I don't watch a lot of cable news anymore but I obviously did last night and tonight I tuned into Anderson Cooper 360 and whatever Don Lemon's show is called, for coverage of the protests that have sprung up in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Austin, and other major cities. The message of tonight's coverage echoes the message of Hillary Clinton's concession speech. All they are saying is give Trump a chance.
Donald Trump will get his chance, absent a miracle, whether we "give" it to him or not. That chance was given in the voting and Trump won, according to Hoyle, though more on that later. The appeal tonight, though, is for us to do more than allow for the peaceful transition of power that the law requires (that's never been in question) but to now greet the president elect with something of an open mind, even if we are skeptical about his intentions, qualifications or mental and emotional fitness for office.
In short, we on the left are now being asked to treat Trump in the normal way -- the way we treated more typical Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan, or either of the George Bush's. Heck, consider George W. Bush, who won in 2000 under the fishiest of circumstances but who still got his chance from Democrats around the country. This is how the system works. As I type this, the always problematic Nick Kristof is talking with Don Lemon, who had just given a "give Trump a chance" monologue. Kristof does not "see the point" of the protests. They won, we lost, so stand down for now, is his argument.
I suppose that in a typical election, these arguments would make sense. You can't win them all. The typical American response is for the losing side to respect the result and fall in line as a sort of loyal opposition. Typically speaking, Democrats have been better about this than Republicans. We obstruct less. We impeach less.
But, I've written a lot here without getting to the point, which I will bold, because Donald Trump is not a typical candidate. He campaigned as an unhinged an unapologetic racist, misogynist and isolationist with an authoritarian's view of executive power. He has surrounded himself with similarly authoritarian sycophants. He has, through his candidacy, mobilized and inspired homegrown white supremacists. If we take him at his word that he will build walls, deport millions, bring back stop and frisk to make it national, void longstanding trade agreements and withdraw the US from its NATO commitments if push comes to shove, then we have elected a big problem. I mean, I don't want to violate that rule about not mentioning you know who, but you know who was elected in Germany and went on to do terrible things partly because he was treated as a normal leader when he was not.
The "give Trump a chance" crew, which includes the kinds of Democrats allowed on CNN, wants to take a "wait and see" approach, as if the magnitude of the presidency will somehow temper Trump so that maybe he'll stay off the Twitter and not do all of the crazy things he promised during the campaign. This is, to me, magical thinking. The power of the presidency is not likely to humble a guy who ran for the office because he took offense to jokes that Barack Obama made at his expense during the 2011 White House Correspondent's Dinner.
Perhaps, then, we are to believe his campaign bluster does not equate to any sort of agenda. We should wait and see what he really does. But this would make him a sociopathic liar who manipulated vulnerable people into making him president. So, not normal, you see.
This should also bring us to the style of Trump's win, which is being treated as more normal than it is. Trump has no mandate. He won the electoral college but lost the popular vote. Clinton won more votes than he did. Trump is only president because of a stupid election system that, Michael Wolraich will remind me, was put in place partly to prevent the masses from electing a demagogue. In practice, though, the electoral college favors rural voters over urban voters so that a minority from the hinterland can impose a president on a greater number of cosmopolitan voters. I'm not suggesting changing the rules in the middle of the game. The electoral college is here and will be tough to dislodge, but losing the popular vote should put a sizable asterisk next to Trump's name in the list of presidents. While the electoral and popular vote totals can certainly differ, it is unusual. Not normal.
We have elected a demagogue who conducted an abnormal campaign, made crazy and illegal promises, never released his tax returns and who has no popular mandate or legitimate standing to ask for unity or support from anyone who has opposed him.
The mainstream media will normalize Trump, as if he is any other politician who became president. It isn't right or healthy, though. Once the media is on board with this narrative, and it is, Trump's fringe demeanor will fade and we'll be expected to treat him as just another president. We don't owe him that. He's not normal and should not be treated as if he is. I think it's fine to go to the mat over this. Fight the culture war. Push back against the morons. Do not treat him with the respect you would give a more acceptable president from the opposing party. He is, by his behavior, as dangerous as a far right European Union politician and if he doesn't turn out to be like you know who, it'll be partly because smart people never really believed in him as a legitimate president.