So it has begun. The Trump inauguration is over and so now Donald Trump is President of the United States. I have just a few thoughts to share with you all. It’s nothing too profound. It’s hard to be profound when you are terrified.
To begin with, I wasn’t in favor of protesting Trump’s inauguration. He was elected president fairly in the context of our non-democratic system. And it bothers me to think that people will be more interested in protesting this than in trying to fix our country’s election system.
The Electoral College
Let’s just talk about the electoral college — even though that is actually a fairly minor way that this country is non-democratic. We face a really difficult time getting rid of it. Before Trump was elected president despite losing the popular vote by almost three million votes, most Republicans wanted to get rid of it. After the election, Republican voters flipped and decided that the electoral college was just great!
So I’m not sure how we get rid of the electoral college now that it is clear to Republicans that the only way they can make it into the White House is through this deeply non-democratic mechanism.
The Trouble With Trump
As I see it, there are two primary problems with Trump. Let me start with the one that gets all the attention: he’s insane. I can imagine him using Mexico refusing to pay us back for the wall he’s planning to build as a pretext for going to war. And if he did that, it would probably lead to World War III.
I know that a lot of people think that the military would not go along with Trump if he ordered a war crime. But that’s nonsense. We all know that the Nazis were tried for war crimes because they lost the war. If you want to see what happens to military personnel when they stand up for what is right, see Chelsea Manning. This distinction between valid and invalid orders is like what constitutes Fair Use in intellectual property matters. No one knows anything. You just have to wait and see which side wins.
So if Trump goes on tilt, don’t expect the military (or almost any other American institution) to stop him. The only possible institution that would stop him would be the Republican Congress. They would gladly impeach him, because they’d rather have Mike Pence anyway.
Trump Is a Republican
The much bigger problem with Trump is that he is a Republican. And we have a Republican Congress. And I don’t think Trump is planning to be an active president in terms of policy. Congress will send him bills that will enrich the rich and literally kill the poor, and he will sign them. Why not? He doesn’t care. Remember when he promised that no one would lose their healthcare with his replacement? How’s that claim looking now?
The Good Trump
The only good thing about Trump is paradoxically also what is bad about him: he’s insane. So it is possible that his narcissism will make him stand-up to the vile Republican Congress. But since he’s been elected, there has been no indication that he will do that. I think he is about as likely to do that as my 84 year old father is of running for president in 2020. I mean that literally: my father could run for president as a kind of joke. He almost certainly won’t. Same for Trump actually caring about the people of the United States.
Trump Inauguration: And Away We Go!
I was actually much more emotionally distraught over the 2004 election than I am over this one. (It could be, however, that I’m much more plugged in now and have simply suppressed my feelings. Also: my father’s two serious illnesses and my brother’s death have all distracted me.) Back then, I couldn’t stand the time between Bush’s re-election and the start of his term. I felt terrible and I had to wait for the terrible thing to happen. I’ve felt much the same this time.
So I’m glad it has actually begun. I do think that the next two years will be a catastrophe for the country. And I think if we are really lucky, we might be able to clean up the mess over the next two decades. But at least the game is on.
For the record, I actually believe that Trump’s inauguration is something we don’t come back from. Just as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both made the country permanently worse, Donald Trump will make the country permanently worse. But don’t worry too much. It’s most likely that this process will continue to be slow. If it were really fast, the American people might be awakened from their stupor and notice.