The case for optimism

As we assemble for the 395th Thanksgiving today, we do so aware of an appalling irony and grave threat: The so-called “values voters” have elected to the presidency a vain, ignorant, mean-spirited proto-fascist who actually is as corrupt and dangerous to the Republic as the fake news outlets Breitbart and World Net Daily deceived them into believing Barack Obama to be, though he is one of the most intelligent, capable, and honorable men to occupy that office in a long while.

Scarcely two weeks on, we have already seen Trump degrade the GOP leadership to panting lapdogs, we have seen him move to leverage the office for private profit, we have seen a rogues gallery of cheap propagandists given office space and appointments and, most worryingly, we have seen a plain attempt to break the media to his saddle. The danger of a Trump presidency is real, existential, and in plain sight of anybody not hopelessly naive or blinded by malice toward anybody whose world isn’t the size of a shoebox.

Though more than a little fretful, I incline withal toward optimism about the country’s future.

First, Trump lost the popular vote, and lost it decisively. If we assume — reasonably, I think — that his fans were more energized on election day than Clinton supporters, then he governs with a significant minority and from a position of popular weakness.

Just wait, then, till even the pea-brains figure-out that he lied to them, too, and that he really is just a plaid-suited carnival barker with the mean streak of a cheap thug. He begins from a weak political position — and it can only grow weaker. There is no better Donald Trump than the cynical and pretentious buffoon we’ve come to know over the past 18-months, and reality always has the last word.

Second, judges keep one eye on the history books, too. The courts in general, and the Supreme Court in particular, aren’t going to want to be closely associated in memory with the catastrophe of Donald Trump and the wholesale dismantling of more than two centuries of jurisprudence. He will inevitably win a few, but if I were a betting man I’d put my money on a lot of stony glares when the Trump administration swaggers into court to demand this and demand that. After all, even the most reactionary of courts can be expected to protect its own independence and prerogatives.

Third, 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, and that will eventually sink into public consciousness, as in, Wait a minute! What are you saying? The church people gave us that piece of sh*t p***y-grabber?! Yep, they did — and that will be the tale of how the Evangelical Right and ‘movement so-called conservatism’ committed political suicide. They might make some noise, occasionally score a small victory … but they are done. The Trump administration, with its inevitable serial indecencies and corruptions, is their achievement, and they will never live it down.

Last, Trump has signaled plainly that he intends to neuter the media, that reporting which doesn’t flatter him will be punished. When scowls don’t work, my guess is that his tool of choice will be economic attrition via the courts — a long train of legally feeble but costly SLAPPs. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN were targeted in that way. We all know that newspapers, especially, are hurting, and so the expectation would be that the lesser news outlets would quickly fall into line.

Ha-ha. If The Donald thinks that journos are in it for the money, he is in for a big surprise. As Richard Nixon was surprised, say, when he thought that a court order could arrest publication of the Pentagon Papers — and woke-up to find them published in hundreds of newspapers all across the country.

The bottom line here is straightforward: Neither the courts nor the press are going to be bullied into submission — and beyond them, neither will tens of millions of Americans be bullied into submission.

It’s going to be ugly, for sure, but the good guys are going to prevail.

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