Here’s something I wrote on Facebook. It got a few likes.
It’s like I found out that, retroactively, there had been a lot fewer jokes in the world in 2016. They turned out not just to not be funny, but not to be jokes. When the history of Trump is written, there is going to be a generous chapter on all the jokes written about Trump before he became President, premised on the impossibility of him winning. It’s not that irony died. It’s that irony died a year ago, and no one sent flowers and now it seems too late.
So I must be one of the many in the Capital who was stuck in my bubble of epistemic closure, unaware of rumblings in the Districts? Well, yes and no. I totally believed Nate Silver when he said Trump had a 1/3 shot. I read Sean Trende, who I thought made sense; and reviews in praise of J.D. Vance’s book. But I was still making Trump jokes, laughing at Trump jokes, premised on the impossibility of him being President, right up to the day before. Then I slept very fitfully the night before. Irrational? I dunno. Cognitive dissonance. No point in denying it. I’ve never played Russian roulette – don’t intend to – but I think I know enough of tabletop games to know that sometimes a six-sided die comes up 6. Is it epistemic closure if you can’t wrap your head around exactly 1/6th of ‘you’re dead’? (If I ever play Russian roulette there’s a good chance I’ll crack a nervous joke before I pull the trigger, and then my last words will look dumb on my headstone. Failure of imagination. But it won’t be because I don’t know what 1/6th means, per se, or disbelieve in bullets.)
Here’s my two cents. Tale of two possible worlds. One of them ours. In the other, Hillary squeaks through in the EC, glides in comfortably in the popular vote (just like in our world). Now she is the lone bulwark against a Republican congress and we are looking at an indefinitely short-handed Supreme Court. Maybe the one difference between these twin earths, in the run-up, is that in one James Comey is less of a cheeky monkey in the letter-writing department. Who knows? Whatever thing made the difference, anything you presume to write about what the election taught us about our fellow Americans – divisions, red and blue, angry white voters, establishment and outside – needs to make sense in both possible worlds. Because they aren’t different. So whatever you say about the underlying sociology and culture and politics and institutions, make sure it would read non-absurdly in both possible worlds. That’s one pennyworth.
Of course now these formerly-identical worlds are going to diverge in radically different ways. Republicans won all the marbles in ours. (I’m not going to charge you a penny for that insight.)
There’s a lot of talk about what the left needs to do now. It seems to me that it depends on what Trump does. If he’s Mussolini, it means one thing. If he’s Berlusconi, quite another. (My penny’s on Berlusconi, if I were a betting man.) There’s always a chance Paul Ryan pissed him off so much that he’ll want to keep Obamacare, so long as he’s allowed to rebrand it as Trumpcare. Or Care-a-Lago. Or something.
Some on the right are already complaining about Trump Derangement Syndrome, what with the protests. Idiots. It’s not unreasonable to be very deeply worried that the man really meant some of those things he said, even if it’s not obvious he did. Why not go from taking him literally but not seriously to taking him literally and seriously? That seems like a rational progression. Republicans went nuts and freaked out when Obama was elected. That was nuts of them, because – just look at him – he’s Obama. And, lo and behold, he turned out to be a moderate progressive, as promised. By contrast, it’s not nuts to think Trump is some crazy outsider who might smash the place up in at least some of the ways he’s promised. He’s Trump. He’s not normal. (As I think Trump himself has promised not to be.) Different cases should be responded to differently, based on facts. That’s not deranged.
It would be easy for Trump for disavow the ugly alt-right elements among his supporters. It would be an easy win for him with the media …?
Or it might turn out he governs like a New York social liberal. He might turn out to get along better with Chuck Schumer than Mitch McConnell. He might be the second coming of Teddy Roosevelt. But with anti-environmentalism in place of environmentalism.
Rebuilding strategies for the left look reactively different against different possible Trumps.
I’m not saying those on the left can do and know nothing, without waiting for Trump to jump. The Clintons are cooked. (Although still a going concern in world-2. Isn’t life strange?) The Democrats need to rebuild their eroded base. But big picture strategy is inevitably anti-. And who the hell knows what we are up against? The Democratic Party is now the anti-Trumpism Party, functionally. What the f**k is that? That’s my other penny thought. All I’ve got.
I’m not saying pass the popcorn, while Trump prepares for his first 100 days. Not a bit of it. I’ve lost my appetite for politics as fun for a while. I’m a whimsical guy, by nature, and my whimsy well ran dry on Nov 8. The world is a very dangerous place and it got more so. Oh, and global warming. Too bad about that one, future of mankind. Probably we won’t go extinct.