The election of Donald Trump to the presidency is only two weeks old, and already the President-elect is making clear his administration will be packed full of men hostile to the nation’s progress.
Steve Bannon, the alt-right provocateur who was Trump’s campaign CEO, has been installed as his administration’s chief strategist. Jeff Sessions, Senator from Alabama, whose racism caused him to be rejected for the federal bench by a Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Strom Thurmond, has been named as Trump’s pick for Attorney General. Michael Flynn, retired army lieutenant general, who believes that Islam and Islamic terrorism is an existential threat to the nation, and whose tenure as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency ended with him being forced out of government, has been named as the new administration’s National Security Advisor.
These three men are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the changes Trump will be making to the Executive Branch. These picks are an indication that some of the worst nightmares associated with a Trump presidency will come to pass.
An objective look at these three choices makes it clear that a Trump administration is in direct opposition to much of the progress the United States has made as a liberal society. Bannon and Sessions hold stances against civil rights, while Flynn is a xenophobe who will offer no voice of restraint when it comes to overseas military adventures. The next four years with these men will result in the rollback of federal protections for minorities, eroding the rights of every American, and, with Flynn’s influence, will quite possibly mean another war, this time in Iran.
It is no overreaction to be fearful that these awful choices, and more of which we will soon become aware, will result in calamity for America and her citizens. But, of course, not everyone voted for Trump based on the promise of a neo-fascist, far-right administration in the Oval Office. Apparently economic concerns for vast swathes of the country were so important that Trump’s vague promises on the economy were enough for 60 million voters to ignore the repugnance of all the other rhetoric. That’s the thing I am having trouble reconciling. I understand that there was pain, and politicians have proven nothing if not deaf when it comes to the cries of their constituents. But ignoring the clear danger to America and her ideals that Trump and his ilk represent is an abrogation of our duty as citizens to be good stewards with our votes. We have this awesome responsibility to use our collective voices for the good of the country. Instead, we have, consciously and deliberately, voted to make the world a worse place, and the future less certain.
I have much sympathy for those left behind by the new economy, but I have little sympathy for their decision to place us in such jeopardy. Their voices were finally heard, but I can guarantee that no manufacturing jobs will return, the wall won’t get built, Hillary won’t be prosecuted, and tens of millions of people will lose their health insurance. The damage wrought on the blue collar classes by the 21st century economy is irreversible (those of us who work with computers will be joining them within the next decade or two). Believing the claims of anyone who says otherwise is folly. Not only will Trump voters not get what they want or need from this administration, but Trump’s very presence in Washington endangers the tacit agreements we have that keep our fragile democracy from coming apart. So much of what we have is an illusion, based on the collective confidence of Americans in our institutions. Trump has exposed American democracy and the rule of law. Without believing that it all works properly, it cannot work. The fact we are about to place a potential despot in the Oval Office makes me fearful that the American experiment, itself, is on borrowed time. What a shattering experience it will be for all of us that have taken American stability for granted.