Saving Throw For Democracy


Anger… It is a powerful tool.  Anger is there to let us know that our rights have been violated.  But anger can also be abused and can consume us from the inside.  The trick with anger is to acknowledge it, identify the source, let it motivate you, then let it pass.

I’ve been pushing the concept of anger around in my head this week as that is the dominant emotion I’ve been feeling after election results of 2016 that have left me struggling at the outcome.  I am angry that Americans voted for a man I consider dangerous to American society and the wider globe.  I am angry that those who voted for someone who clearly showed prior to the election that he was so unqualified.  I am angry at Democratic registered voters who failed to turn out.  I am angry that the media chased Trump and gave him so much attention through his bad behavior instead of simply writing him off.  I am angry at myself for participating in this attention in an attempt to illustrate why he was unqualified and dangerous.  I am angry at people for electing a candidate who is so fundamentally non-curious about the world around him.  I am angry at people for electing perhaps the most cynical person possible for the office of the President of the United States.  I am angry at the GOP for literally breaking America by refusing to cooperate in government, then promising an angry, gullible populace that they could fix things, only to sucker them with the most unqualified President-Elect ever.  I am angry at people for electing someone who will continue environmental damage, endangering a global population.  I am angry at people for not seeing the manifold ironies involved in the Trump campaign for President of the United States which are nested and concatenated…

“When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”
~Maya Angelou

Trump is a monster.  Truly, a narcissistic monster who abuses women and people around him.  He is sexist, misogynistic, a serial philanderer, and yet the religious right sold their souls to endorse him.  His financial conflicts of interest are such that he should be excluded from office.  Even worse, Trump has legitimized neo-Nazis, white nationalists and anyone who believes bad behavior can be excused or even admired.  This is not normal behavior, nor should it be condoned or accepted as part of civil society.

More irony: Trump’s broader supporters in America voted to bring in a candidate that will do things differently in Washington.  While Trump will certainly do this, the cronyism, conflicts of interest and abuse of government for personal gain will only accelerate under Trump.  Watch for him to populate his cabinet with regulars from the GOP and fringe elements of the GOP and it will be business as usual.  Trump takes care of Trump first and the people of America who voted for him will not even factor into his thoughts now that he is in office.

For all these reasons and more, I am angry and have been struggling with how to appropriately deal with it.  Thankfully, I have people in the circles I pay attention to that help to provide perspective.  My friend Chris said yesterday that “Our rhetoric matters. We must pull together” after I’d gone on a rant about how Evangelicals had sold their souls in this election.  I felt a bit chastised which was not his intention, but I admire Chris for his perspective that resonated with me as I am trying to figure out how to move forward in a way that leaves Americans better off instead of resorting to vitriol.  Anger and vitriol of course is how we got into this mess, playing down to the lowest common denominator in a dirty political race.

Unfortunately, an ill wind blew, a shift occurred and the world has changed for the worse.  America made a bad choice that will reverberate for years to come, and I worry for the collateral damage that will accompany this.

If you examine the course of history, where events like this occur in a deeply divided populace, collateral damage is inevitable.  People are going to get hurt.  Read about the history of the 1930s to get an understanding of where this can go.  Or read Richard Evans excellent The Coming Of the Third Reich for a more in-depth read.  There have already been cases of race and gender related violence being reported as well as far right wing graffiti related to the Trump election.  But I worry about more substantial conflicts that involve the infrastructure of America.  I worry this will happen faster than we can effectively contain.  Brexit happened quickly, but was relatively contained given the UK position in the world.  The US is much more complicated in some respects and destabilization here, could make Brexit look mild by comparison.  On the positive side perhaps, we are resilient.

So, what to do?  Use your anger as a tool to help you and your fellow citizen.  Let it motivate you, let it make you outraged, and then let it go while remembering your motivation.  Many are protesting, and while protests are important, I am not sure what they do other than convey the sense that people are displeased and create an environment where the potential for collateral damage occurs.  That said, they are happening already across America as people register their dissent.  I like the appeal of direct action, but this is important… I don’t want to fight dirty.  At the same time, I refuse to be a victim.  History is littered with the bodies of intellectuals who were literally or figuratively killed by the populist hoards.  No, the best way forward is cooperation and I do think we need to find a way to reach outside of our silos and find common ground.  To this end, I was encouraged by the following quote from Angela Merkel in response to the election:

“Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views…. I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.”
~Angela Merkel

This is position I would very much like to adopt.  However, if Trump and his supporters elect to continue their rhetoric of exclusion, or abuse, he will not have my cooperation.  He will instead have my defiance and direct action, free from anger but crystalized in motivation.

Short Term: Know that your rights have been violated in the election of Donald Trump. Trump is only the fourth candidate in the history of the United States and the second in the last hundred years to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. His position of deporting Muslims or putting them in internment camps, his position on jailing political opposition (Lock Her Up!), his position on journalists and free access are all unacceptable.

  1. Do not accept any attempt at normalization of this behavior.  Glossy, breathless magazine style exposes will be written on him and his family, and conciliation attempts will be made to mollify his abuse.  This is how abusers work. Do not accept any of it as normal.
  2. Know your Constitutional rights for speech, assembly, and organization.  Attempts will be made to subvert them using government institutions.
  3. An unapologetic, organized opposition movement to Trump and the GOP must be started and it must be in the open, for all to see. Secret cabals will serve no-one’s interests.
  4. Trump will likely run afoul of the law at some point, sooner rather than later. When this happens, we must be prepared to act and remove him from power and influence.
  5. Profoundly dirty tricks happened in this election from FBI Director Comey’s influence to other countries meddling in the election. This must be investigated by government and the free press.
  6. Funding be raised to help fight efforts to restrict women’s access to healthcare and preserve their reproductive rights.
  7. Funding be raised to help preserve journalistic integrity and maintain a press, free from corporate influence to report on our government.
  8. I will support and endorse peaceful civil disobedience in response to efforts that restrict our rights as citizens.

Long Term:

  1. If the GOP or DNC cannot field viable candidates to lead, new structures must be established.
  2. Gerrymandering must be eliminated. The technology exists for Americans to vote and have their voices heard without the corruption of hindering any one demographic.
  3. Campaign finance reform must happen and candidates be strictly limited from contributions raised through special interests.
  4. Omnibus bills that bundle widely disparate proposals must be eliminated.  This allows lawmakers to hide and point blame, without being responsible for their decisions. Government and lawmakers should vote on single issues at a time.

Finally: Fight a good fight and if you fight, make it a righteous battle.  Also, be aware that Trump is fundamentally vindictive.  His is the type of personality, that like Richard Nixon will keep lists of people who he perceives have wronged him.  He will then use those lists to identify and persecute anyone who has wronged him, ever.  His personality type will not suffer any questioning or divisiveness.  Any criticism is perceived as a personal attack and you will either have to capitulate to him or forfeit value.  Be aware of this when engaging with this struggle and be prepared to pay that price.

4 Replies to “Saving Throw For Democracy”

  1. I feel the same anger and frustration that you feel, but I also feel that resistance is futile. I’ve pretty much given up on America after seeing the results of the selection. If we can’t help ourselves what can I do to change things? I don’t think I can do anything and I’m tired of being angry and frustrated.

  2. Well said, and thanks for helping makes some sense of this. I would add that, long-term, Democrats need to organize and implement a comprehensive state-by-state plan to push forward their agenda. The Republicans have known for many years that this is the way to bend the system to their will, and what we’re seeing now is the result of a multifaceted approach that has virtually locked down the House for their party, restricted the number of votes from the opposition, and put Republicans at all levels of state government up through governors. The same kind of approach is needed to oppose this.

  3. Thank you, Bryan, for outlining a constructive, proactive approach. We can’t keep wallowing in disbelief and anger, and we can’t do nothing.

  4. I was not exactly surprised that he got elected, though after so many “blunders” I was not sure if people are really still not seeing what he is playing at? I thought he was way overdoing the “away with the political correctness” play and also running into too-transparent lies. I was wrong about that, it seems people really listen to only what they want to hear. To tell the truth, I was much more surprised back when Bush junior was elected the second time (I think that’s when I downgraded in my mind the “collective intelligence” of voters).
    One can regard Trump’s election as an insult to democracy – as one guy basically hacked the socio-political system to feed his ego (that’s my best guess as to why in the first place he wanted to become a president) but you could also see in all democracy really working – when people vote and choose as they wish. Even if that goes against the judgement and recommendation of most everybody, analysts, pundits, scientists, movie stars – “the cream” of society. In this sense, Trump’s election victory was similar to Brexit the background is voters are yearning for REAL change (not just adjustments), there is an effective movement/person to ride this sentiment and most of the “educated” agree that the movement or person is “blatantly obviously out of the question”. It also shows a great divide between the politically active and the rest of the society, The major take home message for me is that there really needs to be a change and it’s up to us to figure out what would make a positive difference.

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