Many years ago I was an enlisted man in the United States Coast Guard Reserve, often underway in the nearby North Atlantic, conducting fisheries patrols. When a change of course was required in rough seas the bridge would pipe the following over the ship’s intercom: “Standby to roll as the ship comes about in heavy weather.” I doubt anyone reading this article will need a layman’s translation as to what that message means and I think that some derivative of that would be an appropriate byline on the cover of any respectable newspaper during the next few days. In my humble opinion, unless someone or some body of authority can prove that Donald J. Trump was elected to the presidency by other than legitimate means, he deserves a chance to govern as president. That said, owing to the negative baggage that Trump carries with him to Washington and the cumulative effects of over 20 years of political history that have seen the country sink only deeper into political division, the prospects of a peaceful transition to a Trump administration characterized by bipartisan or communal amity and comity are about as likely to occur as the Sun rising in the west and setting in the east.
With regard to the latter consider, the initial term of William Jefferson Clinton. When Clinton was first elected to the presidency with less than 50% of the popular vote due to the third party candidacy of Ross Perot, Republicans and conservatives were quick to make the case that Clinton didn’t have a mandate, something that Progressives have already pointed out regarding Trump’s election. Trump fell 3 million votes short of the popular vote and a full two thirds of Trump voters claimed to be voting against Hillary Clinton rather than for Donald Trump. Thus it’s impossible for the Republican Party to honestly claim that Trump has any kind of a mandate. The political left will hammer that point relentlessly. Fast forward to the Election of Barack Obama in 2008 when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that, based on a meeting which took place immediately following Obama’s inauguration, the aim of the Republican party was: “To make Obama a one term president.” It wasn’t long thereafter that Rush Limbaugh bellowed across the airwaves of far right radio, regarding Obama: “I hope he fails!”. Limbaugh was apparently willing to gin up his listening audience by actively rooting against his own country. In the months and years that followed, the leadership of the Republican Party would countenance the multiple lies cascading through right wing media purporting that Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya, that he was a Marxist, a Leninist, a Fascist, as if all of those political ideologies were somehow interchangeable, all the while failing to stand up to the lies being propagated about America’s first president of color because those lies suited their own political goals.
To some degree, there was little that the leadership of the ideologically exhausted Republican Party could do. After all the G.O.P. had little new to offer since the rise of Roosevelt’s New Deal other than the legacy of Ronald Reagan, a long dead icon who came to power claiming that “Government was the problem”, only to leave office with the scope of government and the size of it’s debt bigger than it was when he first arrived. So instead of participating in governing at a time when the country was in the throes of the greatest crisis since the 1930s, the G.O.P. firmly chose opposition, hoping that the “novelty” of the Obama victory would fade after four years, allowing their return to power. With little of substance to offer a beleaguered American public, the Republican Party entered into a marriage of convenience with a hydra headed Tea Party Movement comprised largely of disaffected conservatives who hated the Republican Establishment more than it hated Obama and the Progressives. Now on the eve of the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as President, Conservative America is about to come to terms with a very cold and hard fact. That fact, as they say on the street, is that ”Payback is a bitch.”
Perhaps the tip of the spear of this payback has come from the controversy arising from Civil Rights Era hero John Lewis’ charge that Trump isn’t a legitimate president and Trump’s response to Lewis. This controversy has led to more than 60 Democratic members of Congress opt out of attending Trump’s inauguration. That’s the largest boycott of a presidential inauguration since Richard Nixon’s second. The day after Trump’s inauguration the country will see mass protests in the Washington and in many major cities. One only need to think back to the anti-war movement of the sixties to get a feel as to just how disruptive mass protests can be. Then there is the lack of star caliber and even second tier performers who are willing to perform at the inauguration. Outgoing Secretary of Labor Tom Perez has already stolen a page out of the G.O.P. playbook calling on Democrats on Capitol Hill to:”…confront President-elect Donald Trump with the kind of obstruction strategy that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) employed against President Obama.” But what I find even more striking is the degree to which, in the age of social media, an anti-Trump resistance movement has erupted, at nothing less than gale force, even before Trump has had an opportunity to place his hand on a Bible to affect his oath of office. The active popular resistance movement against Obama, via the Tea Party, took a full two years to come into full force. In contrast the anti-Trump resistance, largely fueled via social media, blossomed within hours of his being declared president-elect early on 9 November. I like Trump am transfixed by Tweeting and I largely employ Twitter to promote my own articles or pass along the political news of others. That said I have seen my following almost double since Trump’s election.
Aside from Progressive discomfiture with Hillary Clinton’s defeat and the epic fail on the part of the professional media in calling the election accurately there are real issues that will only work to undermine and hobble the incoming Trump administration. First and foremost is Trump’s unwillingness to divest himself of his vast business holdings leading Republican ethics lawyer Richard Painter and others to opine that Trump will be in violation of the Constitution the minute he lifts his hand from the Bible on Friday 20 January. Secondly there is Trump’s inept handling of the Russian hacking issue, even though it may not have swung the election in his favor. It is his lack of strident criticism of our traditional post WWII adversary that has led many, on both sides of the aisle to question his motives. Some have suggested that, perhaps the Russians have enough dirt on him so as to politically blackmail Trump and bend him to their wishes. Is it any wonder as to why most of the professional foreign policy crowd abhors Trump? All of these issues amount to mounds of ammunition that the political left will aim at Trump on a regular basis over however long he lasts in office.
Then there’s Trump’s abysmally boorish and uncouth behavior on the campaign trail both during the primaries and in the general election cycle. The comments and treatment of everyone from women to P.O.W.s to the disabled and his worthy opponents amounts to nothing short of a national disgrace as is the very fact that there are pictures in circulation of Melania Trump posing nude. One can only wonder just how much fun Trump’s opponents will have with pictures of America’s First Lady striking such a less than dignified pose. There’s no doubt about the enemies that Trump has created for himself within communities of color and among women but a more important question, as yet unanswered, is to what extent he has created enemies within the G.O.P. How many like Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsey Gram are there within the Republican Party who have their knives out for him and who, allied with or without Democrats, will frustrate and impede his administration. Then there are the conservative fiscal hawks on the right who may not lend support to Trump’s big ticket spending plans for infrastructure and the military.
Much of the aforementioned tie directly into questions regarding Trump’s temperament and judgment. Let not any of us forget this guy has access to the nuclear codes. It goes without saying that it was foolhardy at best, if not outright stupid to make enemies out of the press and the intelligence community. Yeah Trump’s base may hate the media but they don’t control the day to day programming and the corrosive effect of four years, if Trump lasts that long, of negative media can’t be good for Trump or his ability to govern. Thus far the media has been happy to bare to the public the poor performance of many of the president-elects cabinet nominees and their lack of knowledge or the degree to which their beliefs are in contradiction to his own.
Many conservatives would take umbrage with the foregoing by reiterating the fact that the Republicans control the Congress and the White House as if that alone is all that matters in shielding Trump form the wave of Progressive opposition that is now abuilding. I would politely seek to disabuse my conservative friends of that delusional notion by simply pointing out that the G.O.P. does not have the sixty votes in the Senate needed to effect cloture, that Democrats at the state level can tie up government with endless lawsuits just as Republicans have over the past eight years, that till a Supreme Court Justice is confirmed we have a divided court that means cases decided at the Appellate level stand and that Republicans were in many ways able to stymie Obama even when they themselves were in the minority.
Like most people, Democrats, Progressives and the far left have long memories and they won’t forget the lack of cooperation, if not outright abuse that was heaped upon Obama over the past eight years, some of which was outright racist. Now being on the outside looking in, what do they have to lose in working overtime to see that Trump fails? It seems to have, to a great extent, worked for the G.O.P. so why not do the same? I believe that the opposition to Trump will be persistent and relentless and I can only laugh when I see people like Kelly-Anne Conway or Reince Priebus complain that this isn’t fair or that Obama should do something to stop it. You mean the way that Republican leaders stepped in to derail the Birther lie or the notion that Obama is a Muslim seeking to ruin America? Thus in the final analysis there will be no general honeymoon period for the incoming Trump administration, not in any bipartisan fashion that is. The only honeymoon that Donald Trump can seek will be with his base and that will last only so long as he appears to be producing for them. Now seeing that more jobs have been lost to automation than globalization and less coal is mined because natural gas is cheap than due to federal regulation, as just two examples, the extent to which Trump can produce results for his base is still up in the air, especially as Trump is long on rhetoric and agit-prop and short on details. When you combine the paucity of real policy proposals coming out of the Trump camp with an anti-Trump resistance movement that is growing stronger by the day I don’t think I’m being too cavalier when I say “Standby to Roll”.
Steven J. Gulitti
New York City
19 January 2017