Let’s get some things straight:
1. I am talking only to like-minded people.
I am done with anyone who voted for Trump, as a friend of mine recently wrote.
Debating with Trump supporters is useless.
Sociological experiments have recently proven when people are confronted with facts that contradict their beliefs, they cling to those beliefs more tightly. Anti-vaxers presented with neutral information on the safety of vaccines became even less likely to vaccinate their children.
In terms of what happens next, we anti-Trumpers are the only ones who matter.
2. There is no silver lining.
After the election, many of us are looking for any spark of hope. Here’s what that sounds like:
- Our government’s checks and balances will keep Trump from doing real damage.
- Trump was always a blow-hard. He sounded worse than he will be.
- Nothing bad is going on right now. Let’s just wait and see what happens.
- Some good will come of this.
Be honest with yourself, these kinds of statements feel like the things you say when you’re trying to justify staying in a bad relationship.
It’s better to face the facts.
3. Trump is a dictator.
The list of historians who’ve been shouting about this scrolls to Spain. That would be Franco’s Spain. Since late 2015, they’ve been cataloging the evidence pointing to the collapse of American democracy and the rise of autocracy.
A historian, in fact, was the only one to correctly call the election. Not Nate Silver. Not the Upshot. Not CNN. Not even Fox News. The polls were wrong. The news media was wrong. The historian with the correct prediction relied on trends pointing to the opportunity for a dictator to rise in America.
It’s time to listen to history.
4. Dictators do dictator-type stuff.
- They suppress free speech, as by changing libel laws.
- They silence political opponents, as by locking them up.
- They attack average citizens, using their power to intimidate, as with threatening lawsuits.
- If they stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone, their followers still support them.
Stop kidding yourself the things Trump said were just campaign hyperbole. Donald Trump has done everything he said he was going to do. He said he was going to win the nomination. He did. He said the polls were wrong. They were. He said he would win the presidency. Check. He’s revealed dozens of his dictator-type plans. It’s time to take the man at his word.
In the next four years, he will have unimaginable mechanisms of oppression at his disposal (such as the NSA and the Patriot Act) to employ in the service of autocracy.
5. People who supported Trump are not good people.
I know you want to believe the woman in your book group “is a good person at heart even though she voted for Trump.” Or that the members of your church are good, Christian people, even though they pulled the lever for him.
This point is a cousin to #2 above. We don’t have to guess who Donald Trump is. He’s not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s a wolf in a big furry wolf coat.
If your book club friend, colleague, or relative voted for him, it is a profound character flaw. Right down to the moral fiber. Plenty of “good people” supported Hitler, too.
I know how sad this is. I have the same friends and family members in my own life. But in the end, if you endorse a racist and bigoted dictator with your eyes wide open, you lose the right to call yourself a “good person.”
6. Get ready.
The one advantage we may still have is to panic early and loudly. That demonstration yesterday in New York? We need to keep it going. We need to stand up and fight. Michael Moore’s five-point plan is a great start.
We must do it right now, not wait and see. Historians agree, Hitler’s rise to power was unstoppable by 1933, with the Enabling Act, which ensured he could exercise dictatorial power constitutionally and without legal challenge. Waiting to see what happens is First-They-Came-for-the-Communists thinking. They’ll come for you eventually. You voted against Trump.
7. Standing up will put the people who do it in danger.
Talk to your family. Make a plan B. Be cautious. Realize your email can be read and your phone can be tapped. For pity’s sake, that kind of thing happened under Obama. Be alert for the signs of oppression and abrogation of rights. This isn’t paranoia. It’s pragmatism.
Since you are an anti-Trumper, your Facebook feed is likely filled with posts of extreme despair. In New York, where I live, people walk the streets stupefied. Train and bus riders maintain a solemn hush. It’s palpable. Friends report feelings of intense nervousness. They are ready to flee, as the Canada immigration site crash demonstrated. I reconfirmed my Irish citizenship.
These symptoms are all signs of emotional shock and the lizard brain talking. That’s the part of the noggin in charge of survival. Listen to it. It knows.
We Americans are naïve. We didn’t grow up with tanks in the street like the Greeks or Hungarians. We don’t know political purges like those currently happening in Turkey. We think that can’t happen here.
Guess what else we didn’t think could ever happen here?
Just weigh the relative cost. The cost of taking this seriously: A bit of overreaction. The cost of ignoring it: Losing our last chance to stop a dictator.
It may already be too late. We have handed some of the world’s most awesome tools of power to a dictator-in-the-making.
First published in Role Reboot.