In the aftermath of the election, a lot of think pieces have been written about the need to empathize with Trump’s voters more. Commentators chide the elitist liberals for not understanding Trump voters’ economic anxiety, which is manifesting all over the country now in the form of spray-painted swastikas sprouting up on public property.
If you’re looking for something to blame for this calamity, you can point your finger at institutional racism or the confounding Electoral College. If you need a human face to direct your rage at, you can consider my family, because they’re partially to blame, too.
During this election, many evangelicals’ hatred of Hillary Clinton was more powerful than their desire to protect the country from a dangerous demagogue. In spite of all Trump’s hateful rhetoric, their irrational fear of change proved to be a stone too heavy to move.
These are, I’m sad to say, my people. Growing up my sister and I were forced to go to Sunday school every week. Awana. Bible camp. The whole works.
About a week before the election, my mom told me that she could not support Hillary Clinton due to her stance on abortion. When I asked her how many abortions she thinks Donald Trump has paid for over the years, she changed the subject.
“Did you know that Hillary had people killed in Arkansas? And in Benghazi too. It’s true...”
The conversation ended with the assertion that there are sleeper cells of radical Islamic extremists in every Congressional district who are just waiting for some kind of signal to trigger an apocalyptic terrorist attack. I love my mother, but at times like these I really, really don’t like her. She voted for Trump and thinks he’s going to do his best, despite some misgivings about his temperament.
Unlike my mom, my stepfather is not a particularly religious person. He’s an electrical engineer with an excellent-paying job and zero economic anxiety. I’ve always found him to be an even-tempered, reasonable kind of man. He’s never displayed any outward signs of bigotry, racism, sexism or xenophobia. A few days before the election he commented on the unseasonably warm weather. He said global warming must be a real thing.
In response I shared an anecdote about Donald Trump’s ludicrous claim that climate change was a hoax started by the Chinese. We shared a good laugh about that one. Then he went out and voted for Trump anyway.
In Primo Levi’s 1958 memoir about his time in Auschwitz, If This Is a Man, he tells a story about breaking off an icicle to slake his thirst. When a guard takes it away he asked why. The guard replied Hier ist kein warum. Here there is no why.
Understanding why so many decent Americans cast aside their common sense and morality and voted for Trump is irrelevant. Do you really need to know why a meteor is heading for Earth to wipe us all out? No. Yet this unfortunate instinct to try to understand why extends to Democratic leadership.
A few prominent Democrats in the Senate are already suggesting that they're willing to "work with" Trump on some issues. Two weeks ago, Chuck Schumer said there are no plans to use the filibuster, which is their last line of defense with minorities in both houses.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren seem to think that Trump's economic populism message may have been sincere and at the very least he should be given a chance. This is exactly the wrong way to handle it and all too typical from a party that's naive about the nature of the enemy that it's facing.
The impulse to meet Republicans in the middle is what makes progressives better people on a fundamental level. It’s also a double-edged sword that they consistently use against us. The thing is that Republicans do not care about consensus. They do not care about governance. Based on their non-reaction to the Russians hacking the election they don’t even care about the sovereignty of the United States. Winning takes precedence over everything else.
Instead of trying to figure out why so many of their countrymen voted for this deranged lunatic, progressives need to focus their energy on stopping his agenda at all costs.
What can be done?
It’s tempting to wallow in depression and despair (I did for two full days after the election) but we are not powerless. There may be some hope that a few Republicans in the Senate will not give Trump a rubber stamp for his destructive policies. Rand Paul and Lindsay Graham never got on board the Trump train and are making noises about resisting his worst impulses. But relying on “moderate” Republicans to do the right thing is about the most asinine approach that I can think of. Remember these people have held a Supreme Court seat open for over ten months because they thought the next President should make the nomination (as long as it wasn’t Hillary Clinton.)
Republicans are going to take the icicle away because they can. Because defeating the infidel Democrats is more important to them than running the country. Don’t ask why. Say no. Resist.
Here a few things that you can do to help.
Resistance must begin at the local level, where even in liberal Washington state you can find burgeoning brownshirts who are already making calls to subvert our constitutional rights.
State Senator Doug Ericksen is proposing class C felony charges for non-violent protesters and their so-called accomplices. Call your local officials and make sure his bill gets shot down. Then you can reach Mr. Ericksen himself at email@example.com or 360-786-7682.
On a national level, there are some who are holding out hope that Mr. Trump can be prevented from taking the oath of office by pressuring Electoral College members to honor the popular vote and cast Trump aside. Faithless electors are a long shot but if Trump continues to bungle the transition perhaps enough of them can be persuaded that his Presidency represents a genuine threat to our nation. For what it’s worth, you can sign a petition here.
If these feel like futile suggestions you’re not alone in that sentiment.
Our only true hope lies in ruthless vigilance once Trump is in the Oval Office. Already he is using his influence to pressure international leaders to stay at Trump hotels. The corruption and profiteering to come out of the West Wing over the next four years will be unprecedented.
Trump would not have been “elected” (Hillary is winning the popular vote by 2 million) without billions of dollars in free advertising thanks to the shamelessness of 24-hour cable news channels. In their pursuit of ratings and clicks the traditional media completely failed to warn the American people of the threat Trump represents to the Republic. Hoping that they’ll suddenly remember their journalistic integrity now and bite that hand that feeds is foolish.
That makes quality, fearless print journalism more important than ever. In the run-up to “winning” the election, Trump demonized the media and often worked his crowds into a fever pitch while antagonizing the traveling press corps.
Since his win, Trump has spent an inordinate amount of time complaining about the New York Times’ coverage of him during the campaign. Their subscriptions are now skyrocketing. This is the rebound effect.
Make no mistake: a Trump administration will be fundamentally hostile to the First Amendment and the fourth estate in particular. Trump’s first autocratic assault will come against the freedom of the press. The fate of the nation now rests in the hands of its finest investigative reporters.
Mainstream papers like the Times and the Washington Post may have been derelict in their duties, but there are still many great outlets doing important work like The Stranger, the Nation and Mother Jones. Subscribe. Donate. Share. Read. Resist.
Tim Weaver covers the Seahawks for USA Today and film for Men’s Philosophy. You can find him on Twitter @Timweaver84.