Avoidance or Respite?
I seem to have veered away from writing about our incoming President over the past week. I see this as both a good sign and a warning signal. Perhaps it’s just the diversion of the holidays. Perhaps it is a sign that I have gotten over the initial trauma of losing the election and having someone so crass and unconventional as the incoming President. But perhaps I am slipping into the new normal—falling into the convenient liberal bubble of hoping things will be OK.
How do I find a way of living into our new political reality that is neither panicked nor avoidant? The middle way?
For me, the new reality is that we have a President-elect who has little respect for the institutions of democracy in our country – including the press and reasoned discourse. We have a President-elect who brags about his track record of being solely focused on enriching himself. I see no reason to expect he will behave differently in his new role as President. And if he’s only out to enrich himself and his friends, how will it be for the rest of us?
Yesterday, Ross Douthat, a conservative New York Times op-ed writer, reflected on some of the possibilities of our upcoming four years in a piece he called The Trump Matrix:
“…the possibilities for how Trump governs, runs from ruthless authoritarianism at one end to utter chaos at the other. Under the authoritarian scenario, Trump would act on all his worst impulses with malign efficiency. The media would be intimidated, Congress would be gelded, the F.B.I. and the I.R.S. would go full J. Edgar Hoover against Trump’s enemies, the Trump family would enrich itself fantastically — and then, come a major terrorist attack, Trump would jail or intern anyone he deemed a domestic enemy.
At the other end of this axis, Trump and his team would be too stumbling and hapless to effectively oppress anyone, and the Trump era would just be a rolling disaster — with frequent resignations, ridiculous scandals, Republicans distancing themselves, the deep state in revolt, the media circling greedily, and any serious damage done by accident rather than design.”
I am not hopeful. But this morning, I am determined to not look away—or rather, I am determined to look away and then look back again. Probably some kind of rhythm of turning toward and turning away will be a necessary survival skill for many of us over the next four years. We should not get caught up in every passing drama but should stay alert of moments when saying something and doing something will be important.