When I was a kid, one of the phrases I heard most often from my father was: “What a revoltin’ development this is.” I only recently found out that he got it from a popular radio program of the 1940s, The Life of Riley, starring William Bendix. Last night, that phrase came to mind when it became clear that the Drumpf of the yellow hair was—beyond all imagining—actually going to be elected president of the United States. It had been brewing all evening, but I kept hoping that sooner or later, a few of the contested states were going to drop for Hillary Clinton, and she would pull out the victory everyone had predicted. It never happened. First Florida went to Trump. Then North Carolina. Then Ohio, and you could almost hear the groan among the commentators. When Pennsylvania, seesawing all night between the two contestants, was called for the Drumpf, it was all over but the shouting. The most revolting development of our time had happened. And I have to confess, when Drumpf reached 269 electoral votes—with Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona still not called, but leaning his way—and the media announced that the presumptive winner had left his hotel and was heading towards his crowd growing more and more ecstatic in anticipation of his victory speech, I turned off the TV set and went to bed. I simply could not bear to see that lecherous grin gloating over the greatest prize a stone-cold narcissist sociopath can garner. I couldn’t bear it, and still may have to turn off the TV whenever it comes on (I did this often when George W. was speaking; similar idiot grin, similar reaction).
Now it’s the next morning and the feeling of nausea has still not left me. And I’m writing to try to expiate the feeling of horror and depression and despair over the future that hangs over a huge portion of the entire country (more people voted for Hillary, it now appears, than for Drumpf; though once again—think Bush v. Gore and three others, Adams, Hayes and Harrison—that devil’s pact to maintain the slave states in control, the electoral college, has made a mockery of democracy and the idea of one person, one vote). And speaking of slave states in control, the visual of that electoral map displayed on most TV coverage, with the entire center of the country blanketed in red, reminds us again, if we needed reminding, how big a role racism has always played in this nation and played once again in this election. It would not be too much to say that this vote by the mostly white electorate really was the expression of the pent-up hatred that has gripped this nation for the past eight years, hatred of the fact that a Black man occupied the White House. Now the racists (and I love how Drumpf’s defenders always insist his supporters aren’t racists; they’re just Americans who want a “fair shake”) have their revenge—though how long their glee will last is another matter entirely. Because they are going to be confronted by the fact that their chosen savior, Drumpf, will not be able to accomplish even a small portion of what he’s promised—solve immigration? bring back all the lost jobs? make the nation majority white again? tell the corporations and the rest of the world to fuck off? Not going to happen. And then there’s going to be some weeping and gnashing of teeth by the poor boobs who have been conned once again.
But I digress. What I really want to say is that our worst nightmare has come to pass. Plato, some two thousand years ago, warned that the logical progression in government is the inevitable progress from democracy to tyranny. That is what this feels like to me. I wrote a piece when the primaries were first starting called “Demagogues Rising” in which I referenced a novel predicting that the masses would be inclined, in the dire conditions of massive displacement of people from wars and global warming, to opt for the apparent solutions of dictators and dictatorial governments. At that time, I thought it might be Bernie Sanders versus Drumpf in the election, but the point is the same. In the conditions that are looming—and all people on this planet, whether they can articulate it or not, are feeling the coming era of masses on the move, masses displaced by rising seas and dire climate changes—most people will opt for the (putatively) strong leader over the conventional one every time. Or, as George Lakoff might put it, over the strong father over the nurturing mother. And that is what has just happened: masses of Americans have chosen a man who has promised to build walls to keep out the wogs, has promised to deport or keep from ever breaching our borders immigrants who appear to be Muslims and/or possible terrorists, and to erect crippling barriers to trade in the attempt to put America first. Shades of the 1930s in Germany; in Italy; in America itself, which had a huge movement, the America Firsters, who lobbied to keep the U.S. out of any more of Europe’s wars. Had it not been for Pearl Harbor, they might have succeeded—at least for a time. Now Drumpf has promised to revive those same sentiments, and has ridden those sentiments straight to the White House. It is terrifying. As is the prospect of his Supreme Court nominations—which will poison the high court for decades. As is the prospect of his Justice Department—which will poison the very idea of ‘justice for all’ for god knows how long (Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General?). As is the prospect of his apparent policy relative to carbon, coal, and global warming, which he seems to think is a hoax (Forrest Lucas, head of Lucas Oil, as Interior Secretary?). The greatest menace ever to threaten the human race, and he, and his whole party, think it’s a hoax. Which means that the entire planet has now taken a step closer to armaggedon with the election of this ignorant huckster and demagogue.
And it is making me sick just thinking about it. Boobus Americanus indeed.
So I don’t know folks. I have nothing comforting or palliative to offer. It’s as bad as it looks, and may be much worse. We’ll only know as the sick drama we seem to be trapped in plays out in the coming months. Meantime, all each of us can do is work locally while we think globally, work together when we can, and try to limit the damage. Because the way it looks the morning after, there sure as hell is going to be damage, and the only questions now are how much? and how long, o lord?