and yet they continue to elect the same fools at every election.It doesn't make sense and here we are at this nonsensical election of an ignorant megalomaniac with the attention span of a chicken, and a Congress ready to do his bidding.
The best case, I suppose is a Bush 2 administration--feckless, stupid, venal, deeply corrupt. The worst case is a 2020 election in which Trump gets 99% of the vote, and after he dies (having served four terms because of the National Emergency) we'll have Donald, Jr. and then Eric and then Ivanka running the country, just like in North Korea. Yeah, it can't happen here. But the first act just did.
Many educated people wonder what they would have done had they lived during the Stalin terror or in Nazi Germany, and came under the terrible pressure that such regimes use to make such people acquiesce to horror, to be complicit in torture, incarceration of the innocent, murder. I fear there's a good chance we may all find out.