In the near future, I will examine the Obama presidency. But one thing is certain: For the past eight years, I have slept well knowing this fine, scandal-free man was in the White House. No Drama Obama. History will be very kind to him. He may well be remembered as the last president of the United States.
Now we're headed into an ominous "experiment."
Donald Trump enters the White House with less legitimacy than any president in history. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote by the largest margin ever (tying Obama in 2012). Trump's approval rating is the lowest for an incoming chief executive in history. His Electoral College victory will forever be tainted by the tilting of the election in his favor by Russian intelligence, FBI Director James Comey, and media malpractice — manically overplaying fake Clinton scandals while downplaying or ignoring Trump's massive real scandals and conflicts of interest. And never forget voter suppression. This was the first presidential election after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act.
Nevertheless, Trump and the Republicans are claiming a mandate to undertake a massive shift in our nation's life and trajectory. Taking health care away from 30 million Americans — at least half of whom are in the vaunted white working class — is Job No. 1. But the damage won't stop there.
The Republicans are hot to cut taxes on the rich and eviscerate "entitlements" (read the earned benefits of Social Security and Medicare). To roll back regulations protecting the environment and holding back the looting from anti-competitive mergers, too big to fail banks, and the oligarchs. The latter, along with a proto-junta of generals, stuff his cabinet nominees. If we only see America turned into a banana republic kleptocracy, we'll be lucky.
But we won't be that lucky. If you voted for Trump, or Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or wrote in Bernie, you voted to kill the planet. Under Obama, concrete steps were finally being taken to address climate change. These will not only be eliminated, but an orgy of carbon extraction and burning will be undertaken. Trump's pick for Secretary of State is the former CEO of Exxon Mobile, which worked for years to spread denier propaganda. I never want to hear some right-winger talk about the effect of the national debt on their grandchildren. Those spawn will be living on a planet out of a science-fiction nightmare because of our selfish short-sightedness led by the Republican Party. Not least among the consequences will be massive migration. Brown people are coming.
On a lesser level, want to go back to a country before the Clean Air and Clean Water acts — signed by that commie Dick Nixon? Without an Environmental Protection Agency or OSHA with power? With the public lands sold off or "returned to the states" (to which they never belonged)? To see our infrastructure become even more backward? We're about to find out. The Republicans have total power in Washington. They are on the verge of having control of enough state legislatures to be able to ram through constitutional amendments.
I don't want to hear about the inevitable progressive triumph because of the disasters total GOP control will bring. What makes you think 2018 or 2020 will be easier elections, in the "post-fact era," with a Trump-packed judiciary and Republican legislatures further eroding democracy? Minority rule by this white oligarchy could continue indefinitely. We must fight, of course. Resist. But Hillary Clinton won the election. And, no, Bernie couldn't have done better.
Ignorance is a touchstone of the new order that will begin in less than three weeks. The New Yorker has an apt cartoon. A man is standing in the aisle of an airliner. He says, "These smug pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us. Who thinks I should fly the plane?" And many hands go up. We are living in the most complex era in history, and soon the planet's superpower will be led by a team of ignoramuses. They don't believe in science. Facts have a left-wing bias. Trump will have the nuclear codes, in the "football" carried by a military officer everywhere he goes.
Vidkun Quisling was the politician installed as head of the Norwegian puppet government by Hitler during World War II. After the country was liberated, the Norwegians put Quisling on trial and then before a firing squad. But his name entered the language as synonymous for traitor and stooge. Beyond Trump's loss of the popular vote, conflicts of interest, and other problems mentioned above, his biggest impediment to legitimacy is the help he received, indeed solicited, from Russia.
Regular readers here know that I opposed the expansion of NATO into the former Warsaw Pact countries and was not in a bother about Crimea or Syria. The former was part of the Russian empire for centuries and the latter a longstanding Russian ally. We're not the world's policeman. We can't fix everything. Russia has legitimate national interests. But the attack on the American election is something else again. It verges on an act of war. And Trump is covered in its stench. What does Putin (Robert Gates: "stone cold killer") have on Trump? What does he have on the Republican Party, which now so admires him. As I've written before, I am old enough to remember when Republicans constantly warned that the Democrats would surrender America to Russia. Projecting, much?
I wish I could offer some hope for the new year, but I can't truck in fake "positive thinking." Maybe the blue islands can host a resistance, but it will require more than protests against everything in the safe downtowns of cities such as Seattle.
Trump is the only individual to become president with no experience — none — in the serious endeavor of government. Even Zachary Taylor brought the discipline and knowledge of being a career Army officer, not some racketeering quisling. And Taylor's presidency was littered with missteps that hastened the coming of the Civil War. U.S. Grant was a fine general, a disaster of a president, betrayed by his corrupt party and administration — but, again, not a traitor or con man himself. And, again, in much simpler times.
The new president brings in tow a very dark movement. Some want to explain it away. It's not Hitler or Mussolini reborn! Maybe not. Of course, Hitler wasn't HITLER — until he was. No, this is our own special hell. Trump is not normal. Trump must not be normalized.
Today's president has much more power — commander in chief of the world's mightiest military and a far-reaching national security state — than ever imagined by the Constitution's framers. Trump is a serial liar, sociopath, narcissist, reality television star. He doesn't read books. He's a hothead. Maybe he'll be impeached, to be replaced by the garden variety reactionary-theocrat Mike Pence. Or taken out by the deep state or even a military coup. But the forces behind him, real Americans and the oligarchs, might not tolerate this. So, a Reichstag fire for America?
One thing is sure: This anti-Obama will face a fraught moment — facing Iran, North Korea, or even China. Maybe one of his own making. After all, when the Republican religion fails and the scandals mount, if blaming "liberals and mi-norities" isn't enough, there's always foreign adventure to distract the base.
Fun fact: With a smaller stockpile and less accurate missiles, China has our cities targeted with its nuclear missiles.
I am missing President Obama already.