Monday, November 14, 2016

Too Cool For School (or to worry about Donald Trump)

How quickly do narratives change. Last week, those of us worried about Trump's election were told “Don't worry; Trump didn't mean all those racist things he said while campaigning!” Now, we're hearing “Don't worry; Trump won't listen to the white nationalist whom he named White House chief strategist!”

Meanwhile I've been noticing some odd false equivalencies lately – not necessarily from Trumpsters, but from “above the fray/too cool for school” types – the seeming belief that ALL concerns over politics are the same.

For example: those people who freaked out over Obama's election on the grounds that he'd impose Sharia law on the country were no less and no more nutty than the people now freaking out over Trump's election on the grounds that he might actually do some of the things he specifically said he'd do. Worrying that Trump will try to round up and deport a couple million people his first year  – as he said on 60 Minutes last night – is no different from worrying that Obama the Kenyan Illegal Immigrant will impose a Muslim dictatorship and round up all the Christians into concentration camps (which he never said he'd do, though a lot of conspiracy-theory types claimed otherwise).

Last week Hugo Schwyzer, a blogger for the Times of Israel, published a piece titled “Alarmism saved my family from Hitler: Why I won't tell anyone to calm down about Trump.”
In 1938, when Hitler took over Austria, Georg was a successful Viennese family physician, a father of two, a devoted and mild-mannered husband to my gloriously temperamental grandmother, Elsa. Georg was Jewish. Elsa was half-Jewish. The family was not religious in the slightest; they were fully assimilated to the cultural life of the glittering Austrian capital.
When Hitler came in, my grandfather shook his head. “There have always been anti-Semites,” he said. “We’ll stay quiet, and things will get better.” ….  Georg was an optimist. Hitler was just another colorful rabble-rousing politician. Things would settle down.

Elsa knew better. She knew what was coming, even if she couldn’t fully name it. Within a few weeks of Hitler’s takeover she was working to get the family out of the country. … Georg didn’t want to go. Elsa told him she was taking my father (then 3) and my aunt (then 6) and going, and he could stay behind and look for another wife if he liked. My grandfather, protesting all the way that my grandmother was overreacting and having delusions, reluctantly sold his practice.

My family settled in England, first near Manchester and later in rural Oxfordshire. As you might guess, nearly all the rest of my father’s extended family perished in the Holocaust.

My grandmother’s fear saved the family. My grandfather’s sweet confidence and optimism would have killed them.
So when you tell me, a noted soother and calmer of others, that I should tell Muslims and women and people of color that they have nothing to fear from Trump, I think that perhaps you want me to be like my grandfather....
Anecdotally speaking, the “don't worry about Trump” soothers I've seen all have one thing in common: none of them belong to any of Trump's stated target groups. It's always “Judeo-Christians telling Muslims not to worry about Trump's anti-Muslim statements” or “white Americans assuring black ones there's nothing problematic about Trump's debate-question answer that the problem of police violence against minorities is best solved by more 'law and order' plus expanded stop and frisk” or “heteros handwaving away LGBT concerns about the implications of a homophobic vice-president Pence influencing our soon-to-be president.”

The suggestion “Don't freak out about the election; life goes on” is good and valid advice for many millions of Americans today ... but for other Americans, those likely to be the targets of Trump and the Trumpsters, it's a horribly callous thing to say.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Presidential Post-Mortem

Well, I called that election more wrongly than anything I've written in the decade-long history of this blog! Back in May I argued that Trump would lose the presidential election because of demographics:

Remember the 2012 election campaign, when Romney supporters were convinced their candidate would win by a comfortable margin? Although I can't find the link now, at the time I recall a Romney adviser who admitted his boss' campaign strategy was to focus on winning a super-majority of white voters, and ignoring everyone else. Even so, the adviser admitted that due to changing American demographics (the percentage of white voters relative to others drops about 3 percent with each succeeding presidential election), 2012 would be the last time a "white votes only" strategy had any chance of winning the American presidency.

Of course, it did not work. And Romney's campaign merely ignored non-white Americans, whereas  Trump has actively insulted and/or threatened the bulk of them, in addition to polling far worse among women of all colors than Romney ever did.

The one possible silver lining to Trump's election is this: maybe now the American left will rediscover its Bush-era opposition to war and support for civil liberties, and even remember why it's a bad idea to put too much power into the hands of the president -- because even if you like how the current guy wields that power, there's no guarantee you'll trust his successor to do the same.
On the downside, with the GOP controlling all three branches of the government, and nothing to stop them from turning their voter-suppression activities up to 11, even if the left DOES rediscover these principles, it may not be possible for them to do anything about it.

Also this morning, I'm worried about the state of some of my friends' marriages -- not that they'll divorce over election disagreements, but that their unions will be forcibly dissolved by the government if Trumpence appoints Supreme Court judges who overturn the Obergefell decision.  And that's the only prediction I feel comfortable making right now -- all the other scenarios which spring to mind come dangerously close to breaking Godwin's law.
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