“Tomorrow, January 20, 2017 is a day of mourning,” wrote a friend of mine on Facebook. “Not only are we forced to say goodbye to the people who TRULY ‘Made America Great’, the best President, first family and Vice-president our generation will ever see, but we are also witnessing the death of a nation by swearing in the modern day Hitler.”
Ah! The modern day Hitler. (The actual Hitler, apparently, was a product of antiquity, despite having lived less than a century ago.) So all of us are at risk of having the gestapo pound down our doors and drag us into forced labor camps where we’re either gassed on arrival or worked and starved to death.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is beyond nonsense. Yes, I’m a middle-aged white male, so I’ve got privilege coming out the wazoo. But even if you are a transgender Jewish Muslim of African descent in a same-sex marriage and seeking an abortion, you are equally at risk of being hauled away by the Trump SS as I am. Which is to say, not at all.
Again, this is not to say I’m now a Trump devotee – it’s a plea from a Trump critic who wants the people who oppose Trump to focus on reality and stop crying wolf.
No, you’re doing more than crying wolf. You’re screaming wolf. And it’s making things worse.
If you’re reading this, things may suck for you in the near future, but the good news is that you don’t have to hide in somebody’s attic for the next four years for fear of being slaughtered by the government. There is much to be concerned about with regard to the buffoon sitting in the Oval Office for the next four years, but don’t flatter yourself into thinking you’re freakin’ Anne Frank. That kind of hyperbolic hyperventilation is insulting to the memory of the real Hitler’s real victims, and it’s counterproductive to dealing with the reality in which we all find ourselves.
So rather than just add to the rhetorical cacophony, I thought I’d offer some practical tips as to what President Trump will actually mean.
1. Genocide is off the table.
In order for Trump to be Hitler, he has to create the apparatus necessary to begin the slaughter of millions of American citizens. That infrastructure, as well as the widespread political will to enable and maintain it, simply does not exist. Hitler spent a great deal of time and effort building his genocide machine, and Trump is both dumber and lazier than the Fuhrer he’s supposedly emulating.
In addition, while there certainly remain troubling pockets of racism and bigotry throughout our country, the vast majority of the American people are not on board for the wholesale slaughter of their fellow citizens. Combine an unmotivated genocider-in-chief with a public almost wholly opposed to genocide, and you have a surefire recipe for non-genocide.
When people start talking about Trump as Hitler, I ask them to paint me a picture as to how that will happen in practical terms. So far, I haven’t gotten any workable proposals as to how we get there from here.
2. And no, climate change is not the same thing.
The closest someone has come to offering a realistic Trump genocide scenario is the idea that climate change will now do the dirty work that concentration camps used to do. Trump will kill us all by abandoning the Paris climate change accords, a friend of mine wrote, since “climate change knows no borders.”
“No matter how isolated i am in the sane enclave of california,” he wrote, “climate change will destroy us all. This will be trumps legacy. Anything else he does can be undone.”
The subject of climate change has been so poisoned by politics that the fact that even the most ardent supporters of the Paris accords recognize they are essentially symbolic gestures will be lost on the alarmists. Every credible scientist admits that even full compliance with them will do nothing to lower or even slow the rise of global temperatures.
The scientific consensus is 100% clear on this point – the climate is going to do what it’s going to do regardless of who’s in the White House. Replace Hitler with Gandhi for the next four years, and the climate outcome would be exactly the same.
For my part, I take comfort in the fact that the computer models that have predicted catastrophe have been off by an average of 300% over the past thirty years, but if you’re still convinced that we’re doomed, the harsh reality is that the Paris agreements will do absolutely nothing to undoom us, and Trump’s withdrawal from them won’t make any difference one way or the other.
3. Trump’s stupid border wall is empty symbolism, too.
It’s heartening to see Trump having to backpedal his moronic assertion that Mexico is going to foot the bill for his dopey wall, but if you’re troubled that this is going to create some kind of police state dystopia, then you’re probably not aware that huge chunks of that wall have already been built, and all of it was built before Trump even announced his candidacy. (Even Mother Jones admits that.)
The wall is fuel for increased xenophobic rhetoric, and that’s problematic, but it will have little or no impact on actual illegal immigration. If you doubt that, then you probably think illegal immigrants get here by scurrying across the border in the dead of night. Most of them aren’t that stupid. Instead, the vast majority of them simply get a visa to come visit the United States, and then they don’t go home when the visa expires. It’s easy; it’s clean, and, best of all, nobody gets shot. And nothing Trump has proposed is going to change it much.
4. Gay marriage is here to stay. So is abortion.
I have a number of friends who think the Trump apocalypse will be heralded by his Supreme Court picks, who will undo both the Obergefell decision that made gay marriage legal and the infamous Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion a constitutional right.
Is it possible the Court will do this? Yes. Is it likely? Not at all.
Start with gay marriage, which is in no danger of going away. Obergefell overturned only part of the Defense of Marriage Act. The other part – the section that states can ignore same-sex marriages performed in other states – is blatantly unconstitutional, since it violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause, which reads as follows:
“Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.”
So if one state makes gay marriage legal, every state has to recognize those marriages.
Congress knew this part of DOMA was illegal when they passed it, and President Clinton knew it when he signed it. It was a cynical, craven pandering to an electorate which, at the time, was solidly opposed to gay marriage. (Yes, times have changed.) Clinton even publicly stated that he looked forward to the day when the High Court overturned the unconstitutional law he had signed.
So that’s out there like a Sword of Damocles waiting to fall on anyone who tries to overturn Obergefell. But even if it weren’t, the Court would now be in a position of not just preventing new same-sex marriages, but of nullifying thousands of existing marriages, something even the most conservative members of the Court would be reluctant to do. In addition, a case would have to be brought before the Court with the potential to overturn Obergefell, and no such cases are in the pipeline. And remember, replacing Scalia with a conservative wouldn’t alter the makeup of the Court that decided Obergefell and has repeatedly upheld Roe.
And what about Roe itself? Well, what about it? It’s survived decades of challenges, even when conservatives have held a majority. Furthermore, many of its principles have already been codified into federal law. Many states have legal protections that go further than Roe in thwarting government interference on abortions, and none of those would change. People don’t seem to realize that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, abortion would remain legal in all fifty states.
5. Repeal of the ACA? Don’t bet on it.
Actually, in one sense, yes, bet on it. There will, in fact, be a formal repeal of Obamacare, and it will be conducted with huge fanfare and a dramatic signing ceremony, and Trump will tweet something awful, and everyone will wring their hands.
But will the law then allow insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions? Or kick kids of their parents’ policies? Or cap lifetime benefits?
No, no, and no.
Obamacare is an expensive mess, but the pre-Obamacare status quo was an expensive mess, too. And voters will not tolerate the return to a time when people couldn’t get coverage because they’d gotten sick. And even before Obamacare, people were never denied emergency care because of inability to pay. Republican promises to “replace” Obamacare are all predicated on the fact that the provisions I listed above are wildly popular, no matter which party you belong to. Watch for Trump’s Obamacare’s “replacement” to look an awful lot like Obamacare.
6. So okay, then what’s Trump going to do that’s really awful?
What, you mean besides just being Donald Trump, who is an awful human being? Because that’s awful in how it sets a tone for the country that makes us all crasser, coarser, and crosser than we were before. But that’s already baked into the Trump cake. What’s his administration actually going to do that will make things worse for the day-to-day lives of Americans everywhere?
Two words: trade war.
Trump wants to tax products coming across the border at a rate of 35%. Guess who pays that tax? You do. Companies don’t just eat those kinds of costs – they pass them on to consumers. In a global economy, tariffs and trade wars are asinine, and they’re huge disincentives to economic growth. The fact that Donald Trump has turned the GOP into a protectionist party is the single biggest disaster Trump has inflicted on the nation as a whole. It’s going to sink the economy, and it’s going to cost you personally.
He’s also going to spend as much as Obama, and probably more. When Obama took office, Republicans fell all over themselves to block his bloated trillion-dollar stimulus package. They were right to do so. But now they’re falling all over themselves to push through Trump’s “infrastructure” package, which is exactly the same thing, only at a higher cost. Republicans are repeatedly demonstrating that they’re not above rising above principle for partisan gain. Trump’s also going to beef up defense spending, so we’ll all drown in a river of red ink regardless.
There’s also no appetite among anyone in either party to get entitlement spending under control, which means that the country is looking at the inevitability of a Greece/Venezuela-style meltdown within the next ten to twenty years, and since debt only becomes painful when default is nigh, nobody is going to notice until the ship of state goes over the waterfall.
7. So what to do? Because there’s a great deal to be done.
There is, indeed. Which is why it would be very helpful to tone down the Hitler crap. The screeching makes it impossible for anyone to be in the same room with you for very long. (I’m swearing off Facebook for the next few days for that very reason.) The better approach is to talk to each other and, even more importantly, to listen to each other.
That’s the approach I intend to take a few days from now, after the screaming of wolf has died down to a dull roar.