Will We Survive An Unqualified President? 

Right now, Jonah and I are stuck in traffic outside of Newark. We dropped off Ian and Steve at the airport where they’ll be flying to North Carolina to visit his parents. Jonah and I are driving north to visit more schools. I’m typing this with two thumbs on my cell phone. Please excuse crappy writing. 

We have a new president. And whatever you think about his politics, I think we can all agree that he has very little political experience. Actually, he has no experience. Zero. He runs a business, and businesses are not democracies. CEOs get to do what they want to do. Trump in his rallies has given every indication that he expects to run the country in the same way as he runs his company.

I have no doubt that certain groups of Americans are going to have worse lives as a result of a Trump presidency. There will be more restrictions on immigration. If Ruth Bader Ginsburg retires, it will be hard to get an abortion in two or three states. There won’t be any new programs for people with disabilities. 

These are all bad things, but in four years, when someone better is elected, the country will still exist. We’ll still have three branches of government. We’ll still be able to elect representatives and senators. This vastly unqualified individual with authoritarian leanings can’t break it entirely. Why? 

James Madison was afraid that Americans would do what they just did. He feared that they would vote for someone that would end democracy. We would push that self-destruct button. He thought that federalism and the electoral college would prevent the election of horrible groups of people. And if a demogogue did make it through the election gaunlet and win office, Congress with its two branches and the Supreme Court would keep him in line. 

And Congress will keep him in line even though they are Republicans. We have very weak parties in this country. Each one of those representatives is really an independent operator. They need to respond to their consistuents’ demands first. They also need to maintain a certain level of professionalism to have any respect in DC. Ambition will counteract ambition, said Madison. 

And there is still a Supreme Court. (Everyone please send RBG a bottle of vitamins.) 

So, we need to keep our mouths shut for a little bit. Wait until he tries to do something that we hate, then we have to pounce. Write letters. Attend protests. Write blog posts. We have to nudge the system to neutralize the threat. We have to use every tool in a democracy to protect our democracy. 

12 thoughts on “Will We Survive An Unqualified President? 

  1. Each one of those representatives is really an independent operator. They need to respond to their consistuents’ demands first.

    I think this is optimistic. The Republican Party is much stronger than the Democratic Party as an organization because of gerrymandering and the base in areas largely devoid of inter-party competition. Except for a very small number in competitive districts, they don’t need to respond to their constituents. They need to respond to enough of their constituents to win the Republican primary. You can lose a Republican primary by showing any signs of compromise.

  2. I do believe we will survive, but that we need to remain rationally vigilant.

    I understand what MH says about the Republican party — they engaged in six years of obstructionism under Obama (fairly effectively), decided it was better not to govern than govern with a Democratic partner. And they were fairly effective.

    Now that they will control all three branches of government, what will they try to do? And, what effect will those changes have on the country?

    Which of his “100 day” plans will happen within 100 days? within a year? which will be abandoned?

    http://www.npr.org/2016/11/09/501451368/here-is-what-donald-trump-wants-to-do-in-his-first-100-days

  3. It occurred to me this morning that policy-wise, I’d be just as fearful of a Kasich (or Cruz or Rubio) win.

    There is something personally ugly about a Trump win: he is a bully, and his win showed us that bullies can win. My kids are raised in an environment that agitates against bullies, and tells kids that bystanders and helpers will prevent the bullies from winning, that there is an obligation to stand up when you see bullying occurring. We stood up and shouted, and lost against the bully (as did some of the Republicans who ran against Trump in the primary). It’s personally painful. Trump’s win (and not the other or previous Republicans) shows an example of a successful bully. I calmed myself (and the kids) with the idea that the principle of standing up to bullies doesn’t mean that we will always win, but it is still the right value.

    But, I have no reason to believe that Trump will enact worse policies than any other Republicans. I worry about his harassment of the press (compared to other Republicans), but I think our standard of press freedom are pretty strong, and that he won’t be able to change that much.

    1. I’m much more worried, especially more than if Kasich had won. At the risk of angering somebody, it’s because of foreign policy.

  4. “We” will survive locally due to the privilege of being able to consider moving, or not. Or the ability to obtain healthcare/contraception/etc as needed. Or being part of the dominant class/being able to pass as part of the dominant class.

    People of colour, LGBTQ, Muslim, etc are at risk.

    To the extent we live in that bubble of privilege, I think we need to take steps to help/protect those who don’t have that same luxury. Donate, volunteer, etc. in addition to holding the new government to account (“every tool in a democracy…”). Those tools are often for the medium to long term while the day-to-day impact of extreme policy change happen now.

    In other words, a two-pronged approach. Hold them to account/analyze why this happened AND do practical things to help those at risk.

    I’m with MH in worrying about foreign policy. Without a nuanced approach there will be in increase in terrorist attacks. Worried too about trade and the willy-nilly ending of trade agreements like NAFTA.

    Question for you – to what extent do you think that career bureaucrats in the US will be able to minimize any radical changes? Often they’re the continuity through regime change up top. They have the practical experience that politicians lack.

    1. I think that among career career bureaucrats in the U.S. you have to include some who deliberately released information against policy and federal law in an attempt to sway the election toward Trump.

      1. Is the speculation that they were political appointees or career bureaucrats (that may be a distinction that means nothing in your federal system but does mean something in our parliamentary system)?

  5. I think this is about a thousand times more optimistic than the reality we are seeing is, and that unfortunately we may not survive to see a better day. This man is so uninformed about and dismissive of, for example, climate change, that the policies his cronies (who will probably manipulate him for only marginally less ego-saving reasons than he generally tries to manipulate others) would make him enact could well mean the end of us all. There literally could be no United States left in 4 years. Or a habitable planet Earth, for that matter. Or a place where young girls can walk around by themselves, in, say, tennis shorts, without fear of being attacked. What’s also terrible is that this may put the rest of us into a position where we have to resist in the most painful and dangerous ways. And soon too, much much sooner than we think. Standing by is no longer an option. I’ve already had acquaintances who are not white/heterosexual ask me for help in the coming years. I don’t think they were imagining things: non-white, Muslim, non-heterosexual people are already getting attacked in the wake of this election.

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