There’s really nothing anyone can say that helps, apparently


Today, I read the newspapers with which I start my days (The State, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal) with far less interest, less avidity, than usual.

That’s because no one had anything to say, or to report, that offered any way forward out of the extreme darkness into which Tuesday’s result has plunged this nation.

A large part of my reading every day is opinion, which I suppose is natural enough given my background, but it’s also because I feel that I get more out of journalism that makes an argument — whether it’s one with which I agree or disagree. I learn better when my mind is challenged.

Anyway, none of the opinion or analysis pieces I read today were helpful. There were all these smart, well-meaning people trying to make sense of what’s happened and offer a way forward, and they pretty much all fell flat. Because really, at this moment there’s nothing to be done, and we’re all braced, waiting for the awfulness that is to come.

The only thing that has spoken to me at all today is this piece published yesterday in The New Yorker, because it fairly well sets out the awfulness of what has happened. So at least this resonates; at least it has a ring of truth. Oh, bits of it are off-key from my perspective: Being a liberal New Yorker, this writer is far more concerned than I about what he is pleased to call “an increasingly reactionary Supreme Court.”

But other parts seemed to fit quite well. Excerpts:

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit—and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety….

All along, Trump seemed like a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right. That he has prevailed, that he has won this election, is a crushing blow to the spirit; it is an event that will likely cast the country into a period of economic, political, and social uncertainty that we cannot yet imagine. That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering.

In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the “innate wisdom” and “essential decency” of the American people. They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil. George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory. “The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion,” Orwell wrote in his essay “Freedom of the Park.” “The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”…

That’s probably as far as I can go without violating Fair Use; perhaps I’ve gone too far already.

But the parts I quote were spot on. And I think before the vast numbers of people who did all they could to prevent what has happened can move forward, they need to come completely to grips with just how bad the situation is. Plumb the depths, you might say.

One other phrase from the piece that wasn’t included in the excerpts above: “Trump is vulgarity unbounded…”

In that vein… I haven’t spoken to any of my children or grandchildren yet about what has happened to their country. I’m not sure what to say when I do. I want it to be something that helps, but I don’t know what that will be. So I’ll close with the Clinton ad that more than any other hit right to the heart of why it was utterly unthinkable for this man to become president of the United States:

89 thoughts on “There’s really nothing anyone can say that helps, apparently

  1. Sally

    Since the outcome of the election, I’ve talked to my 34-year-old daughter, who was stunned the country would elect someone like Trump over a qualified woman like Clinton. As an educated adult who has done enough world travel to understand how women are treated in other countries and cultures, it was beyond her comprehension that a qualified woman could be defeated by a crude, bigoted, misogynist man. That a majority of the American public would buy into his inflammatory rhetoric. A more conventional male candidate probably would be more acceptable if elected over Clinton than a man like Trump. For women in their 20s and 30s, I think this election was more crushing to them than to those of us who came of age during the rise of Feminism. Apparently, we haven’t come a long way, baby, and young women are just finding that out.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I understand that a young woman can feel that way, and I hate that they feel that.

      But what I would say to her, and to any of my daughters or granddaughters, on that point is that Hillary Clinton did not lose BECAUSE she is a woman. She lost in part because she is Hillary Clinton, a very specific person with a long history of being despised, quite personally, by Republicans. And in part because the electorate has gone stark, staring mad.

      But yes, I understand how it’s just all that much more appalling because this particular person who is also a woman lost to a man who so obviously deeply despises women.

      It adds insult to the very great injury that is already there…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Looking back over that, I apologize for seeming to presume to advise you on what to say to your daughter, when I just admitted I don’t know what to say to my own kids…

      2. Kathryn Fenner

        She is despised in large part BECAUSE SHE IS A WOMAN. A man could do most everything she does without incurring hatred.

          1. Mark Stewart

            And yet look at the percentages of women who voted for Trump. I don’t necessarily disagree with you; but this issue of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is a much more complicated story I think.

            It would be easier to say Obamacare is hated by Trump’s supporters because it is signature legislation pushed through by a black man – and a woman (Nancy Pelosi). That’s baldly evident. Hillary is much more complicated.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              So is Obama — more complicated, I mean. At least to me, since I don’t consider him to be “a black man.” I’ve written a lot about that, but the short version is: He’s sort of outside the American paradigm of race, because not one of his ancestors was brought here as a slave.

              I’ve always thought the real beef a lot of whites have with him is more that he’s EXOTIC. I think if he were more typical of African-Americans — say, if he talked like one of the stock characters on SNL’s “Black Jeopardy” skit, or sounded like he came from SC, or if he looked West African (maybe I imagine this, but he seems to me to have features more common to East Africans) — they MIGHT be able to relate to him a LITTLE better.

              But he’s unique. Add in that cerebral, Harvard-professor manner he has (which I like, but your average Trump voter likely does not), and you’ve got a very particular instance of alienation, different from the way these folks might relate to other “black men.”

              They’re still disliking him for being “the Other,” but I think he’s in his own special category of Otherness….

              Maybe that makes sense to you; maybe not. It’s been a long day…

              1. Mark Stewart

                I agree with what you’ve said, too.

                But the simple fact is Obama is disdained first as being a black man. I don’t see the level of nuance that would have someone articulate “oh, yeah, it’s his part Africansness/part experience growing up in Indonesia that makes me fearful”. No, it’s just that he is black. I have heard it across SC for the last 9 years. It’s there for all to see.

                This was an election of base instincts. The kind the US hasn’t seen since the 1800s. We all need to come to terms with that. On both “sides”. America’s greatness lies ahead; not behind. Obama dared to articulate that.

  2. Doug Ross

    “extreme darkness into which Tuesday’s result has plunged this nation”

    Have you been outside and walked around? People are going about their lives — except the idiots who think blocking roads as part of a protest is somehow productive. I’m working on a college campus where Hillary won the district pretty easily. Just got back from a two mile walk at lunch and people aren’t wailing and tearing their clothes…

    How about dealing with events as they occur? Trump made a very conciliatory speech the other night. Today he meets with Obama and I bet there won’t be any big news. Judge him starting January 20th.
    You set yourself up for this by going overboard on Trump. He’s not the devil.

    A friend posted a link to a pretty good analysis by a young guy:

    “I have no idea what kind of President Mr Trump will be. We can never know these things. But I always give first timers the benefit of the doubt. I would’ve done the same thing for Mrs Clinton. I definitely did for Mr Obama …and it’s in print somewhere. What I DON’T believe is that we’re about to turn into Nazi Germany (and I’ve read some posts from people who actually believe that). I don’t think we’re going to roll back to the 1950s in our social order. If Donald Trump is anything, he’s as immersed in current pop culture as Miley Cyrus. A man who was a regular guest on Howard Stern isn’t going to be interested in a puritanical revival of any kind. He’s not coming after “the gays” or the “transgendered.” To the contrary, when Caitlyn Jenner (formally the aforementioned Bruce) asked him where she could use the restroom in his hotel, his answer was “use which ever one you feel comfortable in.”

    The point is, we might be projecting some of our own irrational fears onto a man who is definitely flawed …but probably not evil incarnate. The “educated” among us are reminding us how utterly stupid the country is for voting for this man, while simultaneously wringing their hands, melting down emotionally and predicting Armageddon (like …for real). They may be right about it all …but they may be wrong.

    I am not moving to Canada. I am not going underground. I refuse to sling insults at people who voted one way or another and become a caricature of a petty, ignorant American. In this country if you run and get the votes …you get to be president. That’s still a good thing …even if you don’t like the result.

    For the Hillary supporters …pull yourselves together. Please. Your’e embarrassing yourselves. For the Trump supporters …a little grace and humility might be in order. You just elected Donald J Trump as your nation’s president …and he was once a part of Wrestle Mania.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, Doug, we know you don’t think this is so terrible. You said that many times during the election, so I fully expect you to say it now.

      I’m afraid it’s not at all convincing, though…

      1. Doug Ross

        I’m not trying to convince you. You’re too far gone.

        I can only suggest that you take a walk around.. or better yet, drive somewhere outside your bubble and see if people are really acting like it’s the end of the world. Life is going on all around you and it will continue to do so.

        Get mad when Trump tries to build his wall. Or get angry when Obamacare is actually repealed. But for now, “Chillax, bro!” It’s time to go all Jeff Spicoli. “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”

        1. Claus

          ” “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.””

          A trip to Colorado perhaps would do Brad a wonder of good. Boulder perhaps, taking in some of the “baked” goods.

        2. bud

          Trump goes on trial in a few days for fraud in the Trump University case. Under no circumstances should that case be settled without an admission of guilt. Let’s take this to a jury. This was fraud pure and simple and the record should reflect that. A simple monetary payment is insufficient.

          That of course raises the question as to whether this is impeachable. Is fraud in a civil suit a high crime or misdemeanor?

          1. Mark Stewart

            Bud, under every imaginable circumstance this case will be settled by year end. Let it go.

            This was the perfect example of what Trump thinks of his supporters – they are rubes and marks – and they didn’t care to see it.

  3. Claus

    This is going to get really old really fast. I just wish everyone who considers this a death sentence would just relieve us of their misery ASAP. Republicans didn’t whine this much when Obama was elected.

    A friend of mine just passed on a note sent out by their grade school teacher offering counselling sessions to students and families who are dealing with the election results. My response was, “You got to be F’ing kidding me. I’d be reporting this to the school board… not that they’re going to do anything about it.” No wonder our kids are weak little snowflakes who get offended and need to seek their safe space by hearing the word “no”… our forefathers must be so ashamed at how we’ve turned out.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Now see, there’s the problem. You actually think this is a relevant remark:

      “Republicans didn’t whine this much when Obama was elected.”

      If you think that has anything to do with what has happened, you don’t know what happened.

      What just happened is nothing like Obama getting elected.

      What just happened is nothing like Bush getting elected.

      What just happened is nothing like Reagan getting elected.

      You can go on, plugging the name of every president you’d like into the sentence.

      The closest you can get to what just happened — and it’s still not the same — was when a populist wave caused Andrew Jackson to beat the VASTLY more qualified John Quincy Adams in 1828.

      But Jackson, unsuitable as he was, had more going for him than Donald Trump…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        “But Jackson, unsuitable as he was, had more going for him than Donald Trump…”

        Certainly. Jackson was a war hero of national standing.

        By the by, have you been to The Hermitage outside of Nashville? I went a few months ago. It’s a fascinating place. They have a museum that focuses on the life of Jackson, and the tour of the grounds is very well done.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I have not, as many times as I’ve been to Nashville.

          When it comes to backwoods legends, I prefer Crockett to Jackson. When the two of them disagreed, I usually tended to agree with Crockett.

          By the way, you ever see the 2004 version of “The Alamo?” The very best thing Billy Bob Thornton has ever done. He really brought Davy Crockett (who preferred “David”) to life. Very impressive…

      2. Claus

        “If you think that has anything to do with what has happened, you don’t know what happened.”

        Okay Brad, you’re so much smarter than I am… tell me what just happened. Tell it to me like you’re talking to your grandchildren just so I’ll understand.

        Democracy just took place, the people elected a President. Did I miss anything?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            For the moment, I’ll say this…

            Something we’ve been told over and over is that first the Tea Party, and then Donald Trump, rose to prominence because of all the people who are angry that the Republican Party had not delivered on the things that it promised.

            We’re told that helped lead to this unprecedented abomination, with such a grossly unfit man becoming president.

            Well, here’s just ONE of the things I’m worried about, and dreading…

            What are all those people who were angry at the Establishment going to do when it turns out that Donald Trump doesn’t deliver on the things he’s said he would do for them? Which he won’t, because he can’t.

            How angry will they be THEN? This was the guy who was DIFFERENT, who was supposed to give them what they want, finally.

            And when they get that angry, THEN what will happen? I mean, look at what they just did to the country already.

            Of course, that problem’s going to take awhile to develop. Trump will probably give us a lot more to worry about before that realization dawns on his supporters…

            1. Doug Ross

              But people were saying all along that the Tea Party was a “fringe” group of lunatics. Then they started winning elections… then their “anger” apparently got large enough to win the Presidency. It was never a fringe movement. It’s now the majority (or close to it) opinion that government is broken.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                If 99 percent of the country became part of the Tea Party, it would still be fringe. You ever go to one of their rallies?

                But never mind that, because it’s not relevant here. Donald Trump isn’t the Tea Party. He’s a populist. He promises people big things that the government’s going to do for them.

                The Tea Party was anti-government. It didn’t want the government doing things. (Actually, I’m probably making it sound more coherent than it was.)

                When I was on Cynthia Hardy’s show the other day, I was sitting next to a guy who identified as “former Tea Party.” He had moved away from the Tea Party, and become a Trump supporter. THAT much of what he said made sense.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  I felt for the guy, but one thing he said gave me chills…

                  He’s a self-employed carpenter. He was proud to be a Trump supporter, but he said he couldn’t put a Trump sticker on his truck because he’d lose work if he did that.

                  THAT exchange was one reason why I wasn’t convinced that Hillary Clinton was going to win, unlike most people. I realized there probably were a lot of closeted Trump supporters.

                  The Bradley effect

                2. Claus

                  “He promises people big things that the government’s going to do for them.”

                  Hang on here, he promises things that he can’t deliver… do other politicians know about this tactic? Because I believe this may help sway a few votes their way.

            2. Claus

              “What are all those people who were angry at the Establishment going to do when it turns out that Donald Trump doesn’t deliver on the things he’s said he would do for them? Which he won’t, because he can’t.”

              What did black people do when Obama failed to deliver everything he promised them? Nothing.

              What has happened when every previous presidential candidate failed to deliver on a campaign promise? Nothing

              But now it’s a big concern. How many of those people voted for Trump and how many of those people voted against Hillary? I bet those who voted for him are less than 50%. The majority are happy just to not have Hillary heading to the White House. Anything else is a bonus.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                There it is again: “What did black people do when Obama failed to deliver everything he promised them?”

                Because, of course, only black people voted for Obama — right? He was just their president.

                Here’s something for you to ponder: African-Americans make up only 12 percent of the population. Barack Obama was elected by clear majorities of the population — unlike Donald Trump, by the way.

                So, mostly by white people….

                1. Claus

                  And 97% of the black vote. Why didn’t Hillary get that percentage?

                  So just a response to the one short black paragraph? No comment on the rest?

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  That’s right. I saw the rest as just you not paying attention to what I’d already said — you know, when I said that the characteristic shared by both the Tea Party and Trump supporters is that they are movements of people who are more motivated than others by the fact that candidates haven’t delivered on promises in the past.

                  Which makes them very different from me. I don’t even want to hear campaign promises. I don’t like them. I prefer to elect a qualified person who I trust to make sound decisions based on circumstances I can’t even predict. Promises tie their hands. I want them free to make the right decisions.

                  Anyway, the point is, Trump is supported by people who believe “THIS guy is different! He’s not a politician! He tells it like it is! He’ll do what we want!”

                  Without folks who see him that way, he couldn’t have won.

                  And those folks are going to be bitterly disappointed, far more so than most voters would be…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    More on my attitude about campaign promises….

                    I kept hearing from people on the left AND the right who criticized Hillary Clinton for failing to set out a “vision” for what she’d do as president.

                    I thought that was absurd. I wasn’t looking for “vision.” I was looking to hire the only competent applicant for the job…

                3. bud

                  Hillary’s popular vote lead is now about a third million. Seriously the current way the electoral college is applied would have Alexander Hamilton turning over in his grave.

      3. Scout

        “But Jackson, unsuitable as he was, had more going for him than Donald Trump…”

        And yet he still gave us the trail of tears, bank failures, and rednecks trashing the white house at his inauguration party. What fun we must have awaiting us now.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          True. Jackson was a complicated man, and he certainly wasn’t perfect. In some ways, he’s very much like America: He has guilt for slavery, came from nothing to the highest office in the federal government, fought valiantly for his country in combat, preserved the Union when SC threatened to secede in the nullification crisis.

          In some respects Jackson represents both the best and worst parts of America all at the same time.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            “Best?” No, I can’t go there. Lee, perhaps. He was one of the best, yet responsible for dragging out the bloodiest war in our history by fighting for the wrong side. (I honor him, yet no matter how much I may understand it intellectually, I can’t fathom a U.S. Army officer thinking Virginia was more his “country” than the United States. I understand he was a man of his times, but I can’t excuse it.)

            1. Bryan Caskey

              For me, rising from absolutely nothing to the Presidency, as Jackson did represents the best of America. For me, his showing the pride in refusing to clean a British officer’s boots as a POW represents the best of America. Showing personal bravery in battle represents the best of America.

              He had a great many flaws and faults, but he also had virtues. I think someone with your appreciation of complexity would acknowledge this.

              Lee is also complex.

              Both men are part of what shape America to this day. To dismiss and/or simplify them would be unwise.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Lee was a much better man. Of course, as you say, he had advantages of birth. I suppose we foremast jacks prefer to see a gentleman on the quarterdeck. (What did Jack say about Clonfert? “Your foremast jack loves a lord?”)

                I prefer to uphold Hamilton, or Lincoln, as great men who rose from nothing.

                Sorry. I can’t get over the election of 1828. Jackson to me just represents some of the uglier elements of our national character, such as anti-intellectualism.

                And that tide just rose up and flooded the nation again on Tuesday, so it’s not just something that happened 188 years ago. Still painfully fresh…

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  “Jackson to me just represents some of the uglier elements of our national character, such as anti-intellectualism.”

                  No disagreement there, but that still synthesizes with my larger point. Jackson represents some of what is good and bad about America. That’s one of his bad parts. I’m not saying we should hold Jackson up as a paragon of all that is good and right, but it’s also not fair to condemn him entirely.

                2. Bryan Caskey

                  “Sorry. I can’t get over the election of 1828.”

                  I think you also have to give Jackson some credit for holding the union together and being prepared to send the army and navy down to South Carolina to do so. I think the fact that everyone knew he was not bluffing played a significant part in preserving the union. He stood up for the Union and made no bones about it. You have to give some credit where credit is due.

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                As for men “rising… to the presidency,” coming again to the present day…

                Trump didn’t “rise” to the presidency. He pulled the nation down to HIM.

                And for those of you who don’t quite understand why I’m so upset, that’s as good an explanation as any…

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Trump has the same story as Jackson. Trump didn’t start from nothing. He started with lots. Millions, in fact. Jackson started out born in the wilderness in so poor of a fashion that we don’t even really know exactly where he was born. Lincoln is right there, too. In lots of ways, the early life of Lincoln and Jackson are similar. Dirt poor childhood, read the law, did well, moved up.

                  Lee is on the other end of the spectrum.

                  Trump is somewhere between them, but he’s far, far, closer to Lee’s end of things.

          2. bud

            Wow! Jackson was really terrible. Not only did we have the trail of tears atrocity but we ended up with the worst recession until the 1930s. “Complicated” man is just code for bigoted incompetent man. Trump will be worse.

  4. Doug Ross

    Trump and Obama met and it went fine. Each was cordial and Trump expressed that he would call on Obama for his counsel “many, many times” in the future.

    Everyone just needs to chill out and let things play out. Otherwise you’re probably wasting a lot of energy and anxiety.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      I agree. We don’t know what’s going to happen, and can do close to zero to prevent it, so we just have to let go and let God…..

  5. Bryan Caskey

    Brad, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But you’ve got to take this down a notch. Our system of government and our republic will survive.

    Like ISIS, Trump is not an existential threat to the United States.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      No, he’s worse. He’s the rot from within. We can defeat ISIS on the battlefield (if we resolve to do so). We can’t do anything about this.

      You don’t understand, Sonny. Sollozzo isn’t just another guy out there. He’s gonna keep trying until he kills Pop. That’s the key for him.

      Actually, no — forget Sollozzo. Sollozzo is ISIS. Here’s the better analogy:

      What just happened is that Tattaglia just became don of the Corleone family.

      1. Claus

        Brad, tell us how you know this? Have you met Trump, have you interviewed him or have you just seen the same things that those of who aren’t screaming, “The sky is falling” saw, heard, and read?

        So you’re convinced because you believe Trump is a real life fictional movie character.

        I’m surprised you haven’t run for office, you obviously know what’s wrong and how to fix it.

      2. Bryan Caskey

        “We can’t do anything about this.”

        Sure you can. The Chief Executive isn’t all-powerful. Congress is the legislative body. The executive simply either signs the laws, or he vetoes them. If vetoed, Congress can override. You remember all the folks whining about the Senate not holding a vote on Merrick Garland? I’m guessing all those same people are going to re-discover the system of checks and balances, and talk about how the Congress needs to re-assert itself as the primary moving factor.

        For example, if Trump nominates someone nuts like, oh….Mike Tyson, for the Supreme Court, the Senate could just say, Nah, we’re not even having hearings on that guy. Try again, Mr. President.

        To go further, there’s this idea that Congress was “obstructionist” to Obama in the last few years. That’s been a big word the last few years. I know it’s been frustrating for folks like bud who saw the Congress as this big obstacle in the way of a President who wanted to get things done. Heck, most of Obama’s work has been finding ways around Congress, and there aren’t many.

        The problem is that this idea of Congressional “obstruction” assumes that the President is somehow entitled to some sort of deference by Congress, that he sets the agenda, and Congress has to just go along with it or it’s “obstructing” him. Well, there’s no legal requirement for Congress to give the slightest bit of deference to the Executive. Congress sets the laws, and the Executive gets a veto choice. That’s it. Congress owes the President ZERO deference and vice versa. Now, politically, it doesn’t always work like that with the idea of “mandates” and all that, but that’s the brass tacks.

        I’m sort of a purist on these checks and balances things, and maybe that’s the lawyer in me who likes the adversarial process.

        Point being, there’s plenty that can be done. Trump isn’t the Don at the top of the mafia power structure with unlimited power. He’s simply the chief magistrate and his powers are finite. Heck, Congress could defund Air Force One if it wanted to. I’m not saying Congress should or will do that, but I’m holding that up as an example of how powerful Congress is.

        As someone who has seen the power of Congress decline over time, I hope this sparks a revitalization of the Congress to take up the power that it has and use it.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          First, we all know that the president has FAR more power than just being a guy who signs laws. He has a much freer hand than that as commander in chief, and in the conduct of foreign policy. Not unlimited, but much greater than what you’re acknowledging.

          And as y’all should all know by now, I consider dealing with the rest of the world to be the president’s primary function — not nominating justices or other officials, or signing legislation, or still less “running the economy.”

          Secondly, my whole life I’ve been hearing people on both sides of the aisle moan about “the imperial presidency.” That’s not something I’ve fretted about. On the local, state and federal levels, I’m an advocate of a strong, effective executive. I’m a Hamiltonian in that regard.

          So I take NO silver-lining comfort from the election of a man who — just by being elected, before he even does anything — has diminished the status, dignity and authority of the presidency.

          I am, on the contrary, deeply appalled. Perhaps you’ve noticed.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            If anything, it’s the intangibles of leadership that concern me most.

            As I keep saying to Doug, leadership isn’t about ones and zeroes. It’s not “if-then.” It’s not, “the president can do this but he can’t do that.”

            Having such a deeply uncouth, ignorant, hostile man holding this office immediately diminishes not only the office, but the nation…

          2. Bryan Caskey

            Yes, I’m not addressing foreign policy at this time. You’re right that the President has a much freer hand in that arena, but that’s another subject. Leaving that aside, I’m right. (So let’s leave that aside for now. 🙂 )

            So many people are parading up and down in the streets because they’ve somehow convinced themselves that President Trump is going to take us to a Mad Max dystopia. I just don’t think that’s the case.

            And yes, I’ve noticed that you’re appalled. Maybe this will cheer you up:

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                “Well, yeah, obviously the roads — I mean, the roads go without saying, don’t they?”

                Well, they did before the Grover Norquist element took over the Legislature. Now, doing something as obvious as raising one of the nation’s lowest gas taxes is out of the question…

            1. bud

              It absolutely should not be settled without admission of guilt. The prosecutors should take this to a jury if the terms don’t include admission of guilt. Trump has gotten away with these non admission of guilt settlements for far too long. Granted the prosecution needs a strong case but I think they should either take that risk or drop the case.

          3. Claus

            You’re taking this harder than Hillary. To the point of borderline depression. I guess I don’t understand who go off the deep end emotionally over politics, I mean at Hillary’s party there were people laying on the floor in the fetal position… these people aren’t wired right. What happens if they experience a true tragedy in their lifetime… what if they lose their entire family to a drunk driver or fire, what if their child gets a terminal disease? Losing an election isn’t that big of a deal in the big picture.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              You just don’t get it. But then, you wouldn’t, because you supported Trump.

              You see, none of this is idle talk for me. I LOVE MY COUNTRY. And it’s truly horrible to see what has just happened to it, and what will keep on happening to it for a LONG time to come. As I said earlier,

              1. Doug Ross

                ” I LOVE MY COUNTRY. And it’s truly horrible to see what has just happened to it, and what will keep on happening to it for a LONG time to come.”

                That’s what I’ve been saying since George W. Bush was elected. We survived.

                1. Doug Ross

                  The way you feel about Trump is the way I felt about Bush / Cheney. Bush was unqualified and Cheney was an evil person. What they did in response to 9/11 was truly “horrible”.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Yeah, see, if you can compare George W. Bush to Trump and see them as in any way alike, there’s nothing I can say.

                  All I can do is recommend that you read this piece that Herb recommended the other day. It’s by someone who despises Bush much as you do, who explains fairly clearly why Trump is infinitely worse.

                  One could say a lot more than this guy does along those lines. Indeed, the two are not in the same universe, to the point that comparison is absurd. But since this writer hated Bush enough to make the comparison, I urge you to read it.

                  Again, folks, it’s rather pointless to go back to previous elections you recall and say, “Brad, calm down. I was unhappy, too, when (fill in the blank) was elected, but we survived.”

                  You’re still missing what I’ve been saying for the past year.

                  Hey, I was really upset when Reagan was elected — mainly because I was such a Jimmy Carter fan, and I took the nation’s rejection of him hard. Reagan was, intellectually at the very least (which is something that matters to me in a president), a pretty sharp drop from Carter, the nuclear engineer. I was very disturbed that the nation wanted this “What Me Worry?” guy over the president I had supported.

                  But I didn’t think the nation had gone off a cliff. Reagan was a solid person who had governed our largest state. He was surrounded by serious people who knew public policy, and he was deeply committed to serious foreign policy that was completely within the Cold War governing consensus going back to Truman. I was unhappy, but the nation was going to be OK.

                  By contrast, not only is Trump an utter wild man with no grounding in serious ideas or even rough approximation of understanding of public policy, but he stands ALONE. There are NO serious, thoughtful, smart people around him. And as we know, even if there were (even if some of those who utterly rejected him gravitate to him out of a sense of duty to the country), he would not listen to them. As the piece I referenced above stated:

                  Trump, on the other hand, outsources nothing, preferring to retain the prerogative for himself. He demands to know what people think of a particular issue, then persecutes those who think differently from him. When he changes his mind, those around him are expected to follow suit. They will never have a say in any decision-making, while his own decisions are rooted in an opportunistic miasma of whim, greed, ambition and other animal instincts.

                  I have experience most of y’all don’t have. I’ve lived in a banana republic, with a drunken wastrel as president. I’ve lived in a country while it experienced a coup, followed by a military junta.

                  And I know this: The election of Donald Trump comes closer to THAT kind of situation than it does to any American election result that ANY of us have ever experienced.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    If I can’t communicate anything else about this election, I want to be able to communicate this…

                    We have two wildly separate things that have nothing to do with each other:

                    1. Every election result before now, since the Constitution was ratified.

                    2. This election result.

                    As I’ve said, you can sort of draw some parallels to 1828, but this is worse. And the 1856 result was pretty awful, but still not as much of a departure from what had gone before as this is…

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      And yeah, I know Doug thinks departing completely from the past is a fine idea, but I emphatically do not.

                      This is the finest country in the history of the world, and throwing away the political precedents that have made it so — putting a grotesquely unfit, unbalanced, petty, vindictive, unpredictable ignoramus in the White House — is a radically reckless and terrible thing…

                3. Doug Ross

                  I don’t need to read someone else’s opinion of how I should respond to Trump’s election. It’s just an opinion based on the writer’s bias. Like yours and like mine. I know what I feel.

                  The big difference is I formed my opinion of Bush AFTER he responded to 9/11, not when he was elected. When he was elected, I thought he was just a legacy Bush with limited intelligence. He (and Cheney – never forget Cheney) turned out to be terrible for this country. I judged him not on what he did before he was President or what he said 20 years prior to becoming President. I judged him on his actions. He was responsible for the unnecessary deaths of thousands of soliders and tens of thousands of innocent people in other countries. He was responsible for implementing the Patriot Act – a complete rejection of personal liberty. And he was responsible for turning the TSA into one of the most ridiculous wastes of tax dollars I’ve ever seen. And we don’t even have to get to the economic downturn on his watch… even if that didn’t happen, he was a horror show.

                  Why not do the same for Trump? Wait and see. Your “sky is falling” attitude before anything has happened is exactly the negativity you frequently accuse me of demonstrating.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Doug, the sky isn’t falling. It just fell. I know you thinks politics doesn’t matter, that words don’t matter, that ideas don’t matter. But they do. And this nation just took a swan dive into the gutter.

                    You say. “The big difference is I formed my opinion of Bush AFTER he responded to 9/11, not when he was elected.” Well, I’m pretty sure the guy who wrote that piece you won’t read fits the same description…

                4. Claus

                  “Hey, I was really upset when Reagan was elected — mainly because I was such a Jimmy Carter fan, and I took the nation’s rejection of him hard.”

                  Man, my head is spinning now. I believe you may be the only person to have ever made this comment.

                5. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Apparently, your universe of acquaintances is limited. I hear it a lot.

                  Yeah, I hear from MORE people who loved Reagan. After all, he’s the guy who won, so more people liked him.

                  But some of the best people I know were sorry to see Carter, a very serious man, give way to a guy who kept jelly beans on his desk.

                  I’ve always thought that a good metaphor. Boiled peanuts actually have nutritional value, and Carter was very much an “eat your vegetables” kind of guy. But the nation didn’t want to eat its vegetables, so they opted for the jelly-bean guy…

                6. bud

                  Brad Bush was really, really terrible. You’ve never gotten that even going so far as to endorse him. At least now you get a taste of what Doug and I went through in 2004. But damn I have to go through it twice! Life is just not fair.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      I’m inclined to agree with Bryan. While this is scary for the less privileged members of our world, and rightly so, the country is probably going to be fine.
      Although, nobody knows nothing, yet.

    3. bud

      Trump will do much damage to the country than ISIS could ever hope to do. ISIS has already used him as a recruiting tool. That will now intensify. ISIS is just not a particularly big threat to the U.S. Not sure why people continue to argue that it is.

      1. Claus

        Go on, preferably with examples of what you are saying he’ll do. Up to this point, from your statements it could mean one more person gets a paper cut sometime during the next four years or it could mean he’ll turn all of the nuclear weapons over to Iran on Day One. Can you give us some specifics?

  6. Phillip

    What’s really hard to envision is Michelle at the inauguration ceremony, thinking back to that incredibly emotional and powerful speech she made right after the whole Access Hollywood tape thing. Hard to picture her being all OK and friendly with Donnie at the ceremony, etc. Will Obama excuse his family from attending?

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Michelle worked at Sidley and Austin at the same time a friend of mine (who left the practice to become an English professor) did and while I was at Winston and Strawn, a similar white shoe, silk stocking firm. We learned how to smile blandly at just about anything….and we are white. Imagine being a smart *black* woman.
      Michelle can handle the Donald Trumps of the world just fine.

  7. JesseS

    Warning: Long post is long.

    On my drive home last night I was listening to CBC’s Q. Can’t say I’m a big fan of the show, but it was on. Anyway, the guests were several comics: A Canadian Trump impersonator, a Muslim-American female comic from NYC, and Tom Green. I can’t tell you how odd it was admitting to myself that Tom Green was the calm voice of reason amid the paranoia, fear, and uncertainty. We really have entered the post-reality parallel universe. Maybe I should start asking Bam Margera for stock tips (though my gut tells me Steve-O would probably have better picks)?

    While the impersonator was certain that it was dumb Americans just being dumb, and the Muslim-American was certain that it was because of America’s intense hatred of people of color, Green reminded them that we are all living in a bubble and we always look for a reason that strikes each of us closest to home. The fault of the tea leaves is in the reader. Those reasons might be anti-Globalism, that he belongs to the right party, that he claims to be Pro-Life, that for once we have a politician to openly speaks his mind even if everyone else disagrees, that they are unhappy that they can’t find jobs (and let’s not forget that radical progressives and Neo-Liberals can both be callous and arrogant about the suffering of those making less than $50K a year, on that subject as well as ACA), that this was the only way they could voice their frustration, that he is a political outsider, or a bunch of other reasons.

    You know what? All of those reasons have validity (well except “the right party”, I’d say more but then I’d go on a tangent about straight-ticket voters).

    At one point the host had a question that unsettled me a little. “Where did we fail? How did we allow ourselves to humanize Trump?”

    Wait? What? You didn’t demonize him enough? That’s where you messed up? The mistake was not sinking further into what we expect from our cultural rhetoric? And this is a Canadian asking that question? Wow. Great White North, I’m starting to worry about you.

    It stuck out in my head since Garrison Keillor (of all people –a guy who is totally despised by both working class Americans who see him as elitists and left leaning Millennials who assume anyone white and over 60 must be a member of the KKK), in a New Yorker piece, wrote the only criticism of Trump that stuck to the wall. He didn’t characterize a cartoonish, sexist, racist buffoon. Instead he bitterly characterized a flawed human being who desperately wants his peers’ approval. Trump wants a seat at the big kid’s table after decades of hustling steaks and stooging himself on Entertainment Tonight. That has to stand for something in America, right?

    Not that I didn’t mess up like the rest of us. When Trump was called the winner all I could think was that he was the 2nd cartoon president of my life (well at least since I began voting).

    Then while going through some posts someone unwittingly corrected my thinking. “How can we go from the smoothest ****** ****** since Steve McQueen to this cartoon character?”

    Huh? You approved of Obama because you thought he was as cool as Steve McQueen? That’s voting for a cartoon character, you idiot! Then I remembered Brad who had often characterized Obama as Michael Corleone: A cool, collected man who was willing to “whack” terror suspects who needed “whacking” via drone strike and “take Fredo out on the boat” when staffers like Rahm Emanuel became a problem.

    We all want to view the world through a rotoscope.

    Even 4Chan (aka the bottom of the Internet) were celebrating on early Wednesday morning that: We elected a meme as president!


    It wasn’t the first time I heard that sentiment. I’ve known several Anarcho-Capitalists who gave him their vote simply because they thought it would be a funny way to see this sham of a nation, the one we call the United States, go down in flames. Besides, Simpsons did it, right?

    Not that I can blame their loss of faith (or anyone’s to be honest). Politics is often cynicism in action: a game of actively disenfranchising people (while having the gall to proclaim moral victory) and picking the worst possible compromise you can fashion simply because you have to show off your “busy work” while sitting on the deck of a sinking ship.

    But left or right, it isn’t time to lose hope. No. It’s time to take a good, long look at ourselves and our country while disregarding our whiggish rose colored glasses or our blood soaked, pessimistic, Progressive lenses. It’s time to take account, not of the changes we’ve made, but the decisions we keep putting off.

    Don’t worry, I’m going to make this thought exercise, very, very easy for you.

    If you are on the left I want you to take a deep, deep breath, close your eyes for a second, and imagine, on a personal level, the worst possible thing Donald Trump can do.

    If you are on the right, do the same, but instead imagine the worst possible thing Obama could have or can do.

    Remember you can only pick one. Our lives are short and we can only do so much in it. OK, do you have it? I bet its really, really bad.

    Whatever that horrible, horrible thing is, I want you to ask a single question about your problem: How could we, the people and elected officials of our republic, have done to have prevented this from happening in the first place?

    If you were unable to come up with one, I’ll pick one out of my non-partisan hat for you, OK?

    My piece of paper says, “Donald Trump just nuked N. Korea” (I could have gone with “Obama’s FCC approved of the NBC Universal/ATT merger” but that one is getting passe fast so I just threw it in the waste basket).

    So what could we have done to have prevented Donald from nuking N. Korea?

    Well, I could have asked for someone put rules in place that reinforced Congress’ War Powers instead of letting them ignore their constitutional obligation since the Korean Conflict. Now why didn’t I ever send my two Senators and 7 Representatives an old fashioned snail mail letter (or at least give their aides a call) about that? That’s a start, right? And you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right?

    Instead I just kept putting it off because it’s not like Bush, or Clinton, or Bush, or Obama would have just nuked N. Korea. Those were “good”, sane guys who used sanctions, right? Not that I think Trump will do that, but that isn’t the point. The point is why I didn’t stop it in the first place?

    Only you can prevent forest fires.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Wow, that WAS a long one. The WordPress app on my iPad wouldn’t even let me call it up, much less approve it. But I found a workaround…

      You probably weren’t talking about me, but let me say I don’t think I have “whiggish rose colored glasses.” I don’t think I have ANY rose-colored glasses, but certainly not whiggish ones. I suspect I’m more of a Tory, but honestly after all the reading of history I’ve done over the years, I remain confused about precisely what “Whig” means — probably because it’s meant different things in different places at different times…

      Oh, and nuking North Korea isn’t the worst thing he could do. There’s always something worse. Of course, even if you said “nuke England,” there’s always something worse (say, nuke the whole world…)

      That’s one reason why I’d have a great deal of trouble picking one worst thing. Another is that I don’t think in such terms. I don’t think, “He’ll do this or that bad thing.” I think more in terms of the holistic totality of how awful it is having such a man as president, the degradation of our country and its institutions that he represents. In my mind, I haven’t even gotten around to the awful stuff he might DO. That’s just an extra, bonus horror that keeps on giving.

      In other words, folks, I’m just getting warmed up on being horrified by Donald J. Trump…

      1. Claus

        Brad, what’s the worst thing HIllary could have done if elected? Wore an even uglier pant suit than the day before?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          For me, continuing to be the champion of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s biggest abortion provider.

          But I had hopes that she would return to the mode she adopted while in the Senate, working with pro-life people to make abortions rare.

          Also, I was somewhat worried about her new populist, anti-trade stance. But I kept telling myself she didn’t really mean it, that really she knew better, and that faced with decisions in the future, she would act wisely. Too bad about TPP, though. She probably would have continued to oppose that.

          That’s about it. Mostly what I dreaded about a Clinton presidency was that the bitter partisanship was going to be even worse than in the Bush and Clinton years. But of course, that would be on the Republicans, not her…

      2. JesseS

        I watched too much Fail Safe as a kid. Man, did that line about the ambassador’s phone melting creep me out.

        As we creep towards a Trump presidency, it feels less like the figurative phone is melting and more like we’ve seen the greatest con in American history.

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