Founders Day: The Unthinkable is Now the Future

Founders Day: The Unthinkable is Now the Future
Tom Dyer Watermark gay
Tom Dyer

I went to bed before the election was called, but the writing was on the wall. The first words I heard when my radio alarm went off the following morning were “President-Elect Trump.” It felt dreamlike; surreal. And then, as the news settled in, more like a punch in the gut.

President Donald Trump? The unthinkable is now the future.

We are a toxically divided nation. Just look at the national election map and its urban pockets of blue surrounded by vast seas of rural red. Differences based on income, education, religion and race are exacerbated by self-selected media that ignores or dismisses opposing beliefs. We inhabit enemy camps.

With his populist message, Donald Trump energized rural white voters in ways that establishment candidates like John McCain and Mitt Romney couldn’t. They were joined by suburban Republicans and independents that chose to overlook Trump’s crippling flaws—and the racist and misogynistic tone of his campaign—out of perceived self-interest. Many are your neighbors, friends and co-workers.

Ironically, voters who believe Trump will cure their ills distrust government. They believe it is corrupt and ineffective… and personified by Hillary Clinton. Pundits thought changing demographics would prevail, and that younger and more diverse voters would be drawn to Clinton’s qualifications and sterling progressive credentials.

But Clinton, who is charismatically disarming in small groups, was too unlikeable; her solutions too complex, her image too concrete. When she described Trump supporters as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and Islamophobic” at an LGBT fundraiser, she turned a big “basket of deplorables”—people she someday hoped to govern—into fanatics. They turned out in droves for Trump.

If Clinton had won, the next four years would have been a history-making slog. Republicans would have done everything in their power to prevent her from succeeding, just like they did with Barack Obama.

But Donald Trump is now our president. And Republicans control both houses of Congress. There’s no sugarcoating it: the election of 2016 is a disaster. The impact, however, remains uncertain.

We know Trump is thin-skinned, vengeful, unprepared and unrestrained by the truth… which should make for interesting press conferences, if he agrees to do them.

He has said he wants to build a wall bordering Mexico, bomb Isis, gut the Iran nuclear arms agreement, re-think NATO, reverse progress on climate change, back out of existing trade agreements and cut taxes on the wealthy. But even opponents give Trump grudging credit for being a good negotiator, mostly because his words are as ephemeral as a drying puddle. Much of what he says is bluster. The big battleship of state turns slowly.

Like any Republican president, Trump will nominate a conservative to the Supreme Court and restore that body’s 5-4 conservative majority. That is supremely bad news, but a court with the same makeup legalized same-sex marriage and protected access to abortion in Texas. Pray for the good health of justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (83), Anthony Kennedy (80) and Steven Breyer (78).

The vast majority of Americans now support existing marriage equality. Trump knows this, and in a 60 Minutes interview last weekend he said it is “…already settled. It’s law. And I’m fine with that.”

Vice-President Mike Pence is an evangelical Christian who supports divisive “religious freedom” laws that make recognition of same-sex marriage voluntary. But consider what happened in North Carolina and Pence’s home state of Indiana. A move by Republicans in the same direction would create a nationwide cultural backlash that could sabotage Trump’s administration and deliver Congress to Democrats in 2018. His support, particularly amongst college-educated voters, is fragile. We must be both vigilant and opportunistic.

Most disturbing is Trump’s arrogant and tone-deaf choice of former Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon as his chief White House strategist and senior counselor. Breitbart is a mouthpiece for the alt right, willing to float wholly unsubstantiated rumors in pursuit of a racist, sexist and anti-Semitic agenda. Will Breitbart become a media adjunct for the Trump White House? That would be unacceptable.

Trump’s first big test will be Obamacare. He has promised to repeal it. But tens of millions of Americans, many with preexisting conditions, will fight to keep their precious health insurance benefits. So will their elected representatives. If Republicans want to gut Obamacare, they must provide an alternative. They have painted themselves into a corner.

A week out, my feelings about the election fluctuate wildly. Republicans can no longer simply obstruct; they must offer solutions that voters will either embrace or reject. I am hopeful… if not about the next few years then about the future of our nation. As Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Democrats and progressives must learn from 2016. We need fresh faces to share our core message: equality for all; there’s enough for everybody; we benefit by lifting others; government can be an instrument of good.

And as for President Trump? We start working now to take away his Congress in 2018 and vote him out in 2020. With renewed purpose, we stand together to fight for our rights and our vision for the future. #WeCanDoThis

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