"If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing." -Napoleon Bonaparte
A Muslim registry. A border wall paid for by Mexico. Repealing Obamacare. These are just three campaign promises made by president-elect Donald Trump while he was on the campaign trail, and they are causing liberal Americans to collectively lose their shit.
#NotMyPresident is trending, protests are still happening across the country, and George Takei is posting about his time spent at actual internment camps, framing his message as a dire warning in case President Donald Trump starts rounding up Muslims.
As much as I love George Takei, I find his cautionary message to be a tad irresponsible. Here's why.
There is a monstrous contradiction in the hearts and minds of progressives that has yet to be reconciled; that Trump, universally heralded as the most dishonest politician in American history, is apparently the world's most unabashed truth-teller when his words are the most outlandish, the most insane. He has attacked the predispositions of progressives with inflammatory rhetoric and predictable results, culminating a wave of promised activism by those he has offended.
But now that Trump has won, now that he has peeked behind the curtain of power, perhaps a different nightmare scenario will be on the horizon for American liberals.
What if President Donald Trump abandons the most unsavory promises he made, realizing that true power could only be sustained by trotting through the middle as a centrist, rather than on the fringe like an ideologue? Already he has walked back several of his most tasteless proclamations, even as he stacks his cabinet with social zealots and war hawks. Obamacare, which he promised to repeal, is now legislation he will amend. No longer will an ominous wall be built along the entire southern border either. Instead, part of it will only require fencing, a reality likely realized months ago, assuming the wall was ever a serious proposal to begin with.
Marriage equality is settled law, according to Trump. I've personally spoken with several people who hail from the LGBTQ community who tell me they're frightened for their actual lives now that Trump has been elected. After all, they say, he is anti-gay marriage. When I remind them that Barack Obama was also against gay marriage when he took office they stammer, then pivot to the next horrible idea they remember reading in Vox, or Slate, or the New York Times.
But many readers have just reflexively rolled their eyes at their screens after reading a Huffington Post blogger, me, defend Donald Trump, which I didn't. The tricky backstory of the election is the victimization of truth itself.
Did you know that the KKK did not endorse Trump? Did you know that the Communist Party did endorse Hillary Clinton? Did you know that Trump received more support from minority communities than Mitt Romney or John McCain? He did. But we aren't allowed to talk about those things because the branding of Trump had already been cemented. We are only permitted to rubberneck the car accident. We aren't allowed to mention that nobody actually died.
It now feels like they want Trump to fail, a nihilistic philosophy mirroring the kind of anti-patriotism shown by the GOP when Obama was first elected.
And none of this is meant to absolve Trump of any of the statements he made that were racially charged. Rather, it is to underline the megalomaniacal rants from his detractors who managed to insert a faux conventional wisdom about the candidate they loathed at the expense of the candidate they revered.
So bad is the reflexive hatred and finger-wagging towards the next president that it now feels like they want Trump to fail, a nihilistic philosophy mirroring the kind of anti-patriotism shown by the GOP when Obama was first elected.
Indeed, many liberals seem downright masochistic about Trump, signalling they would rather he follow through on internment camps and other zany policies just so they can bask in their own "I told you so" posturing. Even on foreign policy, where Trump is more of an isolationist than war hawk, a stance that caused millions of left-leaning Americans to praise Ron Paul in 2012, liberals are certain he will drop nukes and slaughter Middle Eastern civilians. But this goes against what Trump has been saying for over a decade, until one day when someone pointed out one interview on the Howard Stern Show, and the public either blocked out or was shielded from the hundreds of statements he made against the Iraq war.
Yes, he flip-flopped, but he flip flopped in a direction most progressives should be satisfied with. But Trump being crass and rude and unpolished wasn't enough, he had to be a boogeyman to boot, a boogeyman who only told the unfiltered truth when it was something we did not like, something that offended us.
I was going to disclaim this piece by opening with a laundry list of reasons why Trump is a horrible, putrid man. But I'm tired of having to appease the most stubborn ideologues in our society. It's exhausting having to bend to the whims of the outrage industry every time you want to make a point that counters the claims embedded inside the fabric of progressive America. It's even more exhausting trying to explain to those who champion identity politics that a person can be progressive without having to burn Trump in effigy.
Before the election I would muse with friends that a Trump presidency would be short-lived, that he would command a general to commit a war crime and be arrested, impeached or become the recipient of the world's easiest coup. Hell, that still is a possibility.
Today the reality of this man leading the free world forces the conversation towards a more pragmatic context; it is far more palatable to have a president who will moderate his positions, soften his stances and realize the office is bigger than him. Plus there is something lurking in the back of the minds of measured, reasonable people who did not support Donald Trump.
Hope isn't supposed to expire when we do not like the leader tasked with manifesting the hope his predecessor attempted to instill in us.
We learned from Obama's presidency that hope was audacious, a sometimes fleeting-yet-necessary facet of civilization itself. But hope isn't supposed to expire when we do not like the leader tasked with manifesting the hope his predecessor attempted to instill in us. Society does not have the luxury to remain indignant, or stiffen in a state of perpetual protest, or claim indifference to the successes of a president.
Activism should be thriving right now, ready to hold accountable our leaders should they balk at justice or follow through on divisive policies. Instead, many are replacing the hope for a better future with a wish for a disastrous presidency. Let that marinate for a moment.
It is the "I told you so" posture that defines the depletion of hope; that you never really get what you wished for. Life under Obama did not improve the middle class, the black communities, civilian life in the Middle East or the blue-collar workforce at home. But perhaps hope under the aspirational president is not as meaningful as it is under a putrid one. And maybe, just maybe, the apocalyptic predictions of a Trump administration will only work to hasten the arrival of disaster.
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