I wasn’t on the Mall or Pennsylvania Avenue. I was at work in Miami a couple thousand miles away, listening to Chuck Todd and Tom Brokaw in a live stream offer laxatives cut with bipartisanship and national comity. Watching protestors, the former shook his head and said, “I don’t care who you are…you walk into this capital and democracy is raining on you.” To watch an inauguration ceremony in which Charles Fucking Schumer has to mention the due process rights of blacks, women, and LGBT citizens because the new president did not — would not — in his own speech is a country that, I’m reminded, is in a continual state of vacillation: between reaction and advancement, between thuggishness and human decency. Every midterm election is a new start to remind the neighbors who say hello to us every morning of how awful they are.
The new president’s inaugural address came down on the side of reaction and thuggishness. There was no sense in which he acknowledged the three million-plus margin that thought Hillary Clinton would have made a better Chief Executive. Like a legislator in a one-party state, he painted an America in which drugs and crime are clawing at his own supporters. He is partly right, but not in the form of blacks pushing crack on whites in Dearborn, Michigan. Acknowledging this truth would be as incongruous to a Trumpist as acknowledging that the elimination of the Affordable Care Act would condemn these smokers and addicts to an early grave.
Staff members and Cabinet officers pledge their loyalty to a Chief Executive; Americans do not. Although as sentient adults we should be expected to defend our votes when challenged, we owe politicians nothing. A politician isn’t an employee of the American polity. He or she depends on votes; he or she must reassure a base and attempt to woo a percentage of skeptics; but it’s not quite the same relationship that an employee has to a boss, and James Madison would have scowled if someone had floated this suggestion.
Which is to say that while I accept Donald Trump as the president he is a loathsome bug. Because he hates me. I didn’t vote for him, therefore from the point of view of the White House I don’t exist. Even the most cynical Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II staffer could not have prevented their bosses from leaving a room before they had converted the last skeptic. Trump has sycophants and enemies. It’s all he’s ever known.
Fellow liberals, when I see you carrying posters that say LOVE TRUMPS HATE I think you’re being fools, easily mocked. Votes trump hate. You want to fight “hate”? Call and email your congressmen. In the last two weeks we have seen that the dividends, however small, have paid out. The only way to combat what the new president called American carnage is to destroy his legitimacy as an elected figure: drive a wedge between his approval-obsessed self and the grifter parasites on Capitol Hill; force them to accept the cost of depriving people of health care; remind them of the minorities that will die and keep dying as a result of an indifferent Justice Department reluctant to pursue federal investigations into their deaths. John Harwood of NBC just said, “We don’t know how interested Donald Trump is in running the country.” John Harwood!
Call it hate. I call it resistance. Politics, if you like. But, yes, I accept that we live in a divided America. I don’t want to live in a country where a courtier press defines the terms of unity, most of which take their cues from whoever sits in the Oval Office. Lose Facebook friends if you must. The president and the GOP created this state of affairs. Let’s get them to choke on it.