I am not a fan of apocalyptic rhetoric. We have had far too many private and public citizens welcome the idea of Revelation occurring in our lifetimes. Mostly, this nonsense was brought on by Barack Obama being in the Oval Office. His very existence was taken as a sign that America as we knew it was coming to an end. In some ways they were right. His election to the presidency was a seismic shift in the power structures of the United States, ending a centuries long monopoly on power by white men. But where one side saw his election as confirmation that the United States was a nation that embraced its future, others saw the change as a threat. The horrible words that were showered on the Obama administration for the last eight years by the ignorant, the racist, and those who sought to manipulate these groups, has been a constant shame for America. No other president since Lincoln was met with such hate by the opposition, and for what?
After eight years of hearing how Obama was the antichrist and would bring about the end of America and possibly the world, I’m very mindful of how I apply language when it comes to President-elect Trump. If I write or say something negative about Trump, am I just doing the same thing that Republicans and conservatives did to Obama? Am I succumbing to emotion, failing to look objectively at what a Trump administration means for America? Those thoughts keep me grounded, but then Trump tweets or opens his mouth and I feel like the lifespan of the United States got a little bit shorter, like it just polished off a pack of cigarettes.
Late last month, in an attack on the recounts Green Party candidate Jill Stein initiated in Wisconsin and other states, Trump tweeted, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally[.]” That is a horrible thing to say about the past election, especially coming from the candidate who won. As of this writing, Trump is losing the popular vote count by more than two and a half million, and there is no evidence, at all, that millions of people voted illegally, nor is there any evidence that if they had, they would have voted solely for Hillary Clinton. His words are a savage attack on the integrity of our democracy, but they are nothing new coming from him. Trump is either unconcerned, or disdainful of the fact that our democracy is a fragile coalition of citizens who have confidence that it works. When the president-elect is so willing to cast aspersions on the process, that process is weakened. But it only gets worse.
This past weekend, Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, Reince Priebus, the new administration’s incoming Chief of Staff and the current Chairman of the Republican Party, and Mike Pence, the Vice President-elect, all waffled when it came to Trump’s outrageous claim of mass voter fraud. They each passed the burden of proof from Trump to the press.
Pence, when asked about Trump’s false claims, said, “I don’t know that that’s a false statement…and neither do you.”
Priebus, when confronted similarly, said, “…no one really knows…”
Ryan, when asked about the claims on 60 Minutes, said, “It doesn’t matter to me. He won the election.”
And there it is. To these men of power, undermining the foundation of American democracy doesn’t matter since they were the beneficiaries. The ideals of America — one person, one vote; fair representation; etc. — can be jettisoned because they were not needed for them to win. A major party whose top figures embrace such naked lies, despite the damage, make me think that, despite my prohibition on apocalyptic rhetoric, that the writing is truly on the wall for the United States.
One of the reasons the United States has been the shining city on the hill for so long is because of our ideals. But that illusion has been shattered by the election of Trump. The more the legitimacy of the vote is whittled away, the more we come to resemble every other country, the more it becomes clear that we are a people no better than any other.
Trump’s attack on the legitimacy of the vote, without any supporting evidence whatsoever, marks a turning point, when those in power will begin to move away from requiring the will of the voters to win that power. The less they need us, the less freedom we will have. It’s a slippery slope that could, if it is not arrested during the next four years, lead to an irreversible trend of anti-democracy in the United States.
Trump is a demagogue. No president in our history has been so cavalier with facts. No president has been so unrestrained with his emotions. And to our shame, he is only being enabled by those who benefit from his hold on power. That’s not supposed to be America. That’s every third world country that holds sham elections.
Trump will be the greatest test our republic has ever seen. What makes me fearful, and what makes me think of all that awful rhetoric, is that those who would be responsible for keeping him in check seem to have no interest in doing so. What will come out the other side of the Trump presidency is a mystery, and that’s the horror, that loss of predictability, of stability in our future. We have actually elected a man whose odds of destroying the United States as we know it are greater than zero.