A Smattering of Post-election Thoughts

Published on November 15, 2016 by

On November 4, 2008, I made the following blog post:

Congratulations to President-Elect Obama

While I didn’t vote for him, I wish him well in doing what is best for our country.

It was succinct, but heartfelt. No matter who is President, I want them to do what is best for our country.

With that in mind, I post the following:

Congratulations to President-Elect Trump

While I didn’t vote for him, I wish him well in doing what is best for our country.

Note that I’m not saying I will support him in doing what he thinks is best for our country. When I think he’s wrong, I will oppose him. When I think he’s right, I’ll support him.

Part of me is relieved that there’s at least a chance of getting a constitutional conservative appointed to the Supreme Court to replace Scalia.  Frankly, I wish we could go back to having both parties confirm qualified nominees even in the face of ideological differences. But the Democrats’ refusal to confirm Robert Bork set us down this path, and I don’t see a way back — short of significant numbers of liberals/progressives coming to realize that having a powerful central government unconstrained by the Constitution is a really bad idea and working together with limited-government conservatives to make the Supreme Court (and the rest of the federal government) far less important in our lives. So, for the foreseeable future, Supreme Court appointments are going to be highly partisan affairs. With that in mind, any bets as to how long it takes the New York Times editorial board to flip back in favor of filibusters for nominations?

I’m guessing it’ll happen in 2017.

Then, of course, there’s the elephant in the room.  You can’t always blame a candidate for who supports them. But Trump hired Steve Bannon as his campaign manager (and now wants him to be a senior advisor in the White House), and Bannon has deliberately courted the support of from “alt-right” groups. I don’t know if Bannon is personally an anti-semitic white nationalist — I find the evidence somewhat weak — but there is no doubt that after taking over Breitbart News, he made the alt-right his target market. To me, this is very troubling.  It’s one thing to be the main party one side of the political spectrum and end up receiving the support of some unsavory people because they consider you at least marginally better than the other main party. It’s quite another to deliberately court their support.

Going back to at least Reagan, Republican campaigns have tended to focus on freedom — that we can solve our nation’s problems by enhancing people’s freedom. Trump barely mentions freedom, and his proposed solution to most problems seems to be “Make me President and I’ll fix it” — which seems more like a cult of personality than a principled approach. Coupled with that, Trump’s seeming admiration for dictators who are “strong leaders” becomes even more troubling. His proposals at various times in his campaign for things such as forcing Muslims to register or even banning them from entering the country seem to me to be treading into very dangerous waters.

Of course, I was wrong about Donald Trump’s electability. So I may be completely wrong about how he’ll govern.

Shortly after I moved back to the U.S. in 1983, my family watched the TV miniseries The Winds of War, based on the novel by Herman Wouk. I remember thinking it was very good, but after 33 years I don’t really remember anything about the plot.

Except for one scene: As I recall it, some Jewish characters are trying to get out of Nazi-controlled territory, and they are with a group of non-Jewish Americans. The Nazi border guards say that the Americans are free to cross the border, but that, naturally, any Jews must identify themselves and be detained. One of the Americans then declares that he is a Jew, everyone in his company is a Jew, and they must either all be allowed to cross the border or they must all be detained. Unsure how to handle this, the border guards finally allow everyone to cross. (I probably have some of the details wrong, but I’m pretty sure that was the gist of it.)

The simple heroism in that scene has stuck with me even after the rest of the miniseries has faded from my mind.

That’s why, even before I saw others suggesting this course of action on social media, I decided that if Trump actually implemented registration of Muslims (or any other minority group, for that matter), I would would register as an act of solidarity. (I am under no illusions that such action would require the same level of heroism shown by people who protected Jews during World War II, but I feel it would be the right thing to do.)

I sincerely hope that in four years time, people will look back at the aftermath of this election and realize the fears about a Trump presidency were tremendously overblown, and that his election wasn’t a step down the road to fascism.

I sincerely hope that, as one Trump supporter told me, Trump’s extreme positions were merely for negotiation, and that he would moderate his positions and lead his extreme supporters to be more moderate.

But I will remain watchful.

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