I’m still trying to sort out my thoughts and feelings, with so much of the world that I expected to be living in having been transformed by the terrible election results of Tuesday night. Here I will share a few such thoughts that I hope may be of interest to others.
My thoughts are arriving in somewhat fragmentary form, at this point, because this situation is new and it takes time to see things whole. Just as important, there are so many unknowns. It is valuable, I think, to recognize just how much is not known, how much of the likely — or potential — dynamics of this dawning Trump era remains to be seen.
Thus, for me at least, many of my thoughts take the form of questions.
CAN WE LOOK TO ANY REPUBLICANS TO HELP SAFEGUARD THE NATION?
Many questions revolve around what dynamics are going to play out in the Republican Party. During the campaign, I heard pundits say that the Republican Party would probably be more fractious, more in danger of dissolution, if Trump won than if he lost. I never really grasped that idea. Does anyone here see how that might be true?
In any event, on the night of the election, I found myself picturing the Republicans and Trump as forming a monolith. Gradually it occurred to me that it would be a mistake to assume that ALL Republicans will be part of the problem, and NONE of them part of the solution.
If there are major divisions among the Republicans, are there good strategies available to Democrats for utilizing those divisions to minimize the damage Trump can inflict and to achieve their own purposes?
The Republicans will be in full control of the government. But will the Republicans be under the full control of President Trump?
On the one hand, the record of the congressional Republicans during the presidential campaign is not encouraging. If they were willing to line up behind a man like Trump then, what reason is there to hope that they would act as a check on Trump when he wields all the powers of the presidency?
Trump is into domination and revenge, so he may well be more inclined than most presidents to try to compel obedience from Republicans in Congress.
On the other hand, there were some — like Senators Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham — who not only recognized how unsuitable Trump is for the presidency but also spoke out about it. (And the Democrats have ALMOST half the Senate.)
So the question arises, for example, whether the Democrats might be able to join forces with a few Republicans who are more principled — or less unprincipled — to block some egregious nomination.
It has been said, for example, that Rudy Guiliani is being considered for Attorney General. Whatever Guiliani was earlier in his career, the man he has become would be a terrible, dangerous Attorney General.
So, just to illustrate the larger questions about the Republicans, if it should come to pass that there’s a vote in the Senate on whether or not to confirm Rudy Guiliani as Attorney General, might the 48 Democrats be able to get three or more Republican Senators to join in defeating the nomination?
HOW TO WAGE THE BATTLE FROM HERE?
Yesterday I asked, “How is the battle to be waged from here?” I asked because so many of the avenues that I was thinking about before the election have now been blocked off by the Republicans.
On Slate.com, Yascha Mounk — described as “a lecturer on government at Harvard University and a Carnegie Fellow at New America” and “the author of Stranger in My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany“— has offered some useful ideas in a piece subtitled, “How to preserve the ideals of liberal democracy in the face of a Trump presidency.” Among them are:
1) While we respect the outcome of the election, “there are many things an elected president does not have the authority to do, and we must be vigilant about enforcing that red line. As soon as Trump does something unconstitutional or morally abhorrent, we will come out into the streets in full force—and then we must not let up until he retreats.”
I like this idea, but it remains to be seen whether Americans — and Liberal America in particular — have what it takes to rise to the occasion in that way. I think that the Republicans’ refusal to confirm any Obama nominee to the Supreme Court was a violation of the Constitution and warranted massive demonstrations that never happened.
But last night, there were indeed large anti-Trump demonstrations in some major American cities. So maybe.
2) “To resist a would-be tyrant, you need to work with strange bedfellows. For the next four years, we must build the broadest possible coalition against Trump. This coalition will have plenty of internal disagreements: It will include Barack Obama and Mitt Romney but also Jill Stein and Glenn Beck. That’s OK.”
The matter of bedfellows may prove important at a lot of levels. It could be important for resisting Trump, if Trump proves as bad as many of us fear. But there’s more.
There is a possibility that the party alignments that we have seen for a long time may get reshuffled. The American system is set up to generate two major parties. If the Republican Party does become “the Party of Trump,” who all might belong to the Party that opposes the Trump Party?
Which relates to the earlier point about what the Democrats might do, in their current weak position, to create alliances with the less despicable elements of the Republican Party.
3) “We must work our hearts out to win the midterm elections in a landslide. We must be prepared to defend the judiciary against attempts to undermine its neutrality, to help state governors stand up to Washington, and to protect journalists critical of the administration.”
Mouck makes other points as well in that piece.
He concludes his article with this:
In the depths of World War II, the future of humanity looked just about as bleak as it has ever done. But for some, the unspeakable horrors of the war also held out a unique moral opportunity. “Never in the field of human conflict,” Winston Churchill told his countrymen in the late summer of 1940, “was so much owed by so many to so few.” This is the kind of moment in which we now find ourselves. The stakes are enormous. There can be no doubt that we might lose, even if we do our best. But, for all their horror, the bleak times that lie ahead will offer us a rare time of complete moral clarity. Liberal democracy has prevailed against the odds before. It is the civic duty of us all to do everything we can so that it might prevail again.
As for me, I am still considering hanging up my spurs. But for now, I seem to be still stuck in the saddle.