On the Election

We thought the threat was coming from abroad. But it was here all along, set loose by a cunning charlatan. We have been conned, and we are on the brink of being cheated out of our country. We couldn’t imagine him getting nominated. We couldn’t imagine him getting elected. Now is the time to let our imaginations run wild, and they should scare the hell out of us.

A Washington insider, around since the Eisenhower administration, told me he has not seen anything this threatening to democracy since the 1940s, when there was a very real chance that Americans would lose their freedom. Trump will appoint his own director of the IRS, and then he can extort anybody in Congress. Harry Reid has already been threatened with legal action by Trump’s team if he characterizes Trump as a sexual predator. Why? Because sexual predation is an impeachable offense. Once Trump gets a taste of Washington power and figures out how it works, he will become nearly uncheckable. The only thing he won’t control is a free press, at least for a while. Comparisons to the Chinese Cultural Revolution and to Nazi Germany ARE apt. Things were actually pretty good for a while in Germany after the German people gave Hitler control (at least for the average non-Jew). Don’t expect ovens, but do expect incremental losses of freedom and security, especially if you are not a white male. Expect our national lands to be sold off, privatized for profit. Expect any number of nightmares.

The forces of complacency, mischief, and fear have led us down this path. Is there a way out? Maybe a narrow one. He may already be guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors for inciting violence against Muslims and other minorities. Articles of impeachment should be drawn up and awaiting him on January 20. Urge your senators and congressmen to unite against him by any and all legal and constitutional means before he gains power. At the very least, encourage them to work with moderates across the aisle to keep this man from doing long-term damage.

Liberals, now is the time to fall on your swords for America, just as the honorable Republicans were willing to do before the election. Many Democrats fear the far-right-leaning Pence would be worse. Ask yourself: Given the choice between Trump or Pence, whom would you pick? Many people would refuse to make such a choice, just as they refused to pick between Trump and Clinton. Or, reluctantly, they might choose Trump, hoping for the best. I think this is a mistake. Pence is a narrow-minded Trump collaborator, but, other than that, he seems a decent man, who understands the rule of law and the constitution. Anyway, it turns out we don’t have to make that choice. Trump has made it for us. Pence will be in charge of domestic AND foreign policy. Leaving Trump in charge of what, exactly? Presumably, “making America great again.” In other words, inciting bigotry and hate crimes in the name of correcting political correctness.

Some say we should at least try to work with Trump. But then all America would be implicit in its own denigration. The time to stand up to this despicable media creation is now, before he becomes a tyrant. Efforts to stop the contagion should be aimed at the source. Yes, it will be painful and hard, but that should not prevent us from trying.

But, you may ask, have we not already made our decision at the polls? Yes, but this is a fundamentally different case. For the first time in our nation’s history, we have elected an utterly despicable man. Decency, restraint, and intelligence have been rebuked. We must never forget that the man we just elected is a cyber bully, a coarse misogynist, an ignoramus, an inarticulate huckster, a whiner who protests the fairness of the American electoral system before it’s even begun, a spoiled billionaire who has yet to praise the American system that made him wealthy, a demagogue who has no idea how American governance works and little apparent curiosity about it, a vindictive, thin-skinned egotist who threatens lawsuits at the slightest provocation. And he has surrounded himself with sycophants and stooges—many of them formerly men of character—who are incapable of standing up to him and doing the right thing if it means jeopardizing their own careers.

On the flip side, what is good about him? It’s hard to come up with anything. Is he a good businessman? Maybe, but he has shielded his affairs in such secrecy we can’t know. A former New York real estate tycoon told me that among their group Trump was widely acknowledged the most reviled and ruthless. As for running the government like a business:

A business creates a product to sell to customers. A government extracts money from its citizen to provide basic services—roads, schools, a military. A business has a chief executive who can fire anybody who isn’t performing. A government can do this as well—in North Korea, for example, except instead of being fired, the underperformer is imprisoned, or worse. Should the chief executive of our country be allowed to fire members of Congress or the courts? That’s where this idea of running government like a business takes us.

We have been duped. Until such time as this monstrous megalomaniac can be dislodged, we must hold him accountable. The time for action is not in four years, or two years. It’s now. And it never stops. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that.

But, you say, Trump is assembling his team, and it all seems like a done deal. Don’t bow to what seems the inevitable. Our nation was created from scratch, by good people realizing that history was presenting them with a moment. This is our moment for a new birth of freedom, for rebuilding the nation.

On Saturday Trump engaged in a four-hour twitter spree, gloating over his victory, while Paul Ryan—our de facto leader-elect—was left to reassure the nation about the rise in hate crimes: “People who espouse [hate], they’re not Republicans and we don’t want them in our party even if they’re thinking about it.” Why did Trump not say that? His response came only after being questioned in an interview. He looked in the camera and said, “Stop it.” There was no elaboration. In the same insincere tone he has said, “I have enormous respect for women.” In another inside joke with himself, he said the “second amendment people” might do something to stop Clinton, then later attempted to reinterpret his call to violence. He has nothing but contempt for his own electorate: In 1998 he boasted, “If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. … I could lie and they’d still eat it up.” He has taken our measure and found us as completely lacking in morals as himself, and he will press his advantage over us.

People are already afraid to speak out, fearful of offending their neighbors, their relatives, their bosses. But now is the time to speak, before our freedoms are undermined on the local level. This is a very real possibility. We face that threat now. Before this man can get his hand on one lever of power, he needs to be shut down.

History is being made now. We must act boldly and swiftly, before this man seizes control of the judicial system throughout the land. Or else there may be no country to govern. We have waited, we have seen. We have given him a chance. What has our new leader given us? A twitter smack-down and the appointment of a white nationalist as his chief strategist. Imagine Mitt Romney doing that, or John McCain, or Barack Obama, or George Bush (either), or Bill Clinton, or Jimmy Carter, or Ronald Reagan.

Giuliani says that it’s no conflict of interest to let Trump’s family run his business empire in a blind trust, because “you have to have some confidence in the integrity of the president.” If only we did.

We are under the delusion that because somebody accumulated enough support to win the highest office in the land he couldn’t be that bad. America is always right, right? A man who publicly mocks the handicapped should be turned from. And yet we applauded. A man who vilifies a war hero should be excoriated. Yet we egged him on. He bragged he could shoot somebody and not lose voters. Did we turn away in disgust? No, we wanted more. He cheated, bluffed, and lied his way to wealth and power, and we admired him for it. We laughed, we were entertained. As far as we know he has not used the n-word in public, but that would not turn the tide against him, because many of his supporters would love it. In the name of winning at any cost, we sold our souls.

How did this happen? In classic mob mentality, a few TV-anesthetized followers enjoyed his sideshow; those few became thousands and then millions; and the mob cascaded to a general election win, some people throwing their vote away on Trump as a protest, not believing he would actually win. The notion that “if they’re okay with it, then I guess I’m okay with it” has led us to this horrific point.

Congress is the only institution that can pull us back from the brink. Do they have the guts to stand up to this hollow human being?

Some of my writer friends have spoken out on facebook about this repugnant stain upon our nation. Others have remained strangely quiet. Perhaps they are gathering their thoughts. My fear is that they are worried about their jobs or their safety. If so, we have already sacrificed some freedom. Some of us are worried about offending potential buyers of our books, but we might have to consider a country in which no one (like our president-elect) reads books.

One of our great historians, David McCullough, is a registered Independent who has often voted Republican. He rarely speaks about modern politicians. He describes Trump as “a monstrous clown with a monstrous ego.” Documentarian Ken Burns, our national storyteller, calls Trump a “terrifying Orwellian statesman” who “insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants, and Muslims. … This is not a liberal or conservative issue . . . This is an American issue.” Expect to hear more from our nation’s sages in the days to come.

We are engaged now in a fight for the soul of America. The election was just the opening battle. This is our country, and we must never forget who this man is and what he represents—he represents the worst in us, not the best; our fears, not our hopes. Stalwart men and women on both sides of the aisle need our encouragement now. They cannot do this alone. Obama and Clinton and Ryan have paved the way for a peaceful transfer our power, because they believe in peace. They also believe in decency and fairness and freedom. Our representatives are, after all, just people. They count on us for guidance and direction.

This is a dark moment in American history. What will our response be? That we sat back and did nothing? That we took a wait-and-see attitude, as many in Congress are doing? We may not dislodge him in four years, or eight years, or more (yes, let your imagination go). But we can try. Let’s call our congressmen.

And don’t forget to laugh sometimes, and listen to music—we need to stay sane. This could take a while.

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Godspeed Paul Kozlowski

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